A Powerful Message from Peer Connections’ Greg Garcia

Recently, Greg Garcia, Program Director of Tutoring Services, shared a message in a Peer Connections newsletter that I found immensely powerful. I wanted to share it with our campus community. Enjoy!

Hello Team,

As we near the end of the semester, I want to re-emphasize how important your roles are to our mission of student success. It’s easy to forget.

From a distance, people will see the words “peer mentor” or “peer tutor” and it is easy to frame your function and value as if you are an information dispenser. When it’s framed that way, it diminishes the value of what you are actually doing, and what you’ve actually been hired to do.

You were not hired to be human directories of campus resources and educational jargon.

We interact with thousands of students every semester. All of you are a vital part of student success, but when I say that, I don’t simply mean the kind of student success that you can measure on a five-point Likert scale, or data charts to show how many students are graduating on time.

You see, when I say “student success”, I really mean “readiness to thrive in life”.

And when I say “peer educator”, I really mean “capable and kind human being”.

It takes capable and kind human beings to help people to become ready to thrive in life.

The students who seek us out have access to the internet. All of them can look things up on Google. There are AI tools they can access. Answers are plentiful, ubiquitous, and free. If tutoring and mentoring was about pointing to content and providing endlessly-generated practice with instant corrections, none of us would need to be here. You could replace the entire school, faculty and all, with AI-generated TEDx Talks, creating a carefully-curated collection of YouTube videos.

That’s not what we came for. It’s not what students paid for. It’s not why people come to us.

They come to talk to a real person: someone who has experienced what it is like to struggle, to be frustrated, and to be vulnerable. They want to talk to someone who has overcome challenges, who can be sensitive enough to respond to the subtle things in their voice that say things like “I’m new and kinda lost”, “I’m confused”, “can you go a little slower”, without judgement. They want to talk to someone who has done the work, because if you’ve done it, they can learn to do it too.

When a human mentor says “I don’t know”, they can show what it is like to be curious and resourceful, and then try to find the answer together with the student. 

When a human tutor sees that organic chemistry makes you want to cry, they can stop and reassure you, then adjust the session to personalize it so that what seemed impossible becomes just complicated, and what seems complicated becomes possible.

When a human helps another human, we can act as role models, offering insights based on our life experience and shared commonalities in a way that AI simply cannot replicate.

For the rest of our lives, AI will always be more scalable, more efficient, and more cost-effective than a human, which will make it an attractive option, but assigning the work of uplifting people to a computer is antithetical to the mission of a university dedicated to transforming lives and communities.

People help people transform. None of us would be here without the help of someone else who cared. 

Each of you possess the knowledge, kindness of heart, and the capability to help people do more than balance budgets, debug code, find the student health center, and cite references correctly.

That’s why I picked you to be on our team.

And that’s also why I’m going to ask you to do your best to show up, in person, even when it would be easier to work from behind a screen. It’s why I’m going to ask you to try and find answers when you don’t know how to answer a student’s question, instead of normalizing giving up when things get hard. It’s why I will ask you to think of ways to be helpful instead of simply waiting for someone to show up.

It’s because what you bring to the work matters. It is hard. And it is worth it.

Not everyone needs this kind of help, but to the people who want it, your help gives them a fighting chance to succeed in a world that would otherwise expect them to use an app to figure out their life.

As you learn to do this work well, you will build the skills to thrive in anything that you choose to do.

Greg Garcia

Program Director of Tutoring Services

Peer Connections

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