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Helpful Hints for Selecting New Peer Educators

A Q&A with Triniti Halverson, advisor at Montana State University – Billings and Area 3 Consultant

How do you advertise peer educator openings or recruitment periods?

  • Peer educator openings are posted on our website with an online application.
  • Postcards are given out at events.
  • We have a recruitment fair at which we set up seven different tables that have individual displays representing different topics that we cover. Students go to each table and talk with a current peer educator about that topic and how we educate on it. They then get a stamp on their ‘passport’. They bring the passport to the final table and give it to our president and vice president and they talk to them about getting involved and give them a swag item for attending.
  • We also do a lot of recruitment at orientation.
  • We send out an email with all of the volunteer positions (including peer educators) available in Student Health Services to all of the students living in the residence halls.
  • Our group gives presentations to specific classes and degrees that are easily linked to peer education (health promotion, education, human services, etc).
  • We also send out emails to campus professionals that work with students (diversity center, 1st year seminar staff, etc) and ask them invite specific student leaders to join. I then reach out to those individuals.

Is there a particular time of year you conduct recruiting?

  • We recruit in the Spring and over summer at Orientation.

What is the process for applicants—interviews, agreements, training expectations?

  • First, they complete an online application.
  • We conduct an interview and have the person give a five minute presentation on a health topic
  • Once accepted, there is a week-long training followed by a weekend retreat
  • We ensure they know the expectations, go through confidentiality training, and sign contracts.

Are there particular qualities you look for in peer educators? What are they?

  • I look for:
    • Genuine desire to help others
    • Willingness to learn or improve on areas that they have identified as areas of opportunity (i.e. if they “aren’t good at public speaking” are they willing to learn and practice?)
    • Ability and desire to be a healthy role model
    • Non-judgmental attitude towards a diverse populations as well as struggles that may be different for students
    • Goal-driven

What are some lessons you have learned about selecting new peer educators?

  • By nature, we start to recruit the students that we already see involved on campus because they are genuinely good student leaders. This starts to become a problem because these students are involved in everything and they typically don’t have much to give to the group and/or it starts to hinder their ability to do well in classes.

    I think you need a combination of very involved students and brand new students. It’s also nice to have a combination of freshman through seniors so that they don’t all graduate at once.



By: Dr. Gerard Joyce, Vice President for Student Life
DeSales University

Peer education at DeSales University started in 2004 when the university’s counseling center introduced PACE (Peers Advising Counseling Educating). PACE members provide peer education programs to underclassmen that focus on alcohol, tobacco, violence, sexual health and safety, justice issues, and more. PACE mentors receive special training and certification through BACCHUS initiatives of NASPA.

The emotional well being of the students at DeSales University is fundamental to the mission of its student affairs department. PACE is instrumental in supporting this mission by emphasizing and demonstrating personal responsibility, deep respect for others, leadership development, concern for the common good, and service to the Church and society―all standards for successful student development.

As peer educators, PACERS gain leadership experiences that enhance their personal development. Interacting with their peers helps them to gain a deeper sense of themselves and to improve their communication skills so that they can better assist fellow students achieve academic, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

The PACE program at DeSales University is based specifically on the university’s mission of Christian Humanism. The DeSales mission emphasizes respect and dignity of the human person. DeSales peer educators emulate this mission in their approach to all students, thus creating an atmosphere where students feel safe, understood, cared for, and empowered. Given appropriate challenges and receiving strong support from their peers, students come to realize their academic and development aspirations as a member of the DeSales community.

The unique perspective of peers educating peers can relieve the anxieties that can exist between undergraduates and professional staff members. At DeSales University, students receive support and education from fellow undergraduates who empathize and relate to their journey as a college student. The various types of educational programs provided at DeSales include: studying self-image, time management, physical and mental health awareness, substance abuse issues, and more. The transferable skills students gain through peer education programming is applicable beyond their higher education experience. Peer educators and the recipients of such education, learn life lessons which are not necessarily experienced inside the classroom.

Establishing a peer education program requires knowing and understanding the mission of the university and the student affairs department; conducting a needs assessment of existing campus resources that support your students’ success; talking with undergraduates and asking them to describe what peer education means to them; and using this data to determine how a peer education program could add to existing student resources and enhance every students’ educational experience. It is best to start small and then to evaluate the program as it develops.  The best approach to assessing the needs your students is to seek feedback directly from them.

