Take on the challenge.
Peer education is a signature program in the Virginia Tech Honors College because of its many potential benefits for both peer educators and their students. Past peer educators tell us that teaching has challenged them to grow: they become more confident and organized, they improve as communicators and public speakers, and they meet new friends in Honors. Help fellow students transition into Virginia Tech and Honors, immerse yourself in a seminar of your own design, or teach problem-solving skills and learn about Virginia Tech’s many student resources. All peer educators receive comprehensive training and support, which counts for academic and honors credit.
+ Program Description
An introduction to the challenges, expectations, and opportunities for students in the Virginia Tech Honors College, emphasizing personal reflection; active, discussion-based learning; and explorations of campus and the local community. (2H, 2C), P/F, Fall semester.
Small discussion-based classes in which honors students read about and explore topics of interest; practice critical reading, thinking, and communication skills; and build community with other honors students. Students typically read three book-length works and supplementary materials, and they each complete a Context Presentation and Discussion Starter. (1H, 1C), P/F, Fall and Spring semesters.
The Honors Peer Advising Center (HPAC) will provide significant support related to honors credit, honors diplomas, and the Course of Study Planner, though it will adapt to support honors students as needed. The HPAC’s main service will be one-on-one peer advising appointments, but it will also offer small-group workshops. P/F, Fall and Spring semesters, credit TBA.
+ Position Description
Peer educators work within a flexible curriculum to plan and teach classes, assign and evaluate coursework, organize and lead in- and out-of-class activities, and recommend course grades.
Peer educators select the course topic and materials, create the reading schedule, facilitate weekly class discussions and activities, and recommend course grades.
Peer advisors have meetings to ask questions, get students involved in finding solutions, and introduce resources. Less frequently, they teach workshops on common problems or areas of interest.
UH 4104, Peer Education Practicum, is taken during the semester(s) while teaching or advising. This Practicum emphasizes discussion-based teaching; active, collaborative learning; reflection; development of personal teaching strengths; and honors students’ characteristics and needs. Within this structure, the content of every Practicum section is closely aligned to its companion course and the needs of its peer educators.
1H, 3C; P/F. This section further emphasizes building honors student communities.
P/F, credit TBA. This section further emphasizes problem-solving skills and familiarity with Honors and University resources.
1H, 2C; P/F. This section further emphasizes building honors student communities.
+ Time Commitment
+ Selection Criteria
The most successful peer educators are honors students who can be approachable, reliable role models and mentors with strong communication, listening, and interpersonal skills; strong organization and time management skills; experience in peer leadership; a strong academic record; and adaptability, empathy, and patience. Furthermore within each opportunity, the best applicants will have:
Experience in Honors, willingness to work hard to support students during this transition to college, and sufficient availability for this demanding (but rewarding!) opportunity.
Experience in Honors and at Virginia Tech, willingness to learn Honors and University resources inside and out, and sufficient availability throughout the full academic year.
Sophomore standing or higher and should propose a rich, valuable topic supported with high-quality reading material. Students should prepare critical, scholarly, enthusiastic approaches to the material.
PEER EDUCATOR SPOTLIGHTS
First-Year Seminar, Fall 2014, 2015
Reading Seminar, Spring 2017
Becoming a peer educator in my sophomore year was one of the best challenges I have taken on at college. That semester taught me a great deal about personal leadership, interacting with diverse people, and listening to understand instead of respond. Most of all, I gained confidence in myself and my ability to help others be successful. These skills caused me to become a Resident Advisor in my junior year and led me back to serving as a peer educator during my last semester of college. My professional interests have developed in ways unexpected to me when I originally took on the role; I am now looking towards a career in environmental education.
If I had any advice to other peer educators, it would be to quote Ray Bradbury, “Sometimes you have to jump and grow wings on the way down.” Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a leader yet, but if you keep a mindset of caring about diverse perspectives, learning alongside your students, and asking for help when you need it, you will be successful! Sharing your experiences with others in an effort to help them learn and grow will ultimately shape you as a person as well.
First-Year Seminar, Fall 2015, 2016
Being a peer educator has been one of the most significant parts of my college experience thus far. My favorite aspect of it, and the one for which I am most grateful, is that within this role you have an incredible opportunity to develop deeply meaningful relationships with your students. There’s so much potential to serve as a mentor in the peer educator position, and through it I feel like I was truly able to make a significant impact in somebody else’s first-year experience. Of all the in-class activities, the ones which I enjoyed the most were those which allowed me to provoke introspective thought and learning in my students. The first semester of college is an incredibly dynamic time for anybody. Because of this, I loved being able to help my students learn from their experiences and reflect on themselves as they entered that process of growth. As someone who wants to be an educator, this experience was invaluable. I feel I developed my abilities to lead a classroom and lesson plan effectively. Additionally, interacting with students in this educator capacity was fulfilling and affirming that this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. This position allowed me as a peer educator to grow just as much as I felt my students did. Whatever your future goals or personal endeavors, this is an incredible opportunity to make a meaningful difference in someone’s college experience, and flesh out who you are as a leader.
Marketing Management and Psychology
Reading Seminar, Fall 2016
Being a peer educator has been one of my favorite involvements in college so far. Helping people open themselves up to discover who they are, especially in an academic setting, was amazing. One girl, to paraphrase, had said she found her voice. To speak up and to be proud of your accomplishments and opinions were lessons I watched my students learn. Hearing people ultimately share their stories that they were too hesitant to share earlier in the year was incredible. I love understanding people and why they think and act the way they do, and through this seminar I was able to see how our class interactions became deeper and more personal.
My advice to potential peer educators is to pick a specific topic that you’re passionate about. Teach something that isn’t (or even can’t be) taught by a professor; teach a topic that revolves around collegiate experiences that require reflection and discussion. The more you care about your own topic, the more engaged students will be and the more everyone will get out of the seminar.