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A LINKS group meets for their weekly study session in Alden Library. 

OMSAR credits freshmen retention to upperclassmen leaders

Students share their experiences on how the Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention has helped their experience at Ohio University.

The Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention advanced its freshmen LINKS class by 120 percent from 2012 to 2015, and the office expects it to rise even higher for next year.

LINKS is an OMSAR's program in which upperclassmen serve as peer mentors to multicultural freshman. These mentors advise five or six freshmen through progress reports, socials and community service.

Alison Moore, coordinator of multicultural retention services, said the reason for this surge in LINKS students is because the definition of multiculturalism has expanded. To compensate for more students, Moore said she is potentially looking to hire 130 peer mentors for the class of 2020 next fall compared to the 90 the program has currently.

Although there is no direct, numerical proof LINKS is affecting the overall freshman retention rate, Moore credits the peer mentors for influencing multicultural freshmen and being their reason for returning in the spring.

“They’ve actually helped retain students,” Moore said. “These are our boots on the ground. They’re the ones that meet with our (freshmen) more frequently than we do.”

This paid leadership position, Moore said, guides freshmen with study sessions, community service and one-on-one meetings to keep students on track academically.

“I had one of my (freshmen) last year actually get into some legal trouble and with that, his studentship at Ohio University was also on the edge,” Jarman Smith, a second-year peer mentor, said. “He came to me for advice, and I would meet with him often, talk to him and make sure everything is OK. It’s just rewarding seeing him back this year and talking to him now and seeing how he’s gone through all of that. It’s a nice feeling for me.”

Smith, a junior studying business and pre-law, said this program has the potential to change someone’s experience at OU.

“I know if I wasn’t a part of the program, I wouldn’t be with the friends that I have now or know people that I have now,” Smith said. “My peer mentor, how she affected me and inspired me to become one too.”

Kim Reynolds, a junior studying media and social change, said she wanted to become a peer mentor and engage in the multicultural community because of how much she was influenced by her mentor when she was a freshman in LINKS.

“Our peer mentor actually took us to see this movie called ... Fruitvale Station, and that changed my entire life actually,” Reynolds, a second-year peer mentor, said. “I was always really thankful for my peer mentor for taking us to see that.”

The transition for multicultural students is difficult due to the lack of diversity in classes, Reynolds said, but it’s good to know LINKS is a support system to meet others with the same background. Not seeing fellow multicultural students in classes can be "daunting," Reynolds said.

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Rachael Dowler, a freshman studying political science, said the program is meant to give multicultural freshmen the support needed to return for Spring Semester.

“(LINKS) is just to keep you on track and make sure you know what you’re doing and that you have people to fall back on or if you’re kind of lost,” she said. “It’s beneficial. I can text (my peer mentor), or I can ask anybody in the study group, and I can find an answer.”

Reynolds realizes the impact peer mentors make on freshmen, and she said it’s also important to follow through as a leader and discover oneself.

“A lot of the peer mentors are awesome people,” she said. "They’re all really dedicated, and it’s not about the money or the resume. It’s about making real connections on campus and being able to be a resource for freshman.”


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