Network. Collaborate. Learn. These are the three words used to describe the recent Peer Tutor and Mentor Summit hosted by The University Center for Writing-based Learning.
“There is a rich collection of programs at DePaul. This summit is designed to give us all an opportunity to sit down for at least a little while and learn about all that we do and have a conversation,” said Liz Coughlin, Writing Center Program Director at DePaul University.
The summit focuses on what students take away from working with their tutors, mentors, advisors and what these tutors, mentors and advisors take away from working with the students. “It is for anyone who works with someone on a regular basis,” said Coughlin.
The theme this spring was “The Things They Take with Them,” said Coughlin. “We learn as much from the people we work with as they might learn from us. It works both ways,” said Coughlin.
“Some topics we focus on are helpful ways to disseminate information to students and how to help them when questions arise. We also cover the best ways to mentor the mentors,” said Coughlin.
The first summit was held last March. Coughlin said the summit was the “natural next step” after a shared discussion about people sharing ideas about their different programs.
The summit is the opportunity to connect, as well as network, according to Kevin Lyon, Outreach Coordinator for the UCWbL. “It is a network event, as well as exploration and a conversation about the work we do. It allows us to share best practices,” said Lyon. He adds, “It is really connect these different groups that share a similar mission and go about in very different ways.”
Raul Palma, a graduate student, was one of the many tutors that attended the recent spring summit. Palma works as a tutor for the Trio Organization, a government funded program that specializes in supporting first generation college students. “I wanted to connect with other tutors. I saw this as a opportunity to network and learn more from the tutoring community,” said Palma.
Palma realized that there are many different types of tutors available as resources in the DePaul tutoring community. “What I learned is that I am not on my own (as a tutor). There are tutors for everything from athletics to computer based to mathematics,” said Palma.
Palma feels more connected after attending the summit. “We all face the same issues about how to be better tutors on our own. This let me connect with other tutors in the tutoring community,” said Palma.
Colin Sato, 21, a Physics, Mathematics, WRD (Writing, Rhetoric, Discourse) and Philosophy major was one of the many Writing Center tutors who attended the summit. Sato has been a tutor at the Writing Center for the last three and half years. He felt that this was important event because “it is really the only chance we have to hook up with other tutors on campus,” said Sato.
Sato was surprised to learn that there are resources for students that he did not know existed. “If someone has a problem outside of my specialty area now I know that I can refer them to other resources at DePaul,” said Sato, adding, “I learned a lot of practical knowledge about stuff that I wouldn’t know otherwise.”
Brenda Killianski, an advisor at the Office for International Students and Scholars, attended the recent summit with ten of her peer mentors. She wanted to see how other peer mentoring programs worked. Her office has recently started a new peer-mentoring program and she is looking for ways to help support this new program, eventually making it entirely student run. “We made a lot of contacts at the summit and even recruited a few more peer mentors,” said Killianski.
Killianski is already looking forward to attending the next summit in the fall. She is hoping to attend both as a guest and as part of the round table sessions to share more about what her program does.
The overwhelming positive responses to last March’s summit led to another conference to be held this spring and the Writing Center is already hard at work planning a 3rd summit, which will be held Oct. 5. “We moved the next summit to the fall because we realized in the spring that the tutors and mentors got all this great information and then they graduated and left,” said Lyon.
“We hope to create partnerships earlier and be able to use them the remainder of the year,” said Lyon.