The Peers of Academic Advising Service Debuts

The Peers of Academic Advising Services has debuted this semester. Their offices are located in Wooster Hall. Photo courtesy of Vivian Jaworsky.

The Office of Academic Advising has debuted a new service: the Peers of Academic Advising. The service has been in the making for about a year as it officially began at the beginning of the spring semester.

The service is a resource for SUNY New Paltz students to bring questions and concerns about advising and registration. SUNY New Paltz students act as ambassadors to the Office of Academic Advising, and allow students to receive quick and easy answers to common questions.

Tara Scharf works in the Office of Academic Advising. She is a Success Counselor, and the Coordinator of the Peers of Academic Advising. She explained the service’s role on campus.

“It’s a peer to peer resource to help navigate revising and registration culture,” she said. “It also helps navigate issues with registering for classes.”

Specifically, the service appeals to some of the more confusing aspects of enrolling in courses, including graduation requirements and planning a major or minor.

“The resource helps answer questions, such as how to read a progress report and understand what it’s saying,” Scharf added.

Scharf believes the peer aspect of the service makes it an indispensable resource for students.

“There are lots of benefits to the peer advising program, but I’d say the most significant one is that support is coming from a peer,” Sharf said. “When you’re talking to someone who has gone through what you’re going through, it’s valuable. It provides a different perspective on advising that may not be provided by typical academic advisors.”

Peer Advisors are not only available to directly answer questions, but also to reference students to various resources and faculty on campus.

There is a recruitment process which includes interviews for those wishing to join the service. This semester is the first with a full staff of nine student peer advisors, according to Scharf.

On shift from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., peer advisors are located at the welcome desk in Wooster Hall. Scharf emphasized the accessibility of the service.

Angelie Zacharopoulos, a third-year student works as a peer advisor. She expressed the difficulties that may arise in discerning graduation requirements, or progress reports— especially for those who are new to registration and advising culture.

“I remember being a freshman and being unsure who to go to for what,” she said. “It’s important to have someone to answer basic questions and sort through resources.”

She also underscored the importance of peer interaction.

“It’s important to talk to a peer because we’ve been there,” she said. “It’s trusting advice. Like, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve been there, it’s going to be fine.’”

Zacharopoulos highlighted potential difficulties for freshmen or transfer students.

“There are problems for freshmen and transfers in particular. Registration for them is often chaotic and hectic, and it can be hard to understand what you’re doing until you familiarize yourself with the system,” she explained. “We show people how to read progress reports, help them determine which GEs they need, and help find classes that fit those GEs.”

Shyana Fisher, a freshman, is excited for the new service. She remarked on its usefulness.

“I think it’s a great thing that the school has started, and I hope it picks up,” said Fisher. “Because, sometimes, I would rather go to a student with questions”

The Peer Advising service, besides being a readily available resource, also hosts events to help the broader campus community understand the nuances of advising.

Peer Advisors are located in Wooster Hall each weekday, and offer a quick, hassle-free alternative to addressing the Office of Academic Advising directly.