Cheyenne Judkins – Contributing Writer
This fall semester is the first for a brand new allies program created for incoming UMF freshmen.
The program is similar to having a peer advisor, but was created as a way to provide more resources and support for first generation students who aren’t education majors or Johnson Scholars.
Kirsten Swan, the Director of Student Leadership and Service, said she started planning last January, as that’s typically when she begins focusing on the fall program. Swan also noted that there used to be a similar program but they did away with it, so it’s been revised and revamped to fit the needs of UMF’s incoming students.
Swan is also on the Retention and Recruitment Committee, and they could see UMF was losing a lot of students. Although students leave for a variety of reasons, many of the students leaving appeared to be freshman.
“The number of freshman leaving campus fueled the drive to create the allies program,” said Swan.
The program is made up of 29 upperclassmen volunteers from the orientation staff, and each freshman was assigned an upperclassmen ally. The students were assigned based on their residential areas. Amanda Dwyer, a senior and Special Education major at UMF, volunteered to be an upperclassmen ally for the program and this was her fifth year on orientation staff.
“I personally was assigned 21 freshmen, but only four have showed up to meetings,” said Dwyer.
Allies continue to communicate with new students through the preregistration process. During that time, freshmen are able to meet with their allies or message them any questions they may have. Dwyer made a Facebook page for the students she was assigned, and she gets questions from them often via Facebook.
“Through being an upperclassman ally, I learned that sometimes freshman are shy and hesitant to ask questions in person, but they ask a lot more online via Facebook,” Dwyer said.
Kaitlyn Mitchell, a freshman Creative Writing major at UMF, enjoyed the allies program because it allowed her to ask questions and having an ally made her more comfortable, although she wished the allies would have been assigned based on major.
“It’s nice because it’s easier than going to your advisor,” Mitchell said. “It was good to be able to talk about how orientation was going and ask questions if we had them.”
Dwyer says it’s nice when she runs into her freshman allies on campus and they say, “hey Amanda! How are you?” Dwyer recalls, “one of my favorite moments was when one of my freshmen came up to me and thanked me for telling them about the Employment Fair because they received a job offer and accepted it.”
Dwyer says she hopes they continue the program but states, “the first meeting should really be mandatory because if they don’t attend meetings, they’re not receiving the extra care and guidance the university is trying to provide.” Swan plans to continue the allies program in the future and says, “I hope to involve other student leaders.”