The BEST program includes a peer-mentoring system that puts an undergrad who’s already successfully navigated the curriculum right in the classroom, research lab, or living-learning community with beginning students. Research has shown that this is more effective than the traditional one-on-one mentoring approach.
Peer Course Assistants
Advanced undergraduate students, called called Peer Course Assistants (PCAs), sit in on basic-level STEM courses to provide assistance to everyone in the class. The PCA attends a class, takes notes and knows exactly what’s being taught, facilitates group discussions, gets to know the students, and then holds three hours of study sessions outside of class each week. As a result, students have a known and trusted peer who can help them succeed—someone that they naturally feel a connection to. The faculty member teaching the class helps develop the structure of those study sessions, and students earn course credit for attending them.
Undergraduate Research BEST Peers
Because students new to college-level math and science are often reluctant to share their questions and problems with their professor, advanced students with a record of successful undergraduate research in the discipline will also serve as an Undergraduate Research BEST Peer to help beginning researchers understand and succeed at research. These mentors help the student understand the research process as it moves along, the proper way to keep a research journal, and effective ways to communicate results to others. These peer mentors are a valuable way to bridge the gap between new students and faculty, and they help the student into a healthy working relationship with the professor. All BEST undergraduate researchers, their Undergraduate Research BEST Peers, and a faculty coordinator also meet regularly in journal clubs, discussion sessions, and/or laboratory exchange tours to share experiences and insights.
Some BEST Peers will also be part of the BEST Living/Learning Community, helping enhance the academically geared programming and holding study halls to create a supportive learning environment to residential life.