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Student Success and Retention

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Peer Mentor Seminar Syllabus

UNIV 3186

Studies in First-Year Mentoring

WF 2:00-2:50

Lang Hall 23/Schindler 216

Fall 2017

Jade Horning

Student Success Coordinator

Office: 102K Gilchrist

Phone: 319-273-5805




Nikki Harken

Conerstone Co-Director

Office: 323 Lang

Phone: 319-273-3707

Rachel Morgan

Cornerstone Co-Director

Office: 1001 Bartlett

Phone: 319-273-6812



UNI First-Year Philosophy Statement

A positive first-year experience is the cornerstone of students' success in college, and by extension, their careers and lives. The University of Northern Iowa recognizes the importance and value of this positive first-year experience for students, and the need for the university to facilitate students' effective transition to the University by providing a variety of experiences, opportunities, and foundational skills to help them become successful students.


We are committed to creating a welcoming and safe environment both in and outside the classroom that:    

  • is sensitive to individual needs, backgrounds and experiences of all first-year students,

  • facilitates their connections and points of contact with faculty, other students, staff and support services,

  • encourages their active involvement in community life, and

  • introduces them to the community values of respect, caring, ethical responsibility, inclusiveness, and intellectual and social engagement.


We are committed to fostering a personalized and supportive academic, experiential, and living environment that challenges and inspires students to:

  • actively engage in learning,

  • develop a broader world view,

  • practice responsible decision-making,

  • open their minds to new possibilities,

  • be engaged citizens, and

  • be prepared to be members of pluralistic communities.

This is the context in which the Peer Mentor Program was conceived and implemented.


Peer Mentoring Program Mission Statement

The mission of the University of Northern Iowa Peer Mentoring program is to:

  • Build a foundation for first-year student success through access to peer mentoring in the classroom, engagement in a personalized academic community, and connection to academic and personal resources.

  • Create a leadership experience for upper level university students characterized by close collaboration with faculty, classroom teaching opportunities, and mentoring of first-year students.

  • Produce a signature UNI first-year program within the Liberal Arts Core that touches all first-year students, resulting in more vital classroom communities and increased retention rates.


Therefore, as a result of the Peer Mentor Program:


First-year students will:

  • Feel that they have ready access to a helpful peer role model.

  • Develop a connection to the UNI community and establish a sense of belonging.

  • Identify appropriate campus resources and opportunities that contribute to their educational experience.


Peer mentors will:

  • Develop a collaborative professional relationship with a faculty member.

  • Establish positive mentoring relationships with first-year students in their assigned course sections.

  • Develop a connection with a community of peer educators that allows for open exchange of ideas related to their peer mentor classroom experience.

  • Demonstrate the ability to provide feedback on student papers and projects.

  • Strengthen presentation and group facilitation skills.

  • Identify personal strengths and leadership styles.

  • Increase knowledge of key university academic and personal resources.


Peer Mentor Expectations

  • 10 hours per week of work in support of the assigned first-year course, including:

    • Office hours (2)

    • Participation in UNIV 3186: Studies in First-Year Peer Mentoring seminar (2)

    • Attending every class session of assigned first-year course, modeling active learning and assisting as directed by host instructor (3)

    • Classroom leadership and mentoring experiences including (but not limited to) individual meetings with first-year students, student outreach, making referrals to campus resources, grading, facilitating classroom activities as directed by host instructor, check-in/planning meetings with host instructor, attending co-curricular activities with students, lesson planning for class presentations (3)

  • Attend Peer Mentor staff meetings and training workshops

  • Participate in assessing the effectiveness of the program


Faculty Member Expectations

The peer mentor experience involves a complex collaboration among peer mentors, first-year students, LAC instructors and the seminar leadership team. To this end, we acknowledge that peer mentors can only achieve their goals with the guidance and mentoring of the faculty. As such, peer mentors can expect the following from the faculty members with whom they are collaborating. Though faculty member expectations may vary, faculty members are expected to collaborate with peer mentors as follows:

  • Meet regularly with your peer mentor for planning/check-in purposes (30 per week is typical)

  • Provide feedback as requested on peer mentor performance to seminar instructors

  • Provide clear expectations on how you would like your peer mentor to contribute to the class.  Student experiences vary greatly by class size and faculty teaching style.  Our hope is that the peer mentor will help build community within the classroom and mentor first-year students.  Possible duties include:

    • Helping to facilitate classroom activities, allowing for smaller group opportunities

    • Using Mapworks to determine which students in your course are struggling during the transition to college, and following up through personal connections

    • Meeting individually with students to prepare for an upcoming assignment/project (not ask possible in larger class sessions)

    • Presenting short (10-15 minute) lesson plans on student success topics such as using campus resources, registering for classes, preparing for finals, etc.  

    • Taking attendance and grading student engagement activities