App Encourages Student Engagement

Jul 06, 2021

Nearpeer helps students find others with common interests.

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Will I fit in? Will I find friends? Do I belong? 

A new app may help new and returning students at Cal U answer “yes” to those common questions. 

Called Nearpeer, the app is a platform for peer-to-peer engagement. Students who join the community can find others with similar majors and interests, making it easier to form bonds. Access requires a email address. 

The goal is connection — especially important for first-year students, who will learn about the app at New Student Orientation sessions beginning in early July. Returning students will learn more during Welcome Weekend in August. 

“We know that the first three weeks of a semester are essential to a student’s success, but sometimes we overlook the time that comes before that,” said Jill Loop, director of Academic Success. “If a student already knows someone else with common interests before they even get to campus, it can ease that transition.” 

Loop is on the Cal U Nearpeer implementation team with Dr. Brenda Fredette, dean of the Eberly College of Science and Technology, and Dr. Thomas Wickham, interim assistant dean. 

Higher education experts agree that feeling connected increases the likelihood that students will complete their degrees. 

“As a result of helping students with these important connections, more students will commit to college, enroll in classes and persist for their degree at Cal U,” Wickham said. 

Peer mentors, orientation leaders, community assistants in the residence halls, and admissions ambassadors will be among the first participants. 

“If first-year students have questions this summer, they can use the app to reach out to an orientation leader or an ambassador, who can point them in the right direction,” Loop said.

“It’s a great way for new students to connect with people before they even get here.” 

Two-year funding for the app is being provided by the College Innovation Network and the U.S. Department of Education. 

“Nearpeer will provide us with a report as to what our students’ interests are, and that will allow us to better understand the directions Cal U needs to go in order to provide support,” Loop said. 

“The past year has compounded our feelings of isolation in many ways. We want to do all that we can to help our students feel welcome and comfortable at Cal U.”