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Peer educator programs encourage academic, personal and professional development for UTSA students

Peer educator programs encourage academic, personal and professional development for UTSA students

Spotlight on the classes, events and services that are creating a sense of belonging among students, which encourages student success

SEPTEMBER 7, 2023 — As thousands of new and returning Roadrunners arrive to campus this fall, the UTSA Division of Student Success is helping them have a positive start to the semester through a variety of peer mentorship and academic support programs. More than 300 students are employed in the division’s extensive peer-to-peer programs, which include academic tutors, Supplemental Instruction (SI) leaders, peer mentors and academic peer coaches. The programs help students of all levels adapt to campus life while supporting their success in and out of the classroom. 

While mentorship and tutoring initiatives are common on many college campuses, what makes UTSA’s programs unique is the career trajectory available for student employees. With clear advancement opportunities built directly into their job positions, students have a chance to grow professionally by completing comprehensive training sessions and gaining valuable job experience that will give them an advantage when they enter the workforce.

Student tutors and SI leaders, who offer services like weekly group study sessions for core courses and one-on-one tutoring, have the option to work their way through multiple employment tiers, each with increased responsibility and autonomy. Students who reach the highest employment level take on leadership roles where they observe and provide feedback to their fellow peer educators, create and facilitate training activities and help support supervisory and administrative tasks alongside full-time UTSA staff.

“Students are gaining tangible skills and work experience that will be beneficial in their college careers and beyond.”

“We have created a career ladder for our student employees where they start in an entry-level position and can continue to work their way up as they successfully fulfill training requirements,” said Laura Everett, associate director of academic support programs for UTSA Student Success. “By leading and training their peers in these upper-level positions, students are gaining tangible skills and work experience that will be beneficial in their college careers and beyond.”

The tiered employment model ensures that students receive more than monetary benefits from their positions. It provides participants with a rewarding job supporting their peers while also teaching them transferable career-ready skills like leadership, communication, conflict resolution, teamwork and critical thinking. 

Layla Smith, a senior studying English, said working as a senior SI leader helped to inform her post-college goals.

“Being able to train others and work closely with them changed my career path a bit. I like it so much that I can no longer imagine doing anything else,” she said. “My favorite part about being a senior leader is certainly being able to be a part of building a community and culture within the program. Facilitating the trainings, making them fun and getting everyone to interact is a very rewarding experience that I’ve gotten from the senior leader position.”

Smith’s role as an SI leader also provided an opportunity to foster her own personal development.

“I became a supplemental instruction leader originally for two main reasons: to get more involved in campus life and to help work on my social anxiety,” Smith said. “I thought putting myself in a position where I had to be an advocate for others would help me have a reason to work on my skills in communication. It worked, and now I've been with the program for three years and feel like a different person.”

In addition to tutors and SI leaders, Student Success’ robust services include dedicated peer mentors for first-year and transfer students, as well as for first-generation students, who comprise nearly half of all UTSA undergraduates.

Peer mentors, who help support students’ social and personal acclimation to UTSA, have a similar employment structure. Experienced peer mentors have the option to apply and serve in senior-level leadership roles, where they help run weekly staff meetings, provide professional development trainings, and manage administrative assignments and event planning in addition to supporting their mentees. 

Charlize Benavidez is a first-generation senior studying communication. She mentors fellow first-gen students and transfer students and gained invaluable teamwork skills throughout her time with Student Success.

Discover Student Success resources and programming.
Explore the ‘Runner Career Launch site to get tips on how to help your student employees develop their career readiness.

“Learning effective teamwork can take you so far,” she said. “I used to think I could do it all alone… shout out first-gen over-achiever tendencies, but as I continue to work with my team, I realize the beauty of the different perspectives. Not to mention the fun we all have working for the betterment of our fellow students.”

Whether guiding first-year students as they adjust to life after high school or helping returning students ace a tough course, the Division of Student Success has countless resources and services for all students as they head back to class. In addition to their many peer mentoring initiatives, the division also offers customized programming and resources that cultivate an environment where students can excel. 

Chloe Johnson

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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