by: Nicole Kiefert
Last year, UW Oshkosh created a new general education curriculum called the University Studies Program. USP is a 41-credit program that is reshaping initial university classroom experiences to improve learning outcomes. A central focus is to ask students to look at three important “signature questions” on campus: cultural diversity, sustainability and the community.
I was selected to serve as a USP peer mentor to help students within this new program.
The program pairs classes for freshman such as WBIS and speech, math and science and cultural studies and ethnic studies. USP has three different semesters called Quests. The first semester in the program is Quest I, the second is Quest II and the third is Quest III.
This semester is the first time for the Quest III and the transfer program. The Quest III program pairs a class with a “community partner” where they go and do some sort of work for the community that relates back to their class.
Transfer students have a seven-week “experience” where campus involvement is built into the course so that students have the chance to learn more about campus, the resources available and the events offered.
Each section of the Quest program has a peer mentor and Quest III also has alumni mentors. The job of the mentors, both student and alumni, is to help students transition into college and make sure they’re comfortable with the campus and their responsibilities as students.
My role as a transfer mentor is to help students get adjusted to life at UW Oshkosh and to make sure they are getting involved.
To help them get used to the campus and the resources offered, a scavenger hunt was planned for one of the class meetings. Students received a list of the campus resources and were required to send in photo of themselves in front of that resource. They received bonus points if they asked important questions, such as hours of operation, how to make appointments and if there was any cost.
Students formed a team and came up with a team name. Offering a prize was incentive enough to get the competition going, so the groups were running around campus trying to get to the most resources and ask the most questions.
This seemed beneficial because not only was it fun for them and fun for me to see how many places they got to, but this way they got to know what was all available and where the places were.
The transfer program also requires students to attend two on-campus events. This is important because it shows additional events that the campus offers. It also allows the students to get to know the other students from the transfer year experience class. It’s hard to make friends coming into a new school as a transfer student, so it was exciting to see some of them sitting together at an event.
The USP is an excellent transformation to the general education program. The addition of peer and alumni mentors is helpful for students who might not feel 100 percent comfortable talking to their teacher and gives the students a chance to make a friend on campus.
Anyone interested in learning more about the USP or becoming a peer mentor can find out more by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or stop in at the Pollock House for more information.