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Student Success Campus Life

Miami Expanding Peer Education

The Division of Student Life has provided structured opportunities for students to learn from their peers for decades. This year has seen the biggest expansion to date.

Group of about 25 students in black and red shirts, posing in front of the clinical health sciences building
2024 HAWKS Peer Health Educators
Student Success Campus Life

Miami Expanding Peer Education

2024 HAWKS Peer Health Educators

A lonely first-year student meets with a SEAL ambassador to talk about strategies for finding the right fit in a student organization.

A struggling chemistry major schedules a Rinella tutoring session to review confusing concepts with an upper class student who did well in organic chemistry.

A group of friends attend a residence hall presentation about alcohol and other drugs by another student. 

These stories, and many more like them, are just a few examples of peer education at work at Miami University. Peer education is an evidence-based process whereby well-trained and motivated students undertake informal or organized educational activities with their peers, aimed at developing their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and skills.

The Division of Student Life has provided structured opportunities for students to learn from their peers for decades. Peer education has long been shown to have a positive influence on student learning, and Miami programs like the SEAL Ambassadors, undergraduate tutors, and HAWKS peer health educators, have seen this influence in action. 

“Peer leadership and education at Miami exemplifies the power of student-driven initiatives in shaping holistic student experiences,” said Kim Vance, Ed.D, director for student engagement, activities, and leadership. “By investing in peer education, we not only enhance leadership development for student mentors, but also cultivate a supportive and inclusive community with opportunities for all students.”

With positive outcomes in mind, the Division of Student Life has expanded opportunities for peer education over the past year, particularly focusing on health and well-being and leadership and service. 

Wellness Educators

The HAWKS peer health educators have been fixtures at Miami since 2003. The HAWKS are trained, paid student staff who deliver peer-to-peer programs on diverse wellness topics, coordinate campus-wide awareness campaigns, and facilitate training for student leaders. Their rigorous preparation includes a national certification process and a one-credit hour class, equipping them to navigate complex conversations, address sensitive subjects, and forge meaningful connections with their peers related specifically to wellness topics. 

Over the past five years, the landscape of wellness topics has become increasingly complex. The Office of Student Wellness, recognizing the need for a proactive response, added two new peer education teams this year to complement the HAWKS. 

One team, the QPR peer educators, focuses on suicide prevention and mental health topics. The other team, the SIV peer educators, teach peers and host events on sexual violence, domestic violence, healthy relationships, sexual health, consent, and survivor support. 

The recruitment process, initiated at the start of each spring semester, attracts students from various academic disciplines, fostering a diverse and dedicated cohort. 

“Peer education makes a difference in the day to day decision making for our students and the impact over time is truly inspiring particularly with programs like Step Up Bystander Intervention, said Leslie Haxby McNeill, assistant director for student engagement in the office of student wellness. “We want a diverse and eclectic group of peer educators to reflect the student body we work with.”

Supplemental Instruction

The Rinella Learning Center’s Supplemental Instruction (SI) program has significantly expanded its reach this year. SI offers free regularly scheduled out-of-class review sessions to all students enrolled in historically difficult courses. Sessions are facilitated by students who have successfully completed the course in the past. 

Through the 2023-24 academic year, the SI program academically supported roughly 4,200 students over 30,000 times. This is an increase of 23% over last year and is largely attributed to expanding Supplemental Instruction to new courses, including MTH 135, ECO 202, and some nursing courses. One student participant reflected on the SI experience, writing, "[The] SI leaders I had this semester were incredibly intuitive about the questions students would ask, kind when we would be confused, and completely understanding to our level of confusion in a difficult course."

SEAL Ambassadors

The SEAL Ambassadors, initially established in 2018 to support student involvement, have also evolved to encompass a broader scope this year. 

SEAL Ambassadors traditionally hosted peer leadership trainings and met with students to discuss involvement opportunities. They have helped thousands of students and organizations make Miami one of the best student involvement experiences in the nation. This year, the Center for Student Engagement, Activities, and Leadership, expanded the program to include additional aspects of engagement. 

In addition to the existing team of 16 original SEAL Ambassadors (now rebranded to SEAL Ambassadors for Involvement), the team added 10 ambassadors to three new areas of focus. 

  • 10 ambassadors for leadership who host leadership workshops/conferences and meet with student leaders to discuss their leadership strengths.
  • 4 ambassadors for service who facilitate student connections with local agencies and help student organizations connect with service opportunities.
  • 5 ambassadors for civic engagement who help with voter registration and education.

The integration of these new areas signifies a strategic step towards enhancing the overall student experience at Miami University. 

“As our students learn more about themselves and explore their leadership skills, they are better able to see opportunities for collaboration between the different focus areas of our Center,” said Vance. “This provides students a holistic involvement experience that encourages involvement in clubs and organizations, while also providing expansive leadership development.”

As these programs evolve and adapt to changing student needs, the division will continue to explore avenues for peer education and how to best serve student needs.