Sign Up to be a Peer Mentor!

By Emery Levin

Are you looking to be more involved on campus? Do you want to help out incoming students? If so, you may want to consider becoming a Peer Mentor for the CORE 101 and 301 classes next year! 

Peer Mentors are students who attend CORE 101/301 sessions in order to assist new students assimilate into the campus community and learning program. Though the amount and type of responsibilities vary depending on the class, Peer Mentors typically help the professor with attendance and class management. They also help students with their assignments and direct them to different campus resources such as the Writing Center. There are a wide variety of classes being offered next year, and students are either recommended by a professor to join their class, or they take a class that fits with their schedule.

The main goal of a Peer Mentor is to provide an example to new students of what a great SMCM student looks like. When asked what type of students the program is looking for, Dr. Kelly Neiles, the director of First Year Learning, stated that they’d like students who are “good at being engaged, being on time, talking with the instructor, good interpersonal skills, and good at taking notes.” She went on to say “if you’re the kind of person who enjoys sharing your experiences with others and helping other people learn from mistakes you may have made, we’re really looking for those personal relationships to be built.”

Peer Mentor’s jobs are typically very fun. When asked about her experience as a Peer Mentor, sophomore Di Wanamaker stated: “It was overall a pretty rewarding experience! It ended up being a lot less daunting than I had feared, and I had a lot of fun doing it. Our class had a pretty good group of students so [it] never felt all that tedious, especially once I got into a rhythm of it.” She recommends the experience to other students and that she learned a lot, but advises that students check their emails very consistently. “You’ll need to be good about sending somewhat frequent emails, and checking it frequently, since you never know when one of your students may have questions.” She also advises students to communicate with their assigned professors.

When applying, students will have to submit a one page statement on how their experience at St. Mary’s has prepared them for becoming a Peer Mentor, a reference from a faculty member, their GPA, and what subjects they’ve studied or are interested in. Students who are applying consent to granting Dr. Neiles access to their SMCM records.

Selected Peer Mentors are registered to the Peer Mentoring Practicum, CORE 401/402, which gives three credit hours. Peer Mentors will have to move on campus early enough to attend a one hour zoom training session on Aug. 18 where they will get to know Dr. Colby Nelson, who directs mentors. CORE 101 Peer Mentors will attend the first CORE class meeting on Aug. 25, and all Peer Mentors will attend a training session on Aug. 27. Practicum meetings are held once a month on Mondays or Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to review on skills needed for classroom management and fifth hour requirements. 

Along with getting three upper division credit hours, Peer Mentors will receive a lot of leadership experience that will help them in the workforce and help them be more successful in having interpersonal relationships on campus. Not only do they help new students be more successful during their first year, but Dr. Neiles has stated that she has seen several great friendships start because of the program because it helps both new students and Peer Mentors get to know each other. Overall, it is a good experience both academically and socially.

For those interested in becoming a peer mentor, applications are due on March 13. 

Artist Talk with Maxine Payne: Looking Out for Natural Beauty 

By Morgan Babylon

Maxine Payne visited SMCM on Wednesday, Feb. 22 ,  .  Payne is a photographer living and working in Arkansas where she captures images of modern Arkansan women. Her experience in the field started in college, photographing where she came from. Payne told the audience how she felt guilty for leaving her family to go to college. However, from her experience in college, she understood that a photograph does not capture the full story, but instead it reflects what is shown in that single image.  

Payne has been making art about her time and place for the last 25 years. One of her projects is the Rural Women and Globalization project. The duration of this project was from Oct. 29 – Dec. 2, 2014. Sites that were used to document the lives of rural women were San Luis, Costa Rica; Bagamoyo, Tanzania; Vinh Linh, Vietnam; Douglas, Arizona, and Agua Prieta, Sonora, on the United States-Mexico border; and rural Arkansas. The photos were to be as natural and straightforward as possible. The goal of this project was to portray the women exactly as they were with no changes to their appearance or unnatural posing. The photos were featured with an interview description in English and Spanish.  

Another project she took on was centered around photobooth pictures, and a woman named Thelma’s diary was read alongside the photos. The story behind the creation of these photos was a couple just trying to make ends meet with a camera in the back of their trailer. Collecting these pictures took years, but the stories that go along with them are priceless. Another woman in the photographs was Payne’s aunt Evelyn, who mostly took pictures of her family and children. 

She now works with college students to develop their fluency in multimedia, focusing on communication and photography in their community. Payne expressed to her students that, “we have all kinds of different formats of storytelling such as audio, visual, and still photographs.”  

