As a junior on the Mary Washington campus I have made connections with several students and faculty through my role as an Orientation Leader/Peer Mentor. This campus has become a central location in my community. A community to me is a place that carries a sense of identity. When a person steps onto UMW they are automatically given a role, either as student, professor, resident, commuter, guest, etc. My role in making this community better is to blur the lines of this divide. To create connections between commuter students and resident students, between transfer students and their faculty.
I was able to make this possible through my role as Peer Mentor this fall semester. I have been working with two freshman seminar classes and helping them navigate the waters of UMW. One of my freshman classes is comprised of a 50/50 split between commuter and resident students. The other was 99% resident 1% commuter. Throughout the semester I made myself available to my students via email, text, calling, and events. I hosted game nights, study parties, and passed out snacks on holidays.
This was made possible through the office of Students Activities and Engagement. An organization on campus that heads the Orientation crew. The power that was been given to me is from the title they created. Without it I simply become an upperclassmen with a lot of freshmen friends. The power dynamic enabled by SAE creates the appearance that I help my community because it is my job and not because I want to. The fact that I get paid to help others gives me not only power but position.
The impact of my role on campus and that of my employer is mixed. For some of my students (transfers) my role was unnecessary and a nuisance while for others I was a crutch to rely on (first years). However, just the presence of Orientation Leaders/Peer Mentors on this campus gives incoming students a sense of security in their community that other college campuses fail to create.