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Academic fellows assist first-year students

The prospect of attending college coupled with living away from home for the first time can often have a negative impact on a student’s overall scholastic performance.

Studies have shown that while many new and transfer students may experience some issues regarding this life transition, colleges and universities typically have in place a solid support group of students and organizations to assist with the social aspects of adjusting to a new environment.

Now, thanks to an initiative implemented and overseen by the Office of Academic Enhancement that began in the Fall of 2008, University of Miami students who live on “First-Year Experience” floors in Hecht, Mahoney and Stanford Residential Colleges have the opportunity to learn from a cadre of student leaders living alongside them on how to adjust to some of the potential academic issues that may arise as they transition to college life.

Academic Fellows (AFs) are trained student advisors who come from a wide range of cultural, ethnic and scholastic backgrounds to provide guidance for students who reside in their respective residential colleges. The primary purpose of the AF position is for there to be a residential student staff member available to offer direction regarding academic policies and procedures to students through outreach. The position is designed to significantly increase academic advising availability and accessibility for new and returning students at regular and extended hours throughout the school year.

“The thing we realized is that first-year students would look up to upper-class students,” Senior Associate Director for Residence Life John Yaun said. “So we thought it would be a natural benefit.”

A total of 26 academic fellows in Hecht, Mahoney and Stanford Residential Colleges serve on this team of undergraduate, upper-class and full-time students living in as peer mentors. The AFs work in conjunction with the resident assistants of each residential college to educate and inform the residents of their floors on the various academic resources available at the University of Miami, as well as to guide them to offices or individuals who can provide any needed additional support like the Academic and Career Advisors in Residence.

During the past academic year, the AFs provided their residents with programs based on a wide array of topics, such as advice on how as a first-year student to begin to position oneself to be a viable candidate for an undergraduate summer research opportunity or graduate fellowship, to programs designed to help students with deciding on a major field of study or career trajectory.

“The academic adjustment to college can be unfamiliar at times and difficult to navigate for some students at UM,” Dr. John Barker, assistant dean of Undergraduate Education and director of the Office of Academic Enhancement said. “Our Academic Fellows program and the direction that the fellows provide are important and proactive approaches to help all freshmen adjust to the new academic expectations and goals of college.”

Additional information on the Academic Fellows Program can be found at the website for the Office of Academic Enhancement at http://www.miami.edu/oae.

Terms of Employment

Time: Extends for one academic year

Compensation: Full rent stipend equal to the value of a single room

Room Assignment: A single in Hecht or Stanford, or a double in Mahoney

Enrollment: Minimum UM cumulative GPA of 3.00

Reappointment: Based upon job performance and evaluation

– Compiled from miami.edu

August 10, 2009

Reporters

Sonny Lemons

Special to First Impression


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