The PAL program aims to create a sense of community among first-year students and help them make the most of their first-year educational experience.

Oberlin rock with PAL
First-year students receive a welcome message on one of Oberlin’s historic rocks. Photo credit: Dana Hamdan

Student Peer Advising Leaders (PALs) have been trained to support first-years to navigate Orientation and also the fall semester. PALs will help first-year students use Oberlin’s academic and developmental advising system to its full potential.

All first-year students have the opportunity to be involved with this program during Orientation and also fall semester by enrolling in LEAD 050, Introduction to Oberlin Life and Learning. Each student who chooses to participate will be one of no more than 15 first-years in a section of LEAD 050. Belonging to a team during Orientation and fall semester means students will go through new experiences with others by their side for support and timely information.

Our hope is that this will help new Obies make lasting friendships while learning how to succeed academically at Oberlin.

This program has been designed through a collaborative effort involving the Academic Advising Resource Center, the Division of Student Life, and the College of Arts and Sciences.


PAL Activities During Orientation and Fall Semester

During Orientation, PALs will help new students prepare for meetings with their academic advisors and build social connections and a support system for their transition to college. During fall semester, PALs will lead sections of LEAD 050, Introduction to Oberlin Life and Learning, which serves as an extended orientation to college life and learning. As part of these advising cohort groups, students will come together to discuss their individual and shared college experiences.

LEAD 050 involves six required sessions and other optional activities. This one-credit, cocurricular course will cover topics designed to support students in becoming effective intentional learners.

Session Topics:
  • College study strategies – maximize your efficiency and find perfect spots to study
  • Planning ahead – use time management for academic success and self-care
  • Academic integrity – learn about Oberlin’s policies and best practices
  • Winter term – create a fascinating project
  • Your education, your choice – map out second-semester academic options to discuss with your academic advisor
  • Reflecting on first semester – recognize your progress

At key points throughout the course, academic advisors will participate in LEAD 050 to offer additional perspective and support.


Are you a first-year student or PAL with further questions about the program? Refer to the FAQs.
If you don’t find your answer, we can help! Contact Dana Hamdan, associate dean of students and director of PAL, at pal@oberlin.edu  or (440) 775-8462 .

PAL Selections Process

PALs represent Oberlin’s diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexuality, citizenship, and immigration status. During spring 2017, Oberlin students were invited to apply to become PALs. After a highly selective interview process, more than 50 applicants became PALs. During interviews, the PAL director and student PAL coordinators looked for applicants who work well in teams, communicate effectively, and have a genuine interest in guiding first-year students. The selected PALs are passionate about creating safe spaces in which first-year students can flourish both academically and socially.

Who are the PALs?

Who are the PALs?

PALs represent Oberlin’s diversity in terms of academic and cocurricular experience, race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexuality, citizenship, and immigration status. During spring 2017, Oberlin students were invited to apply to become PALs. This highly competitive process identified more than 50 PALs who are knowledgeable about Oberlin and demonstrate excellence in teamwork, communication, and a passion for mentoring first-year students.
The selected PALs are committed to creating supportive spaces in which first-year students can flourish both academically and socially. In August 2017, PALs will participate in an intensive three-day training to become informed and skilled peer advisors.

Why Become a PAL

Why did Obies choose to become PALs?
  • You grow while they grow. While helping first-year students connect their past experiences to courses and future experiences, you’ll hone skills for doing the same thing! You’ll develop the skills to communicate to future employers about your experiences at Oberlin.
  • Become a better leader. While leading your advising cohort and presenting information, you will gain experience in advising and fine-tune your interpersonal skills.
  • Connect to your community. Part of being an Obie is helping others. The PAL program will create a sense of community for both first-years and current students, as it will contribute to a campus culture in which everyone supports and looks out for one another!
  • Learn more about Oberlin. What do you wish you had known about during your first year at Oberlin? Now you can help first-years find and take advantage of all the opportunities this campus has to offer. Helping them may inspire you to try new things and reconnect with helpful resources.
  • Explore your own path. While engaging first-year students in exercises of self-awareness, self-confidence, and intentional learning, you, too, can master the art of becoming ever more confident and excited about new educational experiences and professional responsibilities.

 

FAQs: First-Year Students

What is the PAL Program?
The PAL program aims to create a sense of community among first-year students to help you make the most of your first-year educational experience. Student Peer Advising Leaders (PALs) have been trained to support you as you navigate Orientation and the fall semester. PALs will help you use Oberlin’s academic and developmental advising system to its full potential.

All first-year students have the opportunity to be involved with this program during Orientation, and also during fall semester by enrolling in LEAD 050, Introduction to Oberlin Life and Learning. Each student who chooses to participate will be one of no more than 15 first-years in a section of LEAD 050.

Who are the Peer Advising Leaders (PALs)?
PALs are students who represent Oberlin’s academic mission and diversity in terms of curricular and cocurricular experience, race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexuality, citizenship, and immigration status. During spring 2017, Oberlin students were invited to apply to become PALs.

This highly competitive process identified more than 50 PALs who are knowledgeable about Oberlin, and demonstrate excellence in teamwork and communication, and have a passion for supporting first-year students. The selected PALs are committed to creating supportive spaces in which first-year students can flourish both academically and socially. All PALs are trained in an intensive three-day workshop to become informed and skilled peer advisors.

