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Columbia Spectator Staff

Students who go to the Center for Student Advising will soon be able to get advice from their classmates.

CSA is launching a peer advising pilot program this fall. In its first year, the program will include eight CSA peer advisers—four from Columbia College and four from the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Rising juniors and seniors in CC and SEAS can apply to be CSA peer advisers through March 30. Applications are available on the CSA and Columbia College Student Council websites.

Jared Odessky, CC '15 and president of the class of 2015, said that he initially had the idea for a peer advising program last semester, "amidst the discussions of community-building on campus" that led to the creation of groups like the Student Forum and the Student Wellness Project.

Columbia is "a place where people come and nobody holds your hand," SWP co-chair Wilfred Chan, CC '13, said. "I think as a freshman there's a feeling of being lost and confused, and if we can have upperclassmen provide a helping hand, then that can change."

Peer advisers will be trained in academic areas such as the Core Curriculum and departmental resources, but they will also offer advice on broader topics like extracurricular activities or how to take advantage of the city, Odessky said. Odessky—who is currently running for vice president of communications of CCSC—added that the program "needed to be something that was supplementary to the Center for Student Advising, not replacing it."

The peer advisers will receive salaries comparable to what they would earn at other on-campus jobs and will hold office hours Monday through Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Most nights, they will be in the CSA office on the fourth floor of Lerner Hall, but they will hold Wednesday hours in John Jay Dining Hall.

In November, Odessky proposed a peer advising system in a Spectator column, and Dean of Student Advising Monique Rinere reached out to him. Together they formed a committee which worked with CSA to start the program.

The eight-member committee was made up of CCSC and Engineering Student Council members, as well as some non-council students. The students worked with three advising deans to design and publicize the program.

"We wanted to enhance community, build leadership on campus," Advising Dean Monica Burnette said. "Students sometimes feel more comfortable in speaking with their peers, and this way they can get more input about student experiences."

Alex España, CSA's director of community outreach and an advising dean who has worked with the committee, said that "students will play a vital role" in selecting the peer advisers.
"We want to make sure that the students selected are students who people can connect with," España said.

Another primary function of the peer advisers will be to help direct students to appropriate campus resources.

"This institution is really devolved when it comes to resources," Odessky said. "I think the problem with our institution is that you really just have to reach out and find those resources, and this should hopefully make that easier. It will be a way to connect those resources better to students and that's what we're hoping to do."

Chan said he has "high hopes" for the program, and that as a leader of SWP he is "going to try to work with them [CSA] and promote this, because it's important for our campus."

Update, 3/24/11: The information in this article has been updated to clarify the topics that peer advisers will be trained in.

SWP Student Wellness Project Student Forum Peer advising CSA Center for Student Advising