Community, Features

BU Student Ambassadors take different approaches to student mentoring

Autumn brings many prospective students to Boston University’s campus, creating a busy time for student ambassadors who are responsible for giving tours, answering questions from prospective students and making sure that new undergraduate students are adjusting to college life. These student leaders are savvy in all things BU and know how to welcome and support the new student population, whether by offering advice on which classes to take or simply suggesting the best place to get pizza on campus.

Hanna Anderson (COM ‘17) posing with her ambassador group at the College of Communication Kickoff BBQ on Sept. 1. PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNA ANDERSON
Hanna Anderson (COM ‘17) posing with her ambassador group at the College of Communication Kickoff BBQ on Sept. 1. PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNA ANDERSON

“I became a Dean’s Host because I absolutely love Sargent College, and I want to share that with prospective students,” said Fiona Egan, a junior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “We have the opportunity to share all that Sargent has to offer as a college, but also as a community.”

Danny Sarkis, a junior in Sargent, said he became a Dean’s Host for reasons beyond receiving free sweatshirts. He was drawn to the position because it would allow him to not only meet prospective BU students from diverse backgrounds, but also to represent the school he loves.

During their time as Dean’s Hosts, Sarkis and Egan have been approached by parents and students about a number of topics. Sarkis said one of the questions he is asked most often is what he does in his free time outside the classroom.

“This is one of my favorite topics to talk about because BU is located in the best city in the world,” Sarkis said. “Boston has an endless amount of things to do, ranging from local concerts to [Boston] Bruins’ games to walking The Freedom Trail to comedy shows to just about anything you can think of.”

Although Sarkis said he enjoys answering questions, he said his favorite memory is from an open house at Sargent earlier in the fall semester.

“I was giving tour after tour when a parent said to me, ‘You must really love this school. I would never be able to wake up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday and run around like crazy giving all these tours,’” Sarkis said. “I smiled wider than the Cheshire Cat and replied, ‘Oh, I love sleeping in. I don’t know how I would ever be up if I didn’t love Sargent.’”

Just like Sarkis, Egan’s passion for her school shows when parents ask her time and time again what makes Sargent College so special.

“That is my favorite question of all,” Egan said. “Most people truly do want to hear about students’ experiences. Everyone can look up what resources or classes each school has to offer. But in the end, it is the people and the connections that prospective families want to know more about. They want to see that the students can be happy and know that they can see themselves being happy here as well.”

For Allison Durkan, a sophomore in the College of Engineering and an ENG Student Advisor to incoming freshmen, said the idea of attending college seemed daunting at first.

“The transition is so hard because of so many aspects: the people, the location, the workload and the responsibility that is thrust upon every incoming freshman,” she said. “Finding a balance of socialization, eating, sleeping, exercising and most importantly, doing homework and studying, is not an easy task.”

As an ENG Student Advisor, she is entrusted with the task of helping 10 to 12 freshmen make the transition into becoming independent, functioning college students.

“I thought I would be a great student advisor because I have managed to keep good grades, have a job on campus, play water polo at the competitive club level and I still manage to sleep a decent amount of time,” Durkan said. “I have figured out the formula for a successful balance of the college life, and I wanted to be able to share my experiences with some other students, who may not be able to balance their lives without a little help.”

Students sometimes ask questions “that they might not feel comfortable asking a random stranger,” Durkan said, because they feel more comfortable with someone who has had the same college experiences.

“A moment I keep in my mind as a student advisor was having one of my students stop me on the sidewalk and say, ‘You told me to say hi to you if I saw you on the sidewalk, so I’m saying hi,’” she said. “I felt so happy that he could feel comfortable enough to approach me while I was with my friends because it made me realize how much of an impact I could have on his day.”

Hanna Anderson, a sophomore in the College of Communication, is a COM Ambassador. In addition to mentoring incoming COM students during the academic year, Anderson provides weekly tours of the building, writes articles for the COM Ambassadors Blog and orchestrates COM events throughout the year.

“Getting involved with the COM Ambassador program is one of the best choices I’ve made so far at BU,” Anderson said. “I’ve been able to assist incoming students, and I’ve gained a lot of social experience, leadership and public speaking skills.”

Peer Mentors within the College of Arts and Sciences Hillary Waite, a CAS sophomore, and Gabriel Rodriguez Pallares, a CAS junior, mentor incoming students under a more traditional classroom setting, in which they co-teach a first-year experience class, FY101, alongside a BU instructor.

This class is a one-credit course offered to first-year students during the fall semester. Peer Mentors are also required to take a two-credit course on peer counseling through the School of Education during their mentoring period.

Waite said she is able to transfer the leadership skills gained as a Peer Mentor to other areas of her professional and personal lives.

“I can now go forward in other organizations similarly,” she said. “I currently am the vice president of the BU Shakespeare Society and hope to further the skills I have gained in hopefully acting as an officer for my sorority.”

Student leaders at Boston University across all schools are working to make an impact not only on the lives of incoming students, but also on their own lives, simply by taking on a leadership role.

Pallares said that although being a Peer Mentor takes time out of his schedule, the mentoring experience is completely worth giving up some of his time.

“It gives me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills,” he said. “I have learned so much during this one month of being [a] Peer Mentor already. I’ve also made innumerable friends. I would not give this up for anything. These skills are tools that will stay with me for the rest of my professional life as well as the people I’ve meet throughout this journey.”

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