In August, as the all-college meetings for incoming students slowly approached, I was more than thrilled to take on the task of being a peer advisor in the First-year Innovation and Research Experience Program for Paul College of Business and Economics. That said, as the semester has progressed, this experience has proved to hold more value than I could have imagined. To have a group of students who are engaged and interested in succeeding as a whole is incredibly rewarding as a peer advisor. Team 13 always brings energy to the classroom along with the utmost dedication, respect, and kindness for their teammates. As much as I would like to take credit for occupying the number one spot in the FIRE team leaderboards, the truth is that I cannot. I asked Team 13 for three things at the all-college meeting, I asked for respect, I asked for teamwork, and I asked to have fun. After appropriately naming our team Ign1t3 The F1r3, Team 13 thus far has completed all those requests and more.
The First-year Innovation and Research Experience, also known as the FIRE program, proves year after year how vital exploration of research, peer-to-peer interaction, and getting involved on campus is for first-year students. FIRE was implemented when I was a freshman and seeing the program grow reflects the drive to have this program act as a way for first-year students to seamlessly transition from high school to college. Beneficial for both the students and the peer advisors, FIRE is becoming an important facet of the first-year experience for UNH Paul College students.
Being able to work as a team is incredibly important. This is true not only in FIRE, but in all sectors of a person’s life. Knowing this, on the first day of class I asked each member of the team to tell me a characteristic of the best team they had ever been on. The class came up with the following characteristics:
- Strong Communication
- Humor filled
- High levels of participation
- Friendship builder
After this exercise, I explained to the class that these are the characteristics I plan to ask of them for the year. Conversely, I told them these are characteristics and standards they can hold me to as well.
As a student who has been through the program, I have been able to explain to my team of 21 students just how valuable FIRE can truly be. I know that FIRE opened the doors to many opportunities for my time here at UNH, introducing me to new experiences and allowing me to make some of my closest friends. I wish for my team to have a similar, if not better, experience with FIRE. That being said, at the end of one of our classes I asked that all of team 13 check in with me to share one way FIRE has helped them thus far. While I could talk all day about where I benefit from FIRE, I believe these excerpts are a far better representation of the impact this program has on the participating students.
FIRE has been a great way to connect with like-minded, same major students! Maybe we’re a special group, but everyone is supportive and thanks to FIRE we can always find a friendly face in our classes. Talking about our similar woes of starting college has made it less stressful by making it known it’s not just us- a lot of people feel the exact same way. -Bayley, Team 13, Class of 2021
FIRE has helped me grow from being dependent on others and how they view me to a more confident, empowered individual. I’ve been provided more opportunities than ever before to continue growing and developing my strengths and weaknesses- which is something that I value extremely. -Katie, Team 13, Class of 2021
My favorite part about FIRE so far is how open we can be with each other, I feel comfortable being myself and telling my peer advisor or one of my classmate’s something if need be. -Olivia, Team 13, Class of 2021
I like FIRE because being a small class allows you to have a close connection with the other peers in your group, especially since it’s the only “small” class that we basically all have. Also having a peer advisor who has been in the same shoes we are in makes it even better. You know you always have that one person you can go to for anything that you might be having trouble with, or just a simple question you might want to ask them. AND the whole logging points thing, in hopes to get some cash at the end of the year, makes students want to get involved with things on campus- which is really important, esp. for freshman. -Caroline, Team 13, Class of 2021
I’ve learned a lot about teamwork and working with new people. I like when you break us up into groups and we have to work with people in the class we usually don’t work with. I love having this group because I have so many friendly faces in classes and have made a lot of friends because of it. I also love having you in charge because you really do care about us as people and I can tell you love it so it makes me want to participate and makes FIRE really enjoyable! -Bethany, Team 13, Class of 2021
The above quotes only scratch the surface of the positive influence FIRE can have on students. Regardless of where we end up on the leaderboard throughout the year, this group has become a close-knit group that all members, including myself, can turn to for support, inclusion, and new ideas. With feedback from students that reflects such positive experiences, as a peer advisor I cannot help but feel so proud of the hard work Team 13 is putting forth.
About Andrea LaBonte ’19:
Andrea LaBonte is a junior Hospitality Management Major with a Philosophy double major. Expecting to graduate in May 2019, Andrea’s career path is geared towards the food and beverage sector of the Hospitality Industry. Andrea’s key roles on campus include previously working as a Philosophy TA, being a peer adviser, and being an avid competitor in intramural softball.