This year, the Peer Health program on campus was as selective as the Admissions Office, with an acceptance rate of about 15 percent. Though Peer Health has always been selective, the number of applications this year was higher than ever. 

 Both Joe Lace ’17 and Erin Houlihan ’17, members of Peer Health’s leadership team, specifically cited the peer-to-peer program as one of Peer Health’s most successful initiatives that also may have led to the recent increase in applicants. This program runs in the fall and assigns each first year student to a member of Peer Health whom they meet with several times throughout the year to discuss their transition to Bowdoin.

“It’s a program that every single first year has interacted with, so I think that it’s a program that has a high visibility,” said Houlihan.

This year, over half of the members of Peer Health will graduate, so the selection committee attempted to bring in younger members to avoid graduating the majority of their class again next year. The selection committee is composed of five Peer Health leaders—Lace, Houlihan, Jillian Burk ’16, Harrison Carmichael ’17 and Tim Coston ’17—as well as Residential Life staff members—Associate Dean of Student Affairs Meadow Davis, Associate Director of Health Promotion Whitney Hogan, Associate Director Michael Pulju and Administrative Coordinator Danielle Miller.

Besides class year, study abroad plans also factored into choosing applicants. Students were not able to apply if they were rising juniors who would be abroad next fall, as they would miss the majority of training, orientation and the peer-to-peer program. However, juniors who plan on going abroad in the spring were welcome to apply.

With such a large applicant pool, Lace said that narrowing down the candidates will be difficult. After applicants submit initial paper applications, the selection committee chooses which students will progress to a round of interviews.

According to Sadie LoGerfo-Olsen ’19, who was one of 15 students chosen this year for next year’s Peer Health program, her interview lasted over an hour and consisted of several rounds of questions, including what issues she believes should be addressed on campus and what specific programs she would bring to the College.

According to Lace, student involvement and enthusiasm are deciding factors in narrowing down applicants during these two rounds. 

“It has to do with what each particular applicant brings to the table, in terms of experiences they’ve had on campus, the groups that they’re a part of and their interests on campus on top of being a student,” said Lace.

Houlihan also said that interest in one specific mental health issue was a factor that made some candidates more attractive than others. She explained that interest in specific mental health issues is helpful to Peer Health because of the nature of the program.

“I think Peer Health is really cool because it gives people the platform to have the resources to launch into whatever programs they want in the specific topic that they’re interested in, or that they think that Bowdoin really needs,” said Houlihan.

Houlihan, for example, is interested in body image and is currently working on an initiative called “Bowdoin Athletic Body Satisfaction Facilitation,” which meets with sports teams and discusses body image and the role it plays in that team’s specific sport. 

LoGerfo-Olsen cited the amount of initiative granted to each member of the program as an attractive aspect of Peer Health and one of the reasons that she initially applied for the program.
“I have a lot of friends and family that have gone through eating disorders, alcoholism and depression, so I’ve been very close to a lot of those issues, so they’ve been pertinent in my life and shaped my beliefs,” said LoGerfo-Olsen, who applied for Peer Health because she believes it will give her the ability to directly address these issues on campus. 

Both Houlihan and Lace attributed the progress of Peer Health to Coordinator of Health Education Whitney Hogan.