EPPS First Year Leaders Mentor Freshmen

By Dorothy Paresky, EPPS Freshman

As a new crop of EPPS freshmen arrives at UT Dallas this fall, they will get plenty of help acclimating to college life. For starters, they will all be attending UNIV 1010, a credit/no credit course that is designed to teach students everything from how to use the library resources to where to go for tutoring and writing assistance. They also will take a companion course, EPPS 1110, designed specifically for social science majors.

When they attend their first UNIV 1010 class, they may be surprised to find that their teacher is an upper division student who is also majoring in the social sciences. UT Dallas is one of the first universities in the nation to adopt a peer mentor model for the freshman seminar, and research shows that students enjoy interacting with the First Year Leaders (FYLs) who teach the course.

Ravi Knutson, a sociology major who graduates in May 2013, was among the first FYLs to teach a section of UNIV 1010 last fall. “The fact that I got to help implement and be a part of the first year leaders actually teaching UNIV 1010 by themselves is one of my greatest achievements here at UT Dallas,” Ravi said.

Ravi explained how UNIV 1010 used to be taught exclusively by faculty members, and the FYLs were there to simply add their opinion every once in a while. However after a series of changes, the FYLs were given the opportunity to teach the class by themselves. They now outnumber faculty by two to one in UNIV 1010.

Ravi was among those who helped train and hire the FYLs for last year. He later conducted a survey of more than 900 students enrolled in UNIV 1010, and found that students appreciated learning from their peers.

The FYLs benefit too. Ravi, for example, explains that he used to be an introvert who could never see himself speaking in front of anyone. “Now with all my involvement I am able to run a class, and do it the way I want to, and I can give speeches on a dime,” he said.“ I know what from first-hand experience what interests students, so I can cater the class to meet their needs.”