Shifali Baliga and Walter Ecton are the Peer Adviser Captains of Pre-Major Advising Connections at Emory (PACE), Emory’s new freshman mentoring program. Baliga is a College junior and Ecton is a College senior.
1. What’s your specific role with PACE?
Baliga: We are the PACE peer adviser captains. Our primary role is to be the liaison between the Office for Undergraduate Education (OUE) and the PACE peer advisers.
2. What problems with Freshman Advising and Mentoring at Emory (FAME) was PACE specifically designed to address?
Ecton: With PACE, we wanted students to be able to choose what department they were assigned to based on their specific interests or intended major. (...) The idea was to place as many students as possible in their intended major department.
Additionally, another problem with FAME was the lack of individualization. With PACE, each student receives much more individualized attention from faculty members. For example, a PACE adviser the other day told me she walked into the Sprouts cafe in Emory Village and saw two professors helping two students pick classes.
3. Can you describe the process behind creating PACE?
Baliga: The OUE realized that there were significant concerns with FAME last year. They were very responsive to student concerns about the program and worked closely with College Council to address these concerns and move forward with a program that would hopefully reconcile these issues.
4. Has faculty involvement with PACE been more enthusiastic than in previous years with FAME?
Ecton: A lot of faculty members have been very enthusiastic about having the chance to work with new students on such an individualized level. Also, I believe that many faculty members feel more comfortable advising students who have interests which are compatible to their own areas of expertise.
5. Are upperclassmen more enthusiastic about working as part of a freshman-mentoring program different from FAME?
Baliga: Yes. The new program really revitalized upperclassmen’s interests in the academic advising programs.
Ecton: It gives them a lot more responsibility and chance to make a real impact.
6. For students who aren’t freshmen or advisers, can you describe how a typical PACE session functions?
Baliga: Basically, there aren’t any regular meeting times like there were with FAME. Instead, each student and faculty member or peer adviser correspond and decide when to meet with each other (if they need to).
7. Are there changes in the program planned for next school year?
Baliga: From what I have heard, the program functioned well this year. Of course, there is always room for improvement. We recognize that this is the first year and that we can improve in the future.
8. How does the PACE program address the inevitable waning of student interest in the program as the semester progresses?
Baliga: This was one of the problems with FAME. Freshmen were not longer interested in the weekly meetings that didn’t really give them that much information. So, we cut [them] out. Instead, the peer advisers keep in touch with the freshmen throughout the semester. (...) Of course, if a freshman needs to meet with the faculty adviser or peer adviser, they can always do so.
Ecton: Whenever students develop substantial relationships with their advisees, that goes a very long way towards keeping students engaged.
9. Is student attendance at PACE functions more consistent than with FAME?
Ecton: Absolutely. When you’re meeting with a professor one-on-one or in a very small group, there’s a much larger incentive to show up than there was in FAME, where you were only one in a group of 20.
10. How are students responding to the program so far?
Ecton: PACE has started off very strong. Most freshmen were very happy with the advice they got and were excited to be able to have such individualized attention as soon as they got to Emory. This kind of program has been needed for a long time at Emory, and it’s fantastic that new students are really getting the sort of advising that they deserve.
— Interview conducted by Asst. Editorials Editor Catherine Cai