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June 2011 Issue
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First-year students start uni with guides by their sides


Students helping students was the focus of the University's first Peer Mentor Presentation Ceremony held in Bonython Hall last month.

Almost 140 trained students are giving up their own time to help first-year students settle into university life. They help new students make the most of services and advice available, foster friendships - and personally guide them through the first uncertain weeks.

There are eight peer networking programs, at least one in each of the University's five faculties, as well as SmoothStart, which offers extra support for students from rural, interstate and other schools with low university participation rates.

On top of those, the School of Economics this year is trialling the first Peer Assisted Study Session (PASS) program in Principles of Microeconomics 1, with student leaders running weekly group study sessions to help students learn academic skills while absorbing the knowledge they need.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor James McWha presented certificates of acknowledgement to the peer mentors and PASS leaders in recognition of their significant contribution.

Ben Luks is completing an Honours degree in Commerce (Marketing) and is a mentor in the Business School's 'Bee Connected' peer networking program.

"Being involved in the mentoring program has given me the opportunity to positively influence the outlook and abilities of students entering the University," Ben said. "While first-year students can benefit from 'sages on stages', mentoring programs also provide them with 'guides by their sides'."

Director of Student Support Services Sally Hebenstreit said transition to university can be daunting.

"Research has demonstrated that the first-year experience, especially the first weeks, can be pivotal in establishing the positive attitudes, approaches to learning and motivation that contribute to students' success," Ms Hebenstreit said.

"The peer networking programs offer a bit of a safety net. Having a peer mentor to foster friendships and guide them through those first difficult weeks helps remove feelings of being overwhelmed and isolated."

SmoothStart has consistently demonstrated higher retention rates and increased satisfaction.

New student Marnel Du Bruyn, who went to Charles Campbell Secondary School and is now studying for a double-degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering and Finance, said: "It's extremely hard to step into a new stage in your life and not know what to expect.

"Having a mentor give me advice on even the basics of uni life eliminated some of that uncertainty.

"And, most importantly, SmoothStart has been the fundamental building block for great friendships."

Story by Robyn Mills

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Student mentor Ben Luks (centre) meets with SmoothStart students Lydia Kairl (left) and Marnel du Bruyn
Photo by Robyn Mills

Student mentor Ben Luks (centre) meets with SmoothStart students Lydia Kairl (left) and Marnel du Bruyn
Photo by Robyn Mills

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