Katalina Hurt and Latisha Settlage prepare for a class as part of the peer mentoring program.
After losing her brother a month before school started, Katalina Hurt of Gentry began to reconsider her decision to attend college at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. But after participating in a unique program in the College of Business, she blossomed into a leader at the university.
The Peer Mentoring program, established in 2013, offers business students the opportunity to assist in the instruction of the college’s Planning for Success course. The course is designed to provide freshman students a successful transition to college and is built around topics that are key to student retention: goal-setting, study skills, time management, personal responsibility, and advising. Mentors help students develop academic and personal skills that contribute to student success and also point freshman toward relevant campus resources. By encouraging freshman to establish relationships with their peers and faculty, mentors help new students become part of the UAFS community.
As a student in the class, Hurt was surprised by how willing her peer mentor was to help her get through the struggles she faced as a freshman first-generation college student. She credits that person for her successful transition into the College of Business:
“My peer mentor encouraged me to find a career path that displayed my personality and hobbies,” Hurt said. “She saw how passionate I was when it came to expressing my opinions in the forensics program and encouraged me to pursue a minor in speech and continue to work on my soft skills. This led to numerous opportunities to be involved with Student Leadership Council, joining Beta Alpha Psi, and achieving my first internship with the City of Fort Smith.”
Students are not the only beneficiaries of the peer mentoring program. Mentors benefit by having the opportunity to develop their leadership and communication skills. One year after taking the course, Hurt was chosen to become a peer mentor herself. She assisted Karin Hickenbotham, advising coordinator, and discovered her passion for secondary education.
“Most people make sacrifices to go to college so that someday, they might have a long-term career. My passion for secondary education is derived from the passion of those who make sacrifices to pursue it,” Hurt said. “Seeing students work as hard as they do to pursue a degree allows me to understand and hope that someday I'll be able to contribute and connect with students. This humility and self-sacrifice as well as the sacrifices made by the student are what makes me so passionate about secondary education.”
Now, Hurt is doing more by making the same difference with other students that her peer mentor made with her.
“I am encouraging students to get involved and reap the rewards of college, just like my peer mentor did with me,” Hurt said. “I feel like it's a way to give back to the student body in a way that keeps this constant cycle going. When I encourage students, I'm hoping to not only make an impact on the student body, but to also encourage students to complete this cycle by becoming peer mentors in the future.”
Hurt will graduate in the fall 2018 and plans to pursue a master’s degree in forensic accounting, with long-term plans of returning to UAFS to teach.
About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit www.uafs.edu.