The Peer Advisor Support at Southeast (PASS) Program at Southeast Missouri State University provides new students a supportive relationship with peer advisers who offer guidance, practical advice and ways to connect to campus.
The program, which operates through Academic Advising at Southeast, pairs an undergraduate peer advisor with a new student to meet one-on-one at least twice a semester and to communicate every week by email or messaging. The program requires a midterm grade check and academic advising appointment with a professional advisor.
PASS invitations are sent during the summer to those who qualify, having a cumulative high school GPA below 3.0 and/or scoring 18-21 on the ACT exam. Academic Advising Director Carol Heisserer noted all students — regardless of GPA or ACT score — are welcome to join the program.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” Heisserer said.
Some of the services student advisors offer to new Redhawks are help navigating Moodle, Zoom and even their Southeast emails, as well as answering questions about parking, campus life and more.
“It’s just the basic navigation of campus, the technology, processes and protocols,” said Jessica Brethold, Southeast academic advisor.
Shante’ Hanna, first year PASS peer advisor, and Allison Baker, second year advisor, agreed that the student-to-student interaction offered by PASS provides another level of comfort and accessibility for new students.
“Obviously, you’d speak to your boss a lot differently than you’d speak to your friend,” Hanna said. “So in that context, I think, some people might feel scared to reach out to their professor, and it’s easier to have someone that’s kind of in the same shoes, that’s also here to study and is on campus and doing the same things they’re doing, to help them out.”
Hanna became a PASS advisor after being an advisee herself last year.
“I just want to be as helpful to them as Morgan was to me,” she said, referring to her former PASS advisor.
“It’s more accessible to talk to another student sometimes,” Baker said, “because you might feel like it’s a dumb question and you don’t want to bother a professional worker at Southeast.”
When students are afraid to ask questions, especially in the classroom, that apprehension can create a gap in understanding. Heisserer said the PASS program helps meet students where they are to fill that gap.
One important tool peer advisors use to build relationships and be more accessible to PASS students, Heisserer said, is social media.
“I think sometimes a student who is new would pick up and use the Remind app or the GroupMe app a lot more quickly than they would log into their portal, find their advisor and send an email,” she said. “Setting up that relationship through social media is something that makes those questions easier to ask.”
In its first year, PASS had 84 eligible students with a 77% participation rate. Now in its second year, there were 107 eligible students for the program.
“We’re looking to grow the program,” Heisserer said, mentioning the possibility of hiring additional peer advisors as more freshmen and new students get involved in PASS.
For the fall 2021 semester, all beginning freshmen with a cumulative high school GPA of less than 3.0 will be encouraged to participate in PASS.