At the end of her talk, Payne was asked about her favorite project, to which she responded that she is “really interested right now in the enjoyment of teaching.” She now teaches other students about photography and then gets out in the field to do it herself. She has taught photography students here at SMCM. Elizabeth Kelly, being the sponsor of the event, told The Point News, “She worked with my alternative process photography class to create salted paper prints and provided meaningful critique to the students in advanced photography about their semester-long projects.”

For those who are looking to get into photography, one piece of advice is that the relationship between photographer and subject is best supported by an accompanying anthropologist. Payne said that she “learned a lot from working with an anthropologist,” because they specialize in the study of communicable relations.  

When she carried out a global project in Vietnam, those in the community wanted her to come with an anthropologist because the women in the community were getting older. When she was in Vietnam gathering stories, the policemen escorted them and edited their answers to reflect a different image than the truth. Payne said that the hardest part about completing this project was that it was “hard to know that what we did was irrelevant; it did not change their lives.”  

At the end of the event, sophomore Kaley Christman told The Point News that the reason she attended the event was she is taking an introductory course into photography and wanted to learn more about the practice as it correlated to her interests. By the end of the talk, Maxine Payne taught the audience that the art of photography is not solely about taking photographs of people. Photography is about capturing the natural beauty of a person or place. 

(Photo Courtesy of Morgan Babylon)

What are VOICES Readings?

By Charlotte Mayer

Posters for VOICES Reading Series events are all over Montgomery Hall. But what actually are they? 

This series was established by poets Lucille Clifton and Michael Glaser over 30 years ago. It features poets, fiction writers and nonfiction writers. The goal of VOICES is to bring accomplished writers to the campus to interact with students and faculty, says SMCM’s website. In the past, people such as Elizabeth Alexander, Toni Morrison and Naomi Shihab Nye have read in the series.

The latest one was on March 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the new Performing Arts Center. It was called “An Evening To Honor the Legacy of Lucille Clifton, featuring poets Mark Doty and Gabrielle Calvacoressi.” This event included “poetry readings and reflections to honor the late Lucille Clifton, former distinguished professor of the humanities at St. Mary’s College,” says InsideSMCM.

English Professor Karen Leona Anderson, the director of the series, says VOICES got its name from “Lucille Clifton’s insistence that the emphasis of the series should be on hearing voices of justice and compassion.” Anderson says “we aim to bring a wide diversity of emerging and established writers in this tradition from across the nation to read for the St. Mary’s community.” These readings usually take place once or twice a month. Authors give a short reading and then there is a time for questions.

When asked why students should attend these readings, she said: “VOICES brings students into contact with working, actively publishing writers who can communicate the value of literature as well as how it’s created.” Anderson then noted, “One aim here is to create a larger, nation-wide community of writers who know our students and can help them understand and navigate the writing world. Another is simply to bring students the pleasure of hearing great work read aloud — and meeting the artist who made it.”

According to the SMCM website, in the early ‘80s, Michael Glaser asked poet Lucille Clifton, Maryland’s Poet Laureate from 1979-1985, to visit St. Mary’s College for the first time. “Knowing that she loved Maryland, Michael Glaser suggested that Clifton become a repeat visitor to the College — and she did. For close to two decades, Clifton taught at St. Mary’s and mentored student poets here.” Students may recognize her poetry from walking up the stairs to the Great Room, where “Blessing the Boats,” adorns the wall.

SMCM sophomore Melanie Wallace says “the VOICES readings offer students a chance to ask authors about any questions they may have about their work, ranging from interpretation of their work, personal questions, and the publishing process. They are also a great tool for students of any discipline to further involve themselves in the community.” 

The next VOICES reading will take place on Thursday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. in Daugherty-Palmer Commons and will feature fiction writer Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, an award-winning Vietnamese writer and journalist. She is the author of eleven books of poetry, short fiction and non-fiction. 

All of these readings are free and open to the public. Information will be posted throughout campus. Please contact the director, Karen Leona Anderson, with any questions you might have.

Pet Feature: Brioche the Cat

(Photo Courtesy of Jordan Williams)

Meet Brioche. He is a brown and grey tabby that is 1.5 years old. He was adopted by SMCM student Jordan Williams over the summer from the Callaway Cat Shelter, where Williams volunteers. Brioche’s favorite toy is a wand stick with a string attached to a stuffed animal. He also loves to destroy crumply things like paper bags and newspapers but hates to be picked up or anything that constricts his movement. Brioche is a very vocal cat who loves to meow a lot. Williams said that his favorite memory with Brioche was when the cat grew comfortable enough to approach him after coming home from the shelter after three days. He said it was a special experience where they bonded and got to know each other. 

