Peer Referral takes message to students
How often do you reach the end of a journey and think to yourself, “If I only knew then what I know now?” The journey most assuredly would have been much smoother and more rewarding.
The re-birth of the University of Lethbridge’s Peer Referral service is a way of addressing that issue, connecting students to the essential services they have access to at the U of L, many of which they may not even be aware.
“A lot of students go through university not knowing what is available to them and it’s better that they know what they can actually do while they’re here,” Peer Referral Officer Katie Labey says. “The students I just talked to didn’t know that we had free counselling services on campus.
“I’ve learned a lot myself doing this job, even though it’s my last year here. I often think I wish I knew a lot of these things when I started.”
Labey, in her final year of general science, is one of three officers who travel around the University with the mobile Peer Referral cart. With fellow officers Lisa Boody and Jenn Blenkarn, the three run a regular schedule of appearances all over campus. They set up shop, encourage students to come to them and ask questions, then dole out free stuff.
“It’s casual and I find students really enjoy that more,” says Labey. “A lot of students have recognized us in the yellow shirts, we’re quite identifiable and we’ve been seeing a core group of people each week who come around just to see what our new topic is.”
Therein lies the difference between this Peer Referral service and the one that existed previously. At that time, the service was housed in an office in the basement of the Students’ Union Building. While just as valuable, it did not get enough student traffic. This incarnation is by the students, for the students, and they’re taking it to the students.
The questions they hear run the gamut, but they give a good snapshot of some of the confusion and misinformation that exists throughout the student body.
“The most frequent question we’ve had so far is what the heck are you guys,” laughs Boody, a second-year history major. “But we also hear a lot of questions about how you change your major, how you get help for studying for a certain class, how to approach a teacher about issues in class. If we’re stumped, we’ll take their name and e-mail address, go find an answer and get back to them.”
The whole focus of the program is to enable students to become more engaged with their university, take advantage of all there is to offer and smooth out some of the rough patches they may encounter.
“The students I’ve talked to have been really pleased, they really enjoy the fact they can come and ask us questions, they don’t have to pay for anything and they get free stuff,” says Labey, offering up an alligator keychain. “Advice and free stuff, it’s a perfect combination.”