Fordham Lincoln Center (FLC) saw many new additions to the campus over the summer. Most changes were structural—the old law school finally reopened as “140 West,” the home to the new Quinn Library, Gabelli School of Business (GSB) classrooms and the Office of Student Involvement, and the Ram Cafe was transformed by Aramark to include F’real milkshake and Jamba Juice dispensers. One noticeable addition to the 2016-17 academic year is the Peer Ministry Program, a new initiative sponsored by Residential Life and Campus Ministry.
Residential Life and Campus Ministry first began having serious conversations about starting the Peer Ministry program at the beginning of the summer based on the student feedback each organization was receiving. “Some of the hopes for both of our departments are that as more and more of our students begin living in residence halls, we think about ways to provide support for them,” Erin Hoffman, associate director of Campus Ministry at Lincoln Center, explained. Hoffman acknowledged that “peer leadership is really one of the most effective means of connecting with students; helping to build a sense of community in our residence halls starts more student-to-student than it does imposed from staff.”
Through this program, Peer Ministers will partner with members of the residential life staff to host special events in the residence halls catered towards mission-based spiritual programming or programs promoting faith and justice. For students interested in applying, but worried about the time commitment, Hoffman expressed that the programming “depends on them…it’s up to the Peer Minister.”
Hoffman explained, “The goal is to do about two programs a semester.” Peer Ministers will also have the option to bring students to already existing events, like Ignatian Week or interfaith events, instead of always creating their own program. “We don’t want to say you have to do this or you have to do that,” Hoffman noted.
Besides planning events, a large aspect of being a Peer Minister involves connecting students with the proper support they need or acting as a support system for those going through difficult times. “Being a presence and somebody that is identifiable, someone that students can go and talk to” is also an important aspect of Peer Ministers according to Hoffman. “If [students] want to talk about faith and spirituality, or even if they’re just struggling with relationships or homesickness, then [Peer Ministers] are an additional sort of somebody you can go and talk to.”
Upon applying and being accepted, Peer Ministers will receive some type of training so that they will be best equipped to handle tough situations. “It might be the case that a student wants to come and talk about something that could be a little challenging for a student,” Hoffman noted. “We certainly wouldn’t put RAs in residence halls without some kind training and we won’t do that to Peer Minister either.”
“If there are commuters who are interested, I am certainly open to developing that component. Right now, the application is set up specifically for residence halls, but if anyone is interested they are welcome to contact me and send me or Camille the application as well,” Hoffman explained.
The program is a growing endeavour. “We are still working on recruiting,” Hoffman said. The long term goal for the program is to have at least one peer minister on every floor of both McMahon and McKeon. While the program has had a few applicants thus far, they are hoping to expand their recruitment to the freshman class. Applying to the Peer Ministry program would give freshman the unique opportunity to hold leadership roles on campus right from the beginning. “There are few opportunities for freshmen to really jump right into leadership, so we thought this would be one opportunity to help them serve their community,” Hoffman said.
Lydia Culp, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ‘19, is very excited about the emerging program. “I saw the email and thought it would be something that I really like,” Culp said. “It had the word minister in it, and ministry is all about meeting, helping, and listening to people…I thought it would suit my passion for people.” Culp hopes that, if chosen as a Peer Minister, she will be able to act as a confidant to students and help them understand and appreciate her faith. “While Fordham is Jesuit, it teaches a lot of diverse beliefs. I was inundated with a lot of new information in my theology class and it was hard to process,” Culp explained. “You can’t fully understand all of that information in an hour and 15 minute long class.”
“It’s good to have someone to fill in the holes, to have a bit of spiritual guidance,” Culp said. “It’s not always your first thought to go to Fr. Shea. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a peer to turn to instead.” Culp also believes that the Peer Ministry program will be a learning experience for her as well. “I learn a lot from others, not by just talking to them, but by listening. Learning about people would help open my mind and understand theirs,” Culp explained. “If accepted, I hope to gain a more in-depth perception about different ways of thought and make new connections.”