Enhancing and Developing Leadership Skills for Peer Mentors

By Leslie Bottari, Staff Associate, Advising and Academic Programming, UAAP

MIT students are extraordinary individuals with great minds and abilities, and that many of them are already great leaders. As DUE staff, we see this as a special opportunity to tap into the unique talent of our students by enhancing their leadership skills and their potential for success.

Each year, approximately 180-200 associate advisors, or upper-class students, volunteer to mentor freshmen. They are an invaluable resource to freshman advisors,
first-year students and the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP). Associate advisors complement the work of the advisor by offering the student perspective on academic and social issues.

Since 1998, we have been training associate advisors to become knowledgeable and effective mentors. In 2006, the UAAP launched Leadership Development Training opportunities to develop the leadership skills of associate advisors by offering them a wide range of workshops on topics such as public speaking, leadership and mentoring. We are thrilled that this year’s training program has drawn increased interest by our students.

Last month we welcomed guest speaker, Miri Skolnick, Assistant Dean of Student Support Services, who presented information on advising freshmen from a developmental perspective rather than a prescriptive one. Developmental advising stresses that advising should go beyond simply giving information or signing a form. For example, when an advisee approaches an associate advisor with a problem, it is important that the student avoid prescribing solutions without addressing more comprehensive issues. By asking open-ended questions, we can encourage freshmen to learn self-advocacy, decision-making and resourcefulness. The goal for all of us who advise should be help students recognize the potential pitfalls while helping them find solutions to setbacks.

For more information about Leadership Development Training, please visit:
http://web.mit.edu/firstyear/associates/develop/index.html