A new program instituted by Peer Health this academic year aims to meet with every member of the Class of 2017. Trained members of Peer Health will conduct the interviews, which last about half an hour and are designed to help students reflect on their first six weeks of college.

According to Associate Director of Health Promotion Whitney Hogan, the majority of the Class of 2017 is scheduled to meet with Peer Health by the end of November. 

The interviews are not mandatory, but are highly encouraged, and students can sign up on calendars that have been posted in every first-year brick.

The interviews use a technique called Brief Motivational Interviewing (BMI), in which members of Peer Health ask open-ended questions in order to help first years reflect. To be fully BMI trained, members of Peer Health participate in a three-day fall and a three-day spring orientation.

“We want them to be able to feel like they can talk to us as non-biased, non-judgmental upperclassmen,” said Julie Pinero ’14, a member of Peer Health.

The interviewing program went through two pilot stages before being fully implemented this year. Two years ago, Peer Health tried a similar program with just one dorm, and last year half the Class of 2016 was selected to participate by floor.

“We feel really confident because we spent so much time thinking through the formation of the program,” said Hogan. “We’re constantly adapting and making sure that it’s working as best as possible.”

According to Hogan, running the program as a pilot first helped Peer Health make some “logistical tweaks,” such as increasing the number of hours required for training. However, the basic shape of the program remained the same.

Peer Health has not started gathering feedback from first years yet, but survey responses from those who participated in the program in previous years has been largely positive. 

“My Peer Health representative was really friendly and made me feel at ease talking abut anything from alcohol to social life to life on campus in general,” said one respondent.

Current first years seemed apathetic about their meetings with Peer Health.

“It was easy” said Meredith Sleeper ’17. “They just asked me about my alcohol beliefs, and had me read the letter that I wrote to myself. It was fine.”

According to Pinero, although students this year have come into interviews with a “range of comfort levels,” she believes the experience has been beneficial for all of them.

“They can just bring up whatever they want…and just come to these conclusions themselves,” said Pinero.

According to Hogan, Bowdoin is one of the first colleges to have all its first year students participate in BMI, and she hopes it will inspire peer schools to do the same.

“The feedback overall [has been] that these one-on-one meetings are a useful, meaningful, and effective way for first years to reflect on their transition to college,” said Hogan.