The best way student affairs leadership can support peer education programs like the PACE program at DeSales University is to promote the benefits of the program to the president and other members of your institution’s senior staff. In addition, do not underestimate the involvement of the faculty. The faculty can serve as resources for students in crisis and also help identify undergraduates who would serve as excellent peer educators. As a Chief Student Affairs Office, regular interactions with and support of peer educators can energize student leadership groups. Supporting their training and development through regional and national conferences, will create an atmosphere that is conducive to the well being of the entire undergraduate population.


The new academic year is upon us! We asked some of our peer education advisors for their best tips on how to make the most of the year and get started immediately.

What are some things that peer education advisors should be doing when school starts? 

  • Planning the training and meetings for the year, setting regular meeting times, welcoming students back, making sure students are connected with your program via social media, developing a plan for attending General Assembly!

What are some mistakes you made when planning for a new school year that others can learn from? 

  • As an advisor, I waited until all of my students were back in the fall to make plans.  That led to our group being delayed, which was unnecessary and not helpful to the peers.  Once I learned to plan during the spring and the summer and work with a small group of peer educators who were around for the summer on planning, I felt more calm and the peers had a clear direction for the year at the first meeting.

How can peer educators be best utilized in the early days of a new school year? 

  • Orientation, welcome back events, staffing the office for drop-ins, wearing social norming swag around campus so that students are exposed to positive social norms

What helpful tips to you have for people planning out the entire year? 

  • Design goals for the year and then plan accordingly.  Begin with the end in mind and always make sure to include self-care in the schedule.

In better preparation for NEXT academic year, what can advisors make note of/plan out now? 

  • Make a plan to evaluate the process of the year throughout the year so that when summer comes, you will have a great set of notes to use as a starter-set for your planning for the fall.

Campus Law Enforcement: Engaging New Partners

By: Joan Masters, University of Missouri

Upon reflection of his work as an inventor, Alexander Graham Bell once wrote, “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.”  In our peer education and prevention efforts, we know the value of teamwork and work daily to ensure that our student groups work well in cooperation and collaboration.  However, we often spend little time considering those outside our peer education groups.   What about those who interact with students daily on issues related to those we educate about?  Are we really reaching out to those who sit on the front lines of our colleges and universities to help ensure a safe environment for our students?

Whether your peer education group deals with issues such as alcohol and other drug use, healthy relationships, violence and sexual assault, or sexual health issues, it is important to recognize that campus and community law enforcement are an essential partner for your work.

I have to admit, when I was a student peer educator, working with law enforcement scared me a little.  After all, I made good choices and lived a healthy lifestyle so that I could avoid the police.  However, since starting to work with law enforcement and hearing the stories about their work, I came to appreciate how much they could help me in my efforts to make my campus safer.

Sometimes on a college campus, we tend to get stuck in our singular worlds: peer education and prevention provides outreach programs and activities and law enforcement “catches the bad guys”.  In fact, we think we are collaborating simply because we are doing similar work at different points in time.  However, we often make a big mistake when we engage in that assumption.  In fact, law enforcement or campus public safety can be helpful to our peer education in a variety of ways you may not have explored yet.  Some ideas to consider:

Training for Peer Educators:  Invite law enforcement or public safety professionals into your regular training for peer educators.  Many of them are certified professionals trained in a variety of topics such as drug recognition or handling conflict.

Co-Present:  Consider law enforcement and public safety representatives as valuable co-presenters.  Co-presenting with law enforcement can help get important information to students and show your fellow college students that you respect and appreciate the police presence on campus.

Host a monthly meeting:   Invite law enforcement or public safety representatives to your local campus-community coalition or campus task force meetings.  Or, encourage your peer educators to host a conversation with law enforcement on a monthly basis so that they can find out about the newest trends and peer educators can get updated on what law enforcement is seeing on campus.  Invite police from your city or town who can give you a perspective on off-campus student behavior.

Participate in “community policing”:   Start a community policing program in your residence halls or dorms.  Walk through halls with police and help students get their questions answered about laws and campus policies.  This type of outreach cuts down on policy and law violations and helps students feel safer in their environment.