Peer Health Educators Feature 

By Nicole Osborne 

Introducing the Wellness Center’s Peer Health Educators! These students work collaboratively with the Wellness Center to promote the safety, health and well-being of the campus community, following extensive training. . They present a wide range of health programs, campus-wide health events, and marketing campaigns to educate the college community. PHEs also provide peer counseling from 1-3 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays in the Wellness Center.  Some of the topics they cover include nutrition, relationship violence, sexual health, sleep/stress management, substance education, eating disorders, and mental wellness. Peer Health Educator Afua Atta-Poku says “The Peer Health Educators are, in simple terms, the bridge between the students and resources on wellness in the campus community. We are certified to do peer counseling to help students find a plan of action, completely confidential.” 

The PHEs were founded in the 1990’s for students who were passionate about mental and physical health to provide resources for their peers. In 2010, the PHEs started offering confidential peer counseling. In2019, the PHEs organized a 5k held for suicide awareness called “Stomp Out The Stigma,” which won the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) award. PHE programs coordinator Angelie Roche says “The position did not become paid until 2020, when it became a part of the on-campus internship program. For a year (2021-2022) there was no PHE program because their advisor left. The program just started up again this January with our new advisor Lolita Hope and ten new PHEs.” 

One of the main roles of PHEs is to hold campus events that promote the well-being of the community. Recently, PHEs have held events such as campus safety day in collaboration with Public Safety, and “Sex Week” during Valentine’s week. Roche says that “Some favorites were Sex Bingo, Condom Valentines and the ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ panel, where we brought in a licensed sex therapist to answer some common questions about sex and relationships.” Atta-Poku says “So far, I enjoyed the Sex Bingo event held in Goodpaster lecture hall. It was slightly chaotic at first, but everyone who came had a good attitude. I think that was the best part of the event.” On March 7, the PHEs are hosting a Drug and Alcohol Awareness event. Roche says “later in the semester we’re hoping to hold more events having to do with eating disorder awareness, sexual assault awareness, and more. Stay tuned by following our Instagram @peerhealthsmcm!” There will also be events centered around health promotion such as sleep, well-being, financial health, and lifestyle. Be on the lookout for more information from the PHEs!

PHEs not only serve the community but are also full-time students, thus they hold many positions throughout the campus. When asked how they balance being a full-time student and PHE, Afua Atta-Poku says “One of the ways I find myself managing my time is putting all of my commitments into my Google calendar. Classes, clubs, meetings, my PHE schedule; anywhere where I have to be present and doing something. From there, I can see the spaces I have in my schedule and plan out what I can do with it.” It’s easy to begin feeling overwhelmed, but taking it one day at a time is the best way to manage this feeling, instead of constantly thinking about what needs to be done next. Atta-Poku says “Sometimes, you gotta slow it down to the present. Do what I can in the day, then once it’s over, I can look at what I have tomorrow.” Atta-Poku said, “Being a PHE gave me a more positive perspective on the importance of not only mental health but the value of listening. It can be easily overlooked how much lending your full attention to someone means.” Roche added, “Being a PHE has made me think more critically about what our student body cares about, and how best to give them the resources they need. It’s easy to say ‘college students need to know how to prevent STIs,’ but how can we educate them in a way that matters? How can we break through the constant noise of stress about grades, money, and relationships to remind our peers that their health is important?” Some challenges that come with this engaging and important role within the community would be figuring out how best to raise awareness using the resources provided and that at times it can be difficult to get started. The PHEs are working hard to ensure that the student body is aware of the resources available on campus. 

When asked to reflect on the best part of this job, Roche said “I’d say the best part is the community we’ve formed. We got really close during training, and it’s clear all ten of us are passionate about health and wellness, even though we come from different backgrounds and disciplines.” Atta-Poku said “The best part is knowing that you are making a difference. It may not seem like much, but it is. The teamwork of the Peer Health Educators is something I truly value. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the work and dedication of the other incredible PHEs.” It’s important to know that the PHEs not only care for each other but for the community. 

For students who are interested in becoming a PHE, you must maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher, contribute to event planning, be a reliable team member and maintain an acceptable degree of conduct on and off duty. If you are thinking about applying, take note that being a PHE is a large time commitment. In addition to the walk in hours, these students attend PHE training week and weekly meetings on wednesday afternoons. Roche told The Point News, “I’d tell students to come and talk to us about the position if they’re curious – we’re all super open and excited about it!” Students can reach out to Angelie Roche or Emily Shipley who are the PHE program coordinators. They can also reach out to the wellness supervisor Lolita Hope for more information on this wonderful campus community position.

(Photo Courtesy of Peer Health Educators Instagram)