First-years anticipate MPC application deadline

As most students choose their classes, some first-years are preparing for a different kind of decision. Students are readying themselves for Feb. 8, the deadline for applying to become a Minority Peer Counselor.

For some, applying is a continuation of an experience that began in the fall. Antar Tichavakunda ’11 said he knew he wanted to be an MPC “right after” the Third World Transition Program that took place before Orientation, from Aug. 28 to Aug. 31.

“I hope this will raise my maturity level and help me become a better leader in general,” he said.

Jennifer Soroko MA’06, assistant director of the Third World Center, said that many applicants were participants in TWTP. But, she added, “we have MPCs who didn’t attend TWTP.”

Currently, there are 22 MPCs. Soroko estimated that there were 60 to 70 applicants last year. She also said the TWC would like to have at least two more MPCs next year but is not certain if the changes will take place.

Jaleesa Jones ’11, who is considering applying to be an MPC, also mentioned the importance of the beginning of the year. “I just liked how welcome I felt as a freshman, and I want to offer the same thing to incoming freshmen,” Jones said.

The application requires candidates to submit two letters of recommendation – one from a current MPC, Residential Peer Leader or Community Director, and one from a current or former professor, supervisor or coach. Students must also answer four essay questions.

Applications for MPC positions are available on the Third World Center Web site, while applications for Residential Counselor and Women Peer Counselor positions will be available on the Residential Life Web site, beginning Feb. 1. ResLife officials were unavailable for comment.

Each student who submits an MPC application is interviewed, MPC Co-Coordinator Vijou Bryant ’09 said. Usually two people – current or former MPCs, faculty members or administrators at the TWC – conduct the interviews, Bryant said.

“It’s a really fair process,” Bryant said. “Everyone gets a really fair chance just to apply and show us what they have.”

The selection committee responsible for reviewing applications includes Soroko, MPC co-coordinators, current and former MPCs and the director of the Third World Center, Associate Dean Karen McLaurin-Chesson.

“I don’t think there’s any one type of experience (we’re looking for),” Bryant said. “The number one thing is a clear interest, why you want to be an MPC.”

Soroko named “strong leadership skills” and “the ability to communicate with a diverse body of students” as important characteristics in the selection process. She also called experience engaging in conversation about the “-isms” – such as racism, sexism and classism – “helpful.”

“Being an M, it’s a lot of work,” Bryant said. “Some people, they don’t understand what the program does.”

Bryant explained that an MPC’s job is multifaceted – it includes directing first-years toward the resources available on campus, providing support, helping with the transition from high school to college and being a friend.

Tichavakunda agreed, saying, “They are counselors, but first and foremost, they’re friends.”

He recalled one night last semester when he was at the hospital with a friend in the emergency room. He said he knew he could call MPCs, even at 1 a.m., and they would help him find a way back to campus.

While the program originated in the 1970s as a “student-driven initiative” staffed by volunteers, over time it has come under “the administrative umbrella” of the TWC, Soroko said. The position now pays about $2,000 a year.

Bryant spoke enthusiastically about her experience as an MPC. She said that through it, she found “a network and community of people who are really dedicated to being critical of the world around us.”

“I really don’t think I get all of that in some of my classes here,” Bryant said.