Peer mentor programs can be a crucial component of positive student learning experiences. With an objective of increasing student persistence and academic performance, the RCPD has introduced a resiliency program for freshmen registered with the Center. This program is designed to support the needs of first year MSU undergraduate students and provide them with the tools needed to develop, establish, and maintain healthy habits, and expand connections to the Spartan community.
Developed by RCPD Ability Access Specialists Kelsey Foote, Ashley Maloff, and Jennifer Montague, the first-year wellness program has already aided students in identifying the resources and support systems they will require to succeed at MSU and beyond. This new opportunity helps to foster physical and emotional wellness and provide a positive and supportive experience to participants in the introductory class.
“What we wanted to do was create something so students could connect with other students, without faculty or staff members there. And we wanted a wellness focus, because we have been hearing from so many students, with the pandemic, that their mental health hasn’t been as great, and they haven’t been able to connect. They are feeling isolated. So, we wanted to hit both that wellness piece and isolation piece,” shares Kelsey.
This program works to target first-year students who are going through some unique challenges in the transition from high school to college. Other RCPD offerings like the UGS 110 First-Year Seminar: Maximize Ability and Resiliency at MSU and the Building Opportunities for Networking and Discovery (BOND) program focus on building a sense of community on MSU’s campus. After talking with mentors currently involved in the UGS course, wellness program participants become well-trained on the six dimensions of wellness (physical, emotional, occupational, social, intellectual, and purposeful).
“When we created it, we had the intention that it was ‘for peers, by peers’. Kelsey, Jennifer, and I are supervising it, but we are trying to stay out of it—checking in with mentors, but we are not really involved in the actual programs that they put on,” says Ashley. “I think it has the opportunity to evolve even when we are back on campus, so it is not just a one-time thing for students, so hopefully it will continue. When you are new, transitioning to college, it’s nice to build a community.”
According to one first-year wellness participant: “The RCPD Peer Group helped me take my mind off of academics and socialize and have fun. I enjoyed the activities and had so much fun attending the meetings." Despite the struggles faced in the process of remote learning, student participants are utilizing this opportunity to reconnect with themselves and the Spartan community.
Since all peer mentors are registered RCPD students, they are able to share disability perspective, how to submit student accommodation VISAs, how to speak with professors and more, all from the student perspective. This program gives students someone to relate to with peer-to-peer conversation in addition to connecting with their RCPD specialist. By providing weekly programing through the D2L community, the program gives mentors the control over posting program events and resources, and offering office hours, and other community connections for more immediate assistance. They are fostering the ability to provide a clearer and more comforting perspective for student participants.
As MSU transitions back to a more normal space, the possibility of having events both on-campus and remote is a great opportunity for students to further learn, connect, and meet new people. There is a lot of potential for this program, and the RCPD is looking forward to expanding student wellness.