Story of a Peer Advising Fellow
What is the Peer Advising Fellows Program?
The Peer Advising Fellows (PAF) program consists of 190 upperclassmen who are selected by the Advising Programs Office to help first-year students navigate their transition to Harvard. Each PAF are paired with a group of first-year advisees (a.k.a. PAFees) from the same residential entryway. Starting from Move-In Day and first-year orientation, PAFs work with a team of residential proctors and PAFs to build community within the first-year entryway.
PAFs are expected to meet with their advisees individually once every month and help students with any academic, extracurricular, and social questions during their time on campus. A good PAF is empathetic, enthusiastic, supportive, professional, and knowledgeable about University resources, among other things.
For their efforts, PAFs are compensated $1000 for their work from the College and given additional stipends to host weekly study breaks for the entire entryway.
What is a Study Break?
Study breaks are a time for students in the same entryway to come together, decompress from the week, and enjoy each other’s company. The PAF-Proctor team work together to host weekly study breaks often with a theme such as pumpkin carving, cookie baking, or mug painting.
Study breaks encourage students to take time away from their scheduled academic and extracurricular commitments and engage socially with other students.
What is an Eagle Peer Advising Fellow?
Within the PAF program, eight leaders are selected. Dubbed “Eagle PAFs,” these students take on additional administrative duties within the advising program. In the summer, Eagles facilitate PAF training weekend and work with new PAFs to ensure their smooth transition to the role.
The Eagles host monthly yard meetings attended by PAFs and meet weekly with the head administrator of the PAF program to communicate student issues and make decisions on advising programming. In addition, Eagles PAFs help the Advising Programs Office read PAF applications and conduct interviews alongside University administrators, culminating in the selection of new PAFs for the following academic year.
Areas of Research
One of the key questions of the PAF program is: “How do we know if PAFs are doing a good job, and how do we intervene and help struggling PAFs with the data that we have?”
At the end of the first semester each year, all first-years are asked to fill out a survey about their advising experience at Harvard. One issue is that the quantitative survey responses are not often specific enough and lack specific action steps for PAFs to direct their efforts for the second semester. Soliciting first-year input may fall on the shoulders of the Advising Programs Office starting next year, and perhaps a revamped design of a first-year survey can help address some of the issues with the current survey.