MPCs to return to most first-year dorms

By
Thursday, September 13, 2007

After splitting last year from the Residential Peer Leader program, Minority Peer Counselors have moved back into freshmen units, allowing for more coverage in predominately freshmen dorms, where they can work with first-year students more closely.

Twenty-two MPCs are living in the units, which means that most – though not all – freshmen dorms now have one MPC per unit. Last year, the program experimented with locating MPCs on a regional basis throughout campus, rather than placing them only in freshman units.

Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, interim vice president for campus life and student services, and Karen McLaurin ’74, associate dean of the College and director of the Third World Center, assessed last year’s program and decided to increase the number of MPCs and the amount of funding available for MPC programming.

“My sense from meeting the students last year – they felt that the changes they had made last year were positive,” Carey said. “They were trying to expand their scope beyond the first-year class, extending their audience attendance at various convocations and cultural events and interacting with TWC programmers. They felt stretched with a smaller number of people, and we’ve been able to increase their numbers.”

An increase in the number of MPCs hired allowed the program to expand, McLaurin said, adding that MPCs will continue to work with RPLs.

“The RPLs and MPCs have one common interest – to assist first-years in building a stronger sense of community and a safe environment,” McLaurin said.

Neeta Pal ’09, a Minority Peer Counselor coordinator who was an MPC last year, told The Herald, “The strength of the program comes from the wide range of people and personalities in the program. They bring a lot of energy and a lot of sensitivity.”

Pal said she is hesitant to say that the MPCs are really back in first-year units and thinks that there is more to be done. “We’re definitely a part of the first-year residential life,” she said. “Our underlying goal isn’t to say that MPCs are back in the unit. We’re trying to increase the number, and hopefully next year we can get a couple more to cover more areas, like in Perkins.”

Rosario Navarro, associate director of residential life, said having an MPC presence and facilitating conversation between the MPCs and the RPLs will provide cohesiveness in the dorms. MPCs will also attend monthly meetings with Community Directors, who oversee RPLs, to become a greater part of that RPL community and understand the issues within their units and areas, she said.

RPLs will help MPCs host an “-isms” workshop covering race, gender and sexuality, and MPCs will in turn help RPLs host other social programs. Navarro said she hopes that first-year students can see their counselors involved and working together.

Tatiana Gellein ’10 said she knew who her MPC was last year as a freshman but often felt that she was not as familiar with her MPC because he didn’t live in her unit.

“We told our first-years we’re all peer counselors, we just happen to have specialized training in different areas,” Gellein said. “It’s like a Venn diagram – we all specialize in something, but we also cover similar things. We are trained to be resources for the students.”

“With any form of counseling, whether it be (with an) RPL or MPC, you need that person to be there every day, you need to see them,” Gabriel Doss ’10, a current MPC, said. “In the past, I can speak for myself … I think there was a bit of a visual division in the RPL and MPC program. It was very clear that the programs were separated.”

Despite their specializations, Doss said, they all work together as peer counselors.

Gellein said the MPC program is also trying to break the mold of being what she calls the “-isms” police on campus. She said that MPCs are not strictly for students of color but rather a support system for the larger Brown community.

“The MPC programmers have heard that we are the eyes and ears of everything PC on campus,” Gellein said. “We’re trying to create a safe environment for everyone coming from different backgrounds on campus, by celebrating who they are and getting the most out of that. Part of the Brown experience is what you learn outside of the classrooms from your peers.”

“We are focusing on creating a cohesive unity of color and a more comfortable Brown community,” Doss said. “Our focus is on students of color, but everyone in the Brown community is in this together.”

Even though she is an MPC, Gellein said many of the issues she has been approached with are related to first-years settling in on campus. She has given advice on a range of topics, including where to get haircuts or which classes to shop.

Despite their specializations, Doss said, they all share the end of their title – “peer counselor.”