What will we talk about in PAL sessions during the fall semester in LEAD 050, Introduction to Oberlin Life and Learning?
Session topics include:

  • College study strategies – maximize your efficiency and find perfect spots to study
  • Planning ahead – use time management for academic success and self-care
  • Academic integrity – learn about Oberlin’s policies and best practices
  • Winter Term – create a fascinating project
  • Your education, your choice – map out second-semester academic options to discuss with your academic advisor
  • Reflecting on first semester – recognize your progress

 

How often will my group meet?
Your group will meet during Orientation and six times throughout the semester in LEAD 050. This one-credit cocurricular course meets outside of regular class hours and is designed to enhance your academic and personal success at Oberlin.

How many students will be in my group?
No more than 15 first-year students and one PAL.

How are the members of the groups selected? Is it by interest?
Shared interests is a major consideration in how groups are selected. Whenever possible the sections of LEAD 050 will be comprised of students within a First Year Seminar.

Is this a social or academic program?
LEAD 050 focuses on helping you become an effective learner who thrives within the Oberlin community. As such, it involves both academic and social dimensions.

Can I opt-out in the middle of the program? Can I switch groups?
An objective of the program is to support students create bonds of mutual support, as such, switching sections of LEAD 050 is not permitted. Unlike other courses, you may opt-out of the LEAD 050 at any point in the semester. If you decide to opt-out you will not receive credit for this course.

Will I be getting a grade? Will there be homework?
Grading is based upon full participation in the course. Those who participate fully will receive a Pass grade on their transcript. Homework will be minimal, and involve some documentation of reflection on personal study and time-management habits and plans for the future.

When do I find out who my PAL is? Can I get in touch with my PAL now?
PAL assignments will be made in early August. After PAL assignments are made, your PAL will contact you prior to new student orientation.

Who can I talk to if I’m having a problem with another student in my group or with my PAL?
You can contact one of the PAL coordinators, or PAL Director and Associate Dean of Students Dana Hamdan.

FAQs: PALs

What do I need to do to prepare myself for training?
Familiarize yourself with campus resources and reflect on your own first-year experience and your advising experience in particular.

What specific topics will we be covering in the six sessions of LEAD 050, Introduction to Oberlin Life and Learning, throughout the semester?
Session topics include:

  • College study strategies – maximize your efficiency and find perfect spots to study
  • Planning ahead – use time management for academic success and self-care
  • Academic integrity – learn about Oberlin’s policies and best practices
  • Winter Term – create a fascinating project
  • Your education, your choice – map out second-semester academic options to discuss with your academic advisor
  • Reflecting on first semester – recognize your progress


How many people will be in my group?
No more than 15 first-year students will be in your group.

When will I find out which first-years are in my group?
Students enroll through July, so a list of the students will be provided during PAL training.  

Will I have lesson plans or will I be creating content? How informal are the PAL sessions?
There will be a lesson plan with clear learning objectives for each session of LEAD 050, along with suggestions regarding how to communicate information and facilitate the discussion.  A major objective of the August PAL workshop is to train you to lead your section of LEAD 050.

What are my responsibilities to my group outside of Orientation and the six required sessions?
PALs are required to meet with their assigned PAL coordinator four times during the fall semester to check in and receive support and guidance. PALs are encouraged to attend office hours held by the PAL coordinators and the director of the PAL Program.

Am I allowed to hold other meetings or social events with my group outside of the required six sessions?
Yes! PALs are encouraged to socialize with the students in their group. We believe this will help first-year students better engage with the Oberlin community.

Do I decide when and where my groups will meet for the six LEAD 050 Introduction to Oberlin Life and Learning sessions?
Each PAL group will have a schedule for when and where the six sessions will be held during the fall semester. The sessions are scheduled outside of regular class hours.

Will I receive a grade?
PALs are enrolled in LEAD 210, Approaches to Academic Advising. This is a Pass/NoPass cocurricular course that will be graded by Dana Hamdan, director of the PAL program and associate dean of students.

How much are faculty and staff involved in the PAL program?
The College of Arts and Sciences faculty have discussed and endorsed the PAL program and the development of LEAD 050 in spring 2017. Faculty and staff academic advisors will be encouraged to participate in two of the six LEAD 050 sessions.

What do I do if I need additional support prior to leading one of the six sessions?
PALs are trained to lead each session.  You are encouraged to reach out to your PAL Coordinator or the Director of the PAL program if you need additional assistance preparing for a session. You can do so by attending office hours or scheduling an appointment directly with them.

What do I do if members of my cohort fail to show up to our meetings?
PALs are required to take attendance at the six required  LEAD 050 PAL sessions. Attendance information should be communicated to your assigned PAL coordinator and PAL Director and Associate Dean of Students Dana Hamdan.

Why did Oberlin create the PAL program and LEAD 050?
  • To improve the quality of students experience, learning, retention, and success
  • To support students in learning to take advantage of the great range of educational opportunities and developmental support at Oberlin
  • To help students gain skills in interacting across our diverse student body within a supportive environment