At first, engaging partners can be scary and intimidating.  However, in my experience, law enforcement and public safety officials are willing partners that would love to hear more about your peer education efforts.  I work with law enforcement on a daily basis and when I asked them what they want students and advisors to know, here are just a few things you might find interesting and helpful to your work.

  1. They don’t always want to be “the bad guys”.   In all my years of partnering with law enforcement, I have learned a big lesson:  members of law enforcement are very nice people.  They have families, lives, and many of them used to be college students. They entered their profession to help people stay safe, not just arrest people.
  2. They do not love getting students in trouble.  Most law enforcement and public safety professionals I know do not celebrate every time they give a student a ticket for alcohol consumption or drugs.  They know that the ticket will have consequences for the student and they would rather help prevent the situation than respond to an emergency call or a violation.
  3. They want to help, but they don’t always know about campus programming.  They want to know about you and your efforts and they want to help you, but if you don’t take the opportunity to reach out and educate them, they might never know how great it would be to work with you.
  4. They have a lot to learn (and we do too).  Members of law enforcement have tremendous skills, resources, and knowledge that peer educators and advisors can use to make our programs and outreach efforts better.  On the flip side, law enforcement love to hear from students about what they think the emerging issues are and how they can prevent crime from happening.

Whether you work or serve as a peer educator at a campus with two public safety officers or a fully accredited police force, a great opportunity awaits you.  If you are already partnering- great!  Think of ways to expand your partnership.  If you are not, stop and think:  what if I could reach more students, save more lives, and change more behavior by making one single phone call?  I think you probably already know the answer.


Of Dignity Quality

Members of the BACCHUS Initiatives staff were lucky enough to participate in one of NASPA’s semi-annual community service days. On Tuesday, May 6, the NASPA staff visited A Wider Circle in Silver Spring, Maryland and helped connect those in need of basic home furnishings with “dignity quality” items for the home. The organization also provides adult education, job interview preparation, and professional interview attire. A full summary of our experience can be found on the NASPA blog.

NASPA volunteers at A Wider Circle, May 6, 2014

NASPA volunteers at A Wider Circle, May 6, 2014

All of us were impressed with the mission and scope of A Wider Circle. If you are in the D.C. area and would like to help out, the organization welcomes gently used furniture, linens, and baby clothing. They are also always looking for volunteers, especially those willing to drive the trucks that pick up donations.


The FDA announced initial plans to include a wide range of products, including e-cigarettes, little cigars, and hookah, in the definition of “tobacco products” and make them subject to some regulations established under 2009 legislation.

This is encouraging news, though we are concerned that the proposal is not as strong as it could (and should) be. For example, we know that youth frequently initiate tobacco use by trying a flavored product such as chocolate cigarillos. Often, that leads to a lifetime of addiction to more “traditional” tobacco products. The new FDA proposal does not prohibit youth-oriented flavoring in these products, despite there being a similar ban for cigarettes.

The FDA is accepting public comments on the proposed regulation until July 9, 2014. We encourage campuses to share relevant scientific information and survey data from their institution and/or surrounding community.

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, there may come a day when e-cigarettes are approved as a valid cessation aid. For that to occur, the evidence base will need to be significant, and manufacturers will need to apply for cessation medication designation. Neither of those has happened yet. In fact, e-cigarette manufacturers are not even required to disclose their ingredient list to consumers.

We hope that the final draft of the FDA’s proposal is strong enough to adequately protect public health and help prevent youth from becoming addicted to tobacco and nicotine products.


Today, The White House released the first report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. NASPA staff members have been involved with the process, and all of us are grateful for increased attention to this important work.

Many BACCHUS peer education groups have devoted countless hours to reducing sexual violence on campus. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, as peer education is a recommended strategy to implement on campus. In addition, research says that, “Bystander intervention shows promise as a strategy to prevent sexual assault, particularly in college/university settings.”

The White House also announced the launch of a new website for protecting students from sexual assault, NotAlone.gov. We encourage peer educators and advisors to explore the website and become familiar with the resources. Share with us the strategies that are effective on your campus. Increasing the evidence base for violence prevention will ultimately benefit all campuses.

What would you like to see from NASPA and The BACCHUS Initiatives? How can we help you increase safety on campus?


This article originally appeared in a print version of The Peer Educator.

