When Christian Barahona ’23 started college, he was traversing new territory. “Back in my freshman year, I was kind of lost as a business student,” he says. “I felt like I didn't have a resource for scheduling classes or applying to jobs. I tried to figure it all out by myself.”
Now, in his third year studying information systems, Barahona is very familiar with this territory, and he helps new students navigate academia as a peer advisor. “Today, I can be a resource to other students,” he says.
The newly established Peer Academic Advisor program at UCR’s School of Business requires that student advisors be professionally trained to provide academic guidance to business students.
“Peer advisors have limited access to student information. We work very closely with the registrar’s office to grant them access to a limited scope of records,” Director of Undergraduate Programs Jennifer Osborne says. “Professional advisors have caseloads of more than 500 students, the information peer advisors may access is paramount in determining who might need further assistance with a professional advisor.”
In order to best meet the needs of each student, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Jennifer Lynn Brown worked closely with student academic advising managers to apply for the grant money that would introduce peer academic advisors to the School of Business. As student enrollment increases annually, introducing two students to serve as peer advisors was made possible through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants.
Through creating workshops for résumés and degree-audit literacy, Barahona strives to provide business students with every resource at their disposal alongside co-peer advisor Diana Garcia ’22. From conducting workshops that detail tips for fall recruitment season to facilitating major change requests with ease, Barahona explains that nurturing a relationship between advisor and student is the key to maximizing the purpose of peer advising.
“A big part of our job is to create that safe space, or we won’t be able to fully advise our peers,” he says. “You have to take the time to understand what makes each student comfortable, what they’re studying, and how to use their specific skills to their advantage.”
Virtual and in-person appointments are made online or by email to schedule an in advance meeting in Olmsted Hall. Drop-in hours are also available for spontaneous questions that might require special assistance.