At the start of orientation, first-years are connected to a student advisor who plays a central role in their Brown academic experience: their Meiklejohn peer advisor.
Established in 1983, the Meiklejohn Peer Advising Program seeks to “provide academic advice and counseling primarily to first-year students” with a “student perspective on a Brown education,” according to its website. Before the launch of an official program, peer and faculty advisors worked separately with incoming students.
The Herald spoke with current Meiklejohn peer advisors to learn about their advising experiences and the advice they wish they received when they first set foot on campus.
A full-circle experience
Cecile Schreidah ’24, who serves as a Meiklejohn leader, remembers the first time she met her own Meiklejohn as a first-year. Her mentor was “very supportive as (she) tried to figure out (her) classes,” Schreidah wrote in an email to The Herald.
Today, Schreidah assists in New Student Orientation event planning and Meiklejohn training.
“I can see that the Meiklejohns we have employed continue to further our mentorship model and the freshman experience,” she wrote, commending the growth of the program over the years.
William Loughridge ’26, a Meiklejohn peer advisor, was inspired to join the program after reflecting on the benefits he gained from receiving peer advising.
“I wanted to share the same positive impact [my Meiklejohn] had on me with new Brunonians,” Loughridge wrote. “I’ve loved doing that every chance I get.”
Similar to Loughridge, Samuel Lederman ’26 — another peer advisor — cites meeting his advisees as a full-circle moment.
“My favorite part of being a [Meiklejohn] has been the opportunity to pay forward the support and guidance I received from my own Meiklejohn,” he wrote. “Getting to know my advisees, learning about their backgrounds and assisting them in their academic journeys has been incredibly fulfilling.”
Jenny Hu ’26, a first-time peer advisor, was excited to meet her advisees — whom she affectionately called her ‘Meik-lings’ — and witness their passion for learning. Many of Hu’s advisees shared a collective interest in classics, which impressed Hu because the study has “a really small department” at the University, she said.
“It was very encouraging to see a new class of students who wanted to study the field.”
Navigating classes, campus and community
Meiklejohns are trained to offer first-years advice on moving through the first few months of college. Natalia Begara Criado ’26, who recently began her first year as a Meiklejohn, encouraged her mentees to step out of their comfort zone and utilize available resources: “Talk to professors … and go to office hours.”
Schreidah also implores first-year students to not be afraid of asking for help.
“I wish I knew it was okay to reach out to an academic or support dean for help,” she wrote. “They are here to help us on our academic journey, and I wish I realized that sooner.”
The academic transition to Brown can be challenging, especially considering the unique opportunity for curricular exploration, Lederman said.
“We are offered so many choices through the open curriculum, but what I didn’t know is that it can be sort of overwhelming,” he recalled.
Hu warns first-years about being too ambitious during shopping period: “I wish I knew that taking advantage of shopping period doesn't necessarily mean stacking your schedule with 10 different classes.”
“It can mean shopping one or two classes that you're interested in, and weighing the options,” she said.
Exploring College Hill
Many Meiklejohn peer advisors also expressed their excitement for giving first-years recommendations on what new places they can explore around College Hill.
Plant City is one of Hu’s favorite spots. “It has food, coffee, study space and even groceries,” she said. “It’s a great place to study, socialize and grab a snack.”
For students looking for a local breakfast joint, Lederman recommends Amy’s Place on Wickenden Street — they “have some of the best breakfast sandwiches in all of Providence,” he insisted.
And just across the street from Amy’s is Coffee Exchange, where Loughridge and several other Brown students go to caffeinate or find a quaint place to study.
“I’m a huge fan of their coffee,” he raved. “It has an awesome atmosphere … in the really cute neighborhood of Fox Point.”
Ryan Doherty is a senior staff writer covering faculty, higher education and science & research. He is a sophomore concentrating chemistry and history who likes to partially complete crosswords in free time.