Peer educators tend to be a humble group, which may be why they often have difficulty describing the many things they do for health education. If you are looking for a job, internship, or are near graduation, it is time to build and fine-tune a résumé that reflects your valuable experience. “But wait,” you might be saying, “I don’t have any experience!” In reality you have a lot of experience, and it is time to highlight your skills!

#1: Look closer and make a list

Have you ever met with your fellow peer educators late into night in order to prepare for an upcoming event? Have you been given the task of seeing a project through from start to finish? Have you facilitated the work of many different team members in order to build a cohesive finished presentation? Chances are, you have done these things and more. These are called transferable skills, and they are what they sound like. The skills you gained as a peer educator will transfer to “real life” situations in the working world. You may want to start a list of all the transferable skills and abilities you have showcased or utilized as a peer educator.

Look at the various projects you have helped with or led. How do those reflect some of the values that employers look for, such as communication skills, problem solving, multi-tasking, creative ingenuity, creating and following a budget, public speaking skills, and the ability to work with a team? Don’t forget to make note of the skills you have gained through trainings and conferences such as CPE training and General Assembly or Area Conferences.

#2: Put it in action!

Once you have built a list of all the things you have learned and accomplished as a peer educator and leader, begin to brainstorm action verbs to describe them. You will want to create concise sentences that have a lot of “punch” through the use of action words. Some words you may want to use include: created, coordinated, led, built, organized, facilitated, managed, recruited, or strengthened.

#3: Keep your address book handy

Since you will be newer to the job market than most people, strong references will be an important piece of your self-marketing. Employers will want to create a mental picture of your character and work ethic. Begin to ask various people who have known you over the past few years if they would be willing to be listed as a reference when you apply for jobs. You should create a list of these people with their most up-to- date contact information. They most likely will not receive a phone call unless an employer is seriously considering you for a position, but you will want the person to be ready just in case. You may want to ask your advisor, a professor, a student leader, or another employer to be your references.

#4: Volunteer

Your dream job may not be available right after graduation, but that is okay. Often, it takes time to find something that fits you well. If you have your sights set on a particular organization or a related group, you may be able to volunteer with them. You will not receive a paycheck, but you will gain valuable experience while there, and when jobs become available, the organization will already know you. Volunteering also gives you a chance to figure out if the organization or field is the right fit for you. More than anything, volunteering is an excellent opportunity to network within a particular field, especially if you are entering the health or non-profit sector.

#5: Join the club

Most jobs are not necessarily found through the classifieds or on job sites. In many cases, the old saying “It’s who you know” still holds true. One of the best ways to network is to join professional organizations related to your particular field. Many of these groups have student rates, making the dues more reasonable. Attend events sponsored by the professional organizations and take the time to introduce yourself. Be sure to practice your 30-second “elevator speech” that describes your peer education group and/or your work related to various programs. This will also come in handy when attending career fairs.

#6: Resources

Many campuses have a career services office or some type of career resource library. Though it is never too late to start your career planning, the earlier you begin, the better. Talk with a career counselor about your goals, and ask them to review your résumé. There are also countless books and online resources available on career searching. Take some time to explore the resources available. The work you put in now will help contribute to a fulfilling professional life down the road.

More Career Seeker Tips:

  • Pair up with a friend and practice interview questions.
  • Talk to exhibitors at conferences—ask them what they like about their job.
  • Set up informational interviews with companies/organizations.
  • Ask if your school has a list of alumni mentors who are willing to offer career advice.
  • Ask a career counselor about assessments that indicate your strengths, personality and/or interests.
  • Do not get discouraged! Job seeking takes patience and believing in yourself.

Get to Know Area 4 SAC Sarah Watson

Over a  few weeks, we will feature student leaders from this year’s Student Advisory Committee (SAC).

Name: Sarah Watson
Hometown: Shoreview, MN
School: Northwestern University
Major: Social Policy
Year: Junior, Class of 2015

Why did you become a peer educator?

I believe that there is some information better disseminated and received when given by people who represent the recipient population. When I saw the disconnect in sexual education in the various high schools of my friends, I joined a peer education group and immediately saw the information reach more students in a meaningful way.

What do you hope to accomplish as a national student leader?

I hope to connect other student groups with similar organizations and resources across the country to help them better provide knowledge on their campuses.

