ILR Peer Mentors

Friendly support provided for new students
Taylar "TJ" Clement '19 - Peer Mentor
Thursday, August 23, 2018

As a first-year student, Taylar “TJ” Clement ’19 arrived on the Big Red campus in 2015 excited about new opportunities, but also anxious about understanding Cornell and what she needed to do to succeed.

New-to-campus students often worry, “Will I be able to understand my assignments and get them in on time? Will I make friends and fit in?”

Kevin Harris, the Frank B. Miller Director of ILR’s Student Services, said, “New freedom and responsibilities bring about a tricky balance to strike between academics, extracurricular activities, becoming part of a new community and enjoying a social life. Peer mentors help build a critical bridge new students need to help find that balance.”

This year’s ILR peer mentors, including Clement, are some of the first friends new ILRies make after arriving on campus. Mentors welcome new students with fun activities, tips on good choices and the ILR family, and information about the rich resources of ILR and Cornell.

On Tuesday, peer mentors hosted a scavenger hunt that helped incoming students find key locations and resources, which they will use right away.

On Wednesday, ILR’s Student Experience Team and peer mentors hosted a barbeque where new students ate, socialized and played games.

Clement said, “I was so nervous when I got to campus that it was hard for me to connect with people. My peer mentor was one of the first people on campus who helped me relax and remind myself that everything would work out. My own experience made me committed to helping new students. When we share information, express our commitment to helping the new students and have compassion for one another, that creates a lasting bond and precedent of supportive behavior. This is the formula for the success you’ll see from ILRies.”

“Feeling supported, I could focus better on finding my niche, both academic and extracurricular. Eventually, it worked out that my academic interests lie in human resources, statistics and law; I was confident enough to fully explore the extracurricular activities Cornell offers.”

In addition to her involvement in the ILR Peer Mentor Program, Clement has been a human resources student assistant in the College of Human Ecology, served on the executive board of the ILR Women’s Caucus, was a summer research fellow working with faculty member Liz Karns and worked as a benefits communication intern with NextEra Energy, Inc.

Rebecca Schimenti, ILR’s assistant director of advising, said, “We encourage students to drop by our office regularly for advisement and personal support. The peer mentors are an extension of our office, bringing great value to the student experience. TJ’s dedication to mentoring over the past couple of years elevated her to become a peer mentor student advisory board member.”

Harris said, “It’s a testament to the giving and community-building nature of our continuing students that they volunteer, with no academic incentive or fiscal compensation. Upperclassmen are compelled to give back to their fellow peers and help them have the best start they can. There are usually more applicants than we can select for the role of ILR peer mentor.”

“Each person’s college situation is unique, so the one-to-one personalized guidance elevates positive outcomes and resilience to handle speed bumps in student life. Asking for help is a strength and a wisdom, not a weakness,” said Harris.

Now a senior, Clement is still that peer mentor friend who makes college a little less daunting.

Read more about the Class of 2022.