In the last ten years student development research has made two connected and surprising discoveries: the most significant influences on learning for first-year students, and the most profound source of their anxiety in college, are their relationships with older students. The WittSem peer mentoring program responds to both discoveries. Unlike other leadership projects already in place in Wittenberg's co-curriculum, this program situates peer mentors in the classroom and extends mentoring in two different directions: from upper-division peer mentors to first-year students, of course, but also from WittSem professors to the peer mentors themselves.
We envision the peer mentors as social and cultural guides for new students. This is a role faculty play in the intellectual lives of first-year students whose success depends on their ability to master the "insider" knowledge of academic culture: how to formulate a research question, how to think through difficult problems or texts, how to build an argument step by step. Our peer mentors play a complementary role by providing "insider" knowledge of campus life and personal development. We hope to support and integrate these two forms of knowledge by putting both guides in the same room at the same time, deeply invested in the success of the same course.
The following are some of the specific expectations of WittSem peer mentors. The peer mentor will--