What direction or focus would you like to see BACCHUS Initiatives of NASPA undertake in the next year?  

I would like to see a nationwide sexual health harm reduction campaign similar to safe spring break. I think it’s very important for college students to have more widespread and easily accessible knowledge around sexual health.

What historical figure would you most like to meet and what would you ask them?

I would most like to meet Malcolm X and I would like to ask him how his views were starting to change before he was assassinated. I’d also like to ask him how he feels about being pitted against MLK in discussions of civil rights.

What is your favorite book and why?

My favorite book is Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry because it is the first academic/political book I read that truly was able to articulate the narrative of black women as political actors. I felt as though it represented my experience so much that I finished it and immediately read it again.

What is the biggest health / prevention issue facing your campus this year?

Our organization focuses on sexual health, and a huge issue facing our campus is sexual assault. After a large outbreak over a lawsuit against the university became public, it has been a hot topic.

What is the best advice you have received as a peer educator?

Be yourself, and be accessible.

Favorite Quote:

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” – Nelson Mandela.

What is your favorite website and why?

My favorite website is probably BBC Mundo because I can practice my Spanish by reading the stories but I also get news from around the world.


Get to Know Area 12 SAC Alexis Steptoe

Over a  few weeks, we will feature student leaders from this year’s Student Advisory Committee (SAC).

Name: Alexis Steptoe
Hometown: Bluefield, Virginia
School: Radford University
BACCHUS Area: 12
Major: Health Education, Health Promotion
Year: Junior

Why did you become a peer educator?

At the beginning of my junior year I was looking for an outlet to become more involved on campus through. I took the CPE course and found my Peer Health Educator club through the course’s advisor. It was immediately something I knew I loved because I got to communicate with my peers in an effective and constructive way. Joining PHE club really allowed me to pursue peer education in a way that is relevant to me because I am a Health Education/Promotion major and the club’s focus is educating students on a variety of health topics that are of particular interest on a college campus. Being a source of knowledge for my peers to make informed and healthy decisions is the main reason I chose to become and stay a peer educator.

What do you hope to accomplish as a national student leader?

As a national leader I hope to accomplish filling the shoes as resource for information regarding our area. I hope to make my area more cohesive and a place where we can share ideas and talk about what works and what doesn’t work so we can all improve our peer education skills. Also, as a student leader I hope I can establish a pattern of leadership that can be built upon each year after. I hope my leadership skills ignite interest in my area to propel the network forward into coming years so we can be the best area BACCHUS has seen!

What direction or focus would you like to see BACCHUS Initiatives of NASPA undertake in the next year?

I would like to see BACCHUS with the help of NASPA develop better and easier to use toolkits for peer educators. I know the past few years have been trying for BACCHUS but I feel bringing the toolkits back and “better than ever” would really rally up the peer educators and make them want to act on every campaign they saw BACCHUS put out. We are all about information distribution to campuses in our Area. Improved toolkits would make it easier and more likely that groups would do these campaigns on their campuses.

What historical figure would you most like to meet and what would you ask them?

I would like to meet Nelson Mandela because he was such a huge influence of the overall idea of what is humanity and how can humanity be carried out in the world we live in today. I would ask him where he sees our world in the next 20-50 years. I would also ask him how he found his strength to stand up for himself and his values, when the world around him was trying its best to drag him down.

What is your favorite book and why?

I don’t really have a favorite book because I’ve never been fond of reading, but as a child there was this little book called The Tiniest Pumpkin that I loved to read every Halloween (mainly because it was short, sweet, and to the point!)

What is the biggest health / prevention issue facing your campus this year?

This year I would definitely say 1) Misuse of prescription drugs, like Adderall, 2) Mental health/stress, 3) Binge drinking

What is the best advice you have received as a peer educator?

That not every peer is going to be receptive to every program we do. Some of the issues we speak about don’t matter to some students, or some students find topics we speak about to be rather touchy. So, just remembering that you are trying to help the most amount of people you can at one whop, but not everyone will like or be receptive of the information you a distributing at that time.

Favorite Quote:

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. –Nelson Mandela

What is your favorite website and why?

I love looking on Pinterest. I apparently just really love wasting time looking at DIY projects and hairstyles I’ll probably never even do! It’s like my own dream world of all my wants and wishes as a girly girl.