Peer Leader Program Designed to Foster Success for First Year Students
By Justin Walker
The first year at college is full of growth and learning for students, but for some, it can be a little overwhelming.
“You’re 18 years old, you just started college and you have no idea what is going on,” Lily Short, a senior Marketing and Human Resources Management major at the Hankamer School of Business (HSB), said. “You are figuring things out for yourself. You have all these new friends. It can be challenging.”
Laura Lalani, the manager of Strategic Student Initiatives at the Business School, recognized this challenge among many first-year students, especially among HSB students.
“The Business School is roughly 30 percent of the undergraduate population at Baylor,” Lalani said. “That was a major factor when we discuss how we can create community and connection for that first-year experience.”
To address this situation, Lalani and several others from HSB’s Undergraduate Programs Office developed the Peer Leader Program, which strives to facilitate supportive relationships among Business School students through mentorship.
First-year, Pre-Business students are required to take the BUS 1101 course their first semester, which is designed to help transition students into HSB, Lalani said. The Peer Leader Program looks to further that by connecting first-year students with an upperclassmen peer for the entire academic year.
Through the Peer Leader Program, peers serve, support and encourage first-year, Pre-Business students as they adapt to their time in the Business School. The program launched in during the 2022-23 school year, with seven peer leaders serving 43 first-year students.
The first year of the program was exciting for Short, who served as one of the seven peer leaders.
“The program allows students to ask good and hard questions about what it is like to actually be a business student,” Short said. “I think that is great—I wish I had it when I was a freshman.”
Short, a senior Marketing and Human Resources Management double major, was inspired to become a peer leader because of her love of people, she said.
“I believe in mentorship,” she said. “Everyone needs to be grown and led and challenged. I think that’s the heart and soul of this program.”
As a peer leader, Short met with her group of students once every other week for the semester. She met one-on-one with each of the students during the off weeks. Several of her meetings involved just listening to what the students were going through and talking them through it. It was a good outlet for some of them, she said. Short felt as though she was just a friend to her mentees.
The initial launch of the Peer Leader Program saw seven peers match up with 43 first-year students. Lalani believes the first year was successful and has high hopes for it moving forward.
“We want to grow this to show that we love and care our students because this is their Business School,” she said. “Helping them take ownership of that while forming relationships is huge for us to address the disconnect that we have seen.”
For more information, including application timelines for both leaders and student participants, visit the Peer Leader Program homepage.