4D Peer Mentors Provide Guidance, Leadership to New Students
Some schools have orientation leaders. The University of Denver has 4D Peer Mentors, the 100-plus students who take on the challenge of welcoming more than 1,400 first-year students (plus transfers) to the DU campus every year.
So, what makes a 4D Peer Mentor different from your run-of-the-mill orientation leader?
For starters, it’s their intimate knowledge of the 4D Experience, DU’s holistic approach to education.
“The 4D Peer Mentors all took a one-credit course in the spring in order to be eligible for this job,” says Brie Jutte, the director of New Student and Family Programs at the University. “It was a sprint course: Introduction to 4D Peer Mentorship. So, in that course, they learned a little bit more about each of the dimensions. Then we explored other parts of leadership such as empathy, values, their identity.”
The four characteristics of the 4D Experience are: advancing intellectual growth; pursuing careers and lives of purpose; promoting well-being; and exploring character. The 4D Peer Mentors program focuses primarily on the latter three pillars.
The peer mentors act as guides and confidantes for first-year and transfer students every day during Discoveries Week, and then periodically throughout the fall quarter. Each peer mentor is assigned between 19 and 35 students, groups that also act as the students’ First-Year Seminar (FSEM) classmates. That tie between the peer mentors and FSEM faculty helps bridge the gap between the first 4D pillar (advancing intellectual growth) and the last three.
“Depending on what the faculty wanted, we do have some FSEM faculty who have invited the 4D Peer Mentors to come back to class throughout the fall quarter,” Jutte says. “So, some of our 4D Peer Mentors are going into the classroom as well, and just helping with that peer-to-peer mentorship.”
Peer mentors can check in with their mentees through the Crimson Constellation platform in the 4D mobile app throughout the fall quarter and beyond.
For senior Carlos Fuentes, being a peer mentor is all about giving back.
He arrived in the United States from Spain when he was just 15 years old and had to learn quickly how to adapt to life in America.
“When I first came to America, I was new to a new place and I faced a lot of challenges,” Fuentes says. “But there were a lot of people that helped me. By being a 4D Peer Mentor, I felt like it was my way to give back, somehow, to other students that are coming to a new environment, a new place. I just wanted to give back because people helped me in this country.”
As a senior in the Daniels College of Business and a student-athlete—he plays for DU’s men’s basketball team—Fuentes knows the ins and outs of campus, which helps him offer a well-rounded experience to the transfer students he’s mentoring this fall.
“We welcome all the students; we make them feel like it’s a home away from home,” he says. “We explain all the resources that the University has, advise on their majors, career paths that they can take, clubs, activities on campus.”
During Discoveries Week, Fuentes accompanied a group of transfer students to the Kennedy Mountain Campus for a weekend of team-building activities and a chance to build those mentor-mentee relationships for the first time.
“There were a lot of activities that I haven't done, personally,” he says. “And I'm sure a lot of students coming to DU, you also haven't done rock climbing, challenge courses with ropes, hiking. Just being outdoors is really peaceful. Being around nature, seeing the sunset, sunrise and the stars at night, I think was a great experience for everyone.”
Fuentes says that he feels being a peer mentor has helped prepare him for life after graduation and a potential career in sports management.
“[The program] makes me be outside of my comfort zone at times,” he says. “And I feel like being outside of the comfort zone is ‘normal’ in the real world—you have to be able to deal with situations that you just may not do regularly.”
The 4D Peer Mentors program will begin recruiting for next year’s peer mentors cohort this fall.