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SMART Connections Program


What is it?

A student’s transition from high school to college can be overwhelming and stressful, especially if the student is the first in their family to attend college. The adjustment to campus culture can also become increasingly difficult for students of marginalized communities. To assist with the transition to Valparaiso University, the Office of Multicultural Programs (OMP) developed SMART Connections. SMART Connections offers a peer-to-peer support system that eases the transition for new students. We pair them with upperclassmen students who have demonstrated an ability to be successful both in and out of the classroom. Through this program, students become acclimated with campus/community resources and attend workshops designed to develop leadership skills such as time management, study skills, and cultural competency.

How does mentoring work?

First-year and transfer students who are interested in being peer mentees in SMART Connections will complete an application during their summer FOCUS, new-student orientation, or shortly thereafter. Over the summer, peer mentees are paired with a sophomore, junior, or senior student who serves as their peer mentor upon their arrival to campus. peer mentors are students who have successfully navigated their way through Valparaiso University and can help incoming students transition into the community. In pairing students, every attempt is made to match peer mentees with a peer Mentor who has a similar academic major and/or is from the same hometown, along with similar personal interests. The program curriculum is designed to have two cohort meetings a month. In the first meeting, a topic or skill will be presented/discussed along with action steps to practice. The second meeting of the month allows us to revisit how the skill set was utilized and evaluate its effectiveness in their transition. peer mentors will be available during these meetings to offer their experiences, learn new techniques, and to continue building their peer-to-peer relationship.

Outside of the cohort meetings, peer mentors will connect one-on-one with their peer mentees to catch up on life and assist where needed.

Peer mentors provide guidance and support to enhance the first-year experience, such as:

  • Personal perspectives on how to cope with student life issues
  • Sharing successful strategies to enhance academic success
  • Providing information or referral to appropriate services
  • Linking students to campus organizations and leadership opportunities
  • Helping plan events and social gatherings to build community
  • Serving as a liaison between the mentee & Office of Multicultural Programs

Who can participate?

SMART Connections is open to any incoming freshman or transfer student who wants to gain a mentor or to any Valparaiso University upperclassmen that would like to serve as a mentor. An application process is required for both peer mentees (available at FOCUS) and peer mentors (available in the spring semester). The program strongly encourages first-generation college students to participate as it is geared to address many of the transitional issues that they experience.

Why should you participate?

Research shows that a student’s peer group is highly influential on growth and development during their undergraduate years. Through actively participating in mentoring programs such as SMART Connections, students are more likely to succeed in college. SMART Connections presents a peer group that is positioned to be encouraging, educational, and transformative in students’ lives.

SMART Connections Peer Mentoring Program Applications

If you have any questions please contact the OMP at