Liaisons may lose out due to revamp

Sean Sauro, Managing Editor

Some Pitt-Johnstown student mentors may be eliminated, as RealWorld Program administrators are to revamp the program’s evaluation process.

During the enrollment process, while filling out housing applications, freshmen are prompted to choose an interest field, according to RealWorld Interest Group Coordinator Shona Cooper.

These fields are in place to provide freshmen with a look into academic and career interests, Cooper said.

A student mentor, or liaison, is then assigned to each interest group with the task of leading the participating freshmen.

Cooper said the liaisons are supposed to lead their students by promoting global awareness, professional development and civic and community engagement.

However, after assessing the program, Cooper said changes needed to be made.

“The hiring process was really vague before,” Cooper said, adding that she believes a number of the liaisons are involved for the wrong reasons.

“People wanted to do it just for the added benefits,” she said. “It’s a good resume builder, and the liaisons are granted a single occupancy room at a double occupancy price.”

She said a decision was made to dismiss all acting liaisons at the end of this semester to improve leadership quality. Acting liaisons are able to reapply.

“I want to bring in liaisons who are more understanding to what the job entails,” Cooper said. “I think campus spirit is very low, but that’s a personal observation.

“We’re looking for liaisons who will make the first-year experience all-encompassing.”

Campus and Civic Engagement Director Shaun Hemphill said next semester’s rehiring process is to begin soon.  After new liaisons are elected, they will be subjected to yearly evaluations.

“We need to implement a new evaluation system, and we need to make sure all liaisons are keeping up with the criteria we are giving them,” he said.

“Hopefully everyone got a chance to look up to someone in their college career, and now they get a chance to be that person.”

He said the new process is to involve a three-step evaluation, including student evaluations, self evaluations and administrative evaluations.

While participating liaisons may experience additional responsibility and greater accountability, they may also receive additional rewards.

In addition to lower housing costs, Hemphill said participating liaisons may be granted scholarships.

“We wanted to look into some ways in which we could compensate them,” Hemphill said. “At the end of the year, if the liaisons fulfilled all their criteria, they have a chance to get a scholarship.”

Pitt-Johnstown senior Stephanie Bange said she has been a liaison since the fall 2012 semester and that she thinks the revamp will improve the program.

“I know that some people…will do their job, and then we’ll have the slack of other liaisons,” she said. “They just kind of want the benefit versus doing the work.”

She said the new evaluation method will likely work to combat negative behavior while encouraging productivity.

“Right now there are no repercussions for those who are doing the bare minimum,” Bange said. “I think it will weed out those who are just in it for the benefits.”

Though she is a senior, Bange said she will be returning for an extra year and that she is not worried about being rehired.

“We were told current liaisons are given precedents as long as we’re doing our jobs,” she said.

However, Pitt-Johnstown junior Ashley Fallon said she is unsure about the changes.

She said the changes are to bring increased responsibility that will be hard to manage in addition to classwork.

“For the longest time we didn’t do as much as we did this year, and they’re planning to add more,” she said.

Fallon said she spends hours a week advertising interest-group activities and feels it has been tedious and ineffective.

“The last event we had…we had more upper-class students who attended than freshmen, and we put in a lot of effort.”

She said low attendance has been a constant problem, and said she once hosted an interview workshop that only one student attended.

Fallon said, though she has been a liaison since her freshman year, she is not sure whether she will be reapplying.

Students interested in becoming liaisons are to be able to apply by the middle of the month, Hemphill said.