Student Organization Spotlight: Society of Peer Mentors

Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series that will spotlight student organizations within the LSU College of Engineering. Check out the first featurehere.

The Society of Peer Mentors (SPM) boasts 100 members, making it one of the larger student organizations within the college.

This tight-knit group focuses on mentoring and leadership for and within the College of Engineering. One of their goals is to help students transition to the college through a variety of activities and programs.

Mechanical engineering seniors Lindsey Bruton, SPM president, and Chase Shaheen, secretary, had very different introductions to the organization.

When Bruton was a high school senior, she participated in the FIRST Robotics Competition. The annual international competition gives high school students the opportunity to “to raise funds, design a team brand, hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against competing teams.”

“I absolutely loved it. It was what got me excited about engineering and helped me see the design process and team work up close,” Bruton said. “When I got to college, I ran into some people that were in that competition with me. They said they were mentoring and introduced me to their boss, who eventually became my SPM boss.”

“It was the complete opposite for me,” Shaheen said with a chuckle. “I didn’t really do any robotics or any type of engineering in high school. We didn’t have that sort of thing.”

Shaheen explained that he chose mechanical engineering as his major because he was good at science and math. However, he was still unsure if engineering was the best fit for him. He enrolled in Engineering 1050, a class that offers an introduction to engineering history, the various disciplines and the basic principles of design. Peer mentors assist faculty in the instruction and flow of that course, as well as several other first year courses in the college.

“The course had SPM mentors that ran the class,” Shaheen said. “I liked what the mentors were doing and they were all nice and really helpful. So after I completed the class, I talked to them and joined the organization.”

The organization is split into four main components, which act as subgroups within the society: supplemental instruction, outreach and retention, robotics, and classes. For the larger components, there are one to two chairpersons to each category.

“Even people who don’t have a leadership position, we try to open them up and introduce them to leadership roles,” Bruton explained. “As officers, we try to delegate and try not to take over everything.”

“It’s really fun to see these people take on these big roles and see what they come up with. Because a lot of times they come up with something better than you ever would have,” Bruton said with a laugh. She has recently handed off her former role of Robotics co-chair.

The outreach component includes most of their external programming, such as ERC game nights and ERC scheduling nights that give freshmen and upperclassmen a way to interact and engage new students. The mentors also STEM Nights at local middle schools at least once a month.

“A typical STEM night is where we send mentors to a middle school to get students excited about fields that students typically find boring, like science and math,” Bruton said. “We bring a fun activity that has to do with engineering with us.”

One of the most popular activities that the middle school students try is a snap circuit project.

“We give each of the student groups a kit that they have to put together and it makes something happen,” Bruton said. “Maybe a light turns on or something gets propelled, and you sort of see the students’ face light up when they complete the task.”

Before the upcoming semester begins, the officers hold a general body meeting to focus on what sort of programs the organization will put into effect in the coming academic year. The floor is open to every member to voice suggestions. There’s a member who’s currently working on a webinar, “How to LSU,” as a sort of guide through the College of Engineering.

The upcoming spring semester will hold many events for the Society of Peer Mentors. The organization will start the initial phases of the interview process in the spring for people who are interested in joining the society.

“Right now we’re working on grant proposal for a big community service project scheduled for the spring semester,” Shaheen said. “We’re also planning to have one large leadership training where we invite the leaders of each of the student organizations within the college.”

As an internal team building initiative, there’s a “battle bots” club, where member create teams and build robots to face off.

“Right now we’re in the proposal and planning stages,” Shaheen said. “Once we get things nailed down, we’ll open up the club to the public, possibly in the spring.”

This year, SPM is trying something new: one internal event every month for team building.

“We want to do something every month together, just to hang out,” Bruton said. “The better communication you have within your organization, the easier it is to go out and show people how excited you are about what you do.”

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For more information or to have your student organization featured in the series, please contact communications assistant M.B. Humphrey at 225-578-5660 or marissah@lsu.edu.