Peer Connections was formed in the summer of 2012 by merging two separate programs
at San José State University, the Learning Assistance Resource Center (LARC) and the
Peer Mentor Program.
The Learning Assistance Resource Center (LARC) Center evolved from the Tutorial Center housed within Student Development Services (SDS), which was originally created in 1992 to assist students in both the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and Academic Support Program for Increased Retention in Education (ASPIRE). Over the next six years, the SDS Tutorial Center extended its support services to include student athletes and students with disabilities. In 1998, Student Development Services expanded its programs and officially adopted the name of “Academic Services.”
In 1999, a University task force was appointed by the Provost's Office to study the extent of students' need for academic assistance. The committee found a fragmented and decentralized system that offered various types and levels of services. Students expressed great frustration in locating programs for which they would be eligible and which would also match their specific needs. In addition, limited space, funding, and staffing issues all led to the necessity for a centralized learning center that could offer systematic services to all students requesting academic support.
In the spring of 2000, at the Provost's Forum titled “Academic Services and Learning Assistance,” the task force reported its survey results to the campus community. A special consultant was appointed by the Provost's Office to work with the learning specialists at the Tutorial Center to complete the preliminary draft of a campus-wide learning center proposal. A 5-year strategic plan was developed and presented to the Provost's Office. The name Learning Assistance Resource Center (LARC) was adopted in the fall of 2000 when the Center opened its services to all San José State University (SJSU) students.
The Center's tutor training program was nationally certified by CRLA. It was cited by the University's Faculty Scholars at the 2004 SJSU College Teaching and Learning Conference as an impressive campus resource that embodies a student-centered pedagogy. In 2010, LARC also received second place from the Learning Support Centers in Higher Education (LSCHE) and the National College Learning Center Association (NCLCA) for the program's website. LARC tutors were often recognized as Dean's and President's scholars and scholarship recipients.
Peer Mentor Program
The San José State University Peer Mentor Program was established in 2000 in order to ease the transition of first year students into college. Peer Mentors were assigned to MUSE (Metropolitan University Scholar's Experience) classes. These classes of no more than 25 students were designed to meet GE credit and to enable first year students to connect more easily with a professor and a peer mentor. The peer mentors would assist the professors in the classroom as a liaison to students. The students in MUSE classes reported that having a peer mentor in the class greatly assisted them to feel like they were part of a community and could actually succeed at SJSU.
In addition to the classroom experience, peer mentors facilitated campus workshops and presentations designed to address key issues which first year students may face, such as homesickness, relationships, and test-taking. Peer mentors were also available for drop-in assistance, allowing students outside of MUSE classes and beyond first year to benefit from the peer mentors.
The Peer Mentor Program began small and was initially housed in Royce Hall, the residence hall that was specified for First Year Students. As the program grew and the campus changed, the Peer Mentor Program moved to Clark Hall after the building's remodel. In the beginning the Peer Mentor Program had 12 mentors. The program grew to 60 mentors and then was scaled back when the MUSE classes were no longer being offered.