Peer Tutor & Mentor Summit Reaches New Heights!

By March 16, 2011Outreach and Events

The UCWbL ended Winter Quarter classes on a high note this past Friday, March 11th at that the first ever Peer Tutor & Mentor Summit.  The event, organized by the UCWbL’s own Rachel Hedrick, brought together members of tutoring and mentorship programs from across the university to explore the methods of other offices and to celebrate the important role that these programs play in higher education. Offices represented at the Summit included the Office of Multicultural Student Success, the Student Leadership Institute, the PLuS Program, and many more. Members from each program were able to present to and learn from each other, introducing topics varying from placing peer tutoring in terms of “socially responsible leadership” to navigating tutoring methods that fit the needs of a variety of students.

Guest speaker Art Munin, the Assistant Dean of Students, emphasized the importance of peer tutoring resources as a contact point for students in need of personal assistance and support. Although Munin’s touching speech affirmed my tutoring philosophy, in which I seek to create a welcoming environment to all writers who come into the Writing Center. Munin’s stories of real DePaul student’s facing personal crises highlighted the often unacknowledged idea that peer tutors need to be prepared to act as a gateway to all the other offices and resources that can help these students in need.

This raises the question: to what extent does our job as tutors necessitate a role that needs to sometimes move away from the role of a tutor and into the role as a peer? Many of us have had those appointments in which our client expresses anxieties that go beyond a deadline and into very real, very challenging life situations. I myself had a writer who came in with a paper that described her experiences pressing charges against a sexual abuser. It became clear to me that she wanted to talk to somebody in person more than she did on paper. Was letting the paper fall by the wayside going against my job as a peer tutor?

Munin’s speech and the conversations I had with tutors and mentors from across the university  inspired me to consider the multifaceted role that we as tutors inhabit, but I am curious to see how others feel about the place of tutors in these tough situations. If a client confided in you that they had a brain tumor, or suffered from schizophrenia, or were disowned by their family upon coming out as gay, what would you do? What should tutors do in these situations? I feel that Art Munin made a strong case for tutors being prepared to offer students a welcoming environment and connect them with other resources. But, what do you think? What experiences have you had that have tested your idea of what it means to be a peer tutor? How have these experiences illuminated or informed your tutoring philosophy?