The K-State First program is designed to “create an outstanding university experience for every first-year student” according to their website. The program is organized using CAT Communities, small groups of 22 students who take the same three classes: two general education courses and a connections course.
The connections course contains only the students in the CAT Community and is taught by a professor who can offer personalized attention due to the small class size and with the assistance of an undergraduate learning assistant.
These undergraduate learning assistants also serve as student advisers, older students who guide freshmen through their first year. The goal of the K-State First program is to keep students enrolled in future semesters.
“K-State First saved my college experience,” said Danny Foster, resident learning adviser and junior in English education. “That’s why I wanted to [become a student adviser]: to save someone else’s.”
The job of an adviser like Foster is to organize social and academic events to help students get ahead in classes and meet new people. Other responsibilities include lesson planning and meeting with teachers to discuss the progress of their advisees.
To get the job you must be selected, turn in a resume and class schedule and then interview with both K-State First and the professor you will be working closely with.
“[My job is to] make sure students have someone to connect with,” Foster said.
The CAT Community that Foster leads also features a residential component. Foster and all of his advisees live in the same dorm. There are 13 total CAT Communities, only two of which live together.
“The best part of having a student adviser is that he is there whenever I need him,” said Emily Hegemann, freshman in kinesiology. “If I ever need something, he’s just down the hall — not like a regular adviser where you have to make an appointment.”
Foster said that having students come to him for advice is the most rewarding part of his job and that he loves to see his advisees succeed.
“Having a student adviser was very helpful,” said Katlin Hagedorn, freshman in elementary education. “[K-State First] helped me get into the college groove and get to know all the other new freshman.”
To those interested in becoming student mentors, Foster advised not to do it just to bolster your resume.
“Yes it looks good on a resume, but the personal satisfaction of helping is why you should do it,” Foster said. “It has also taught me how to quickly switch from social to professional mode when I see one of the students I advise. It is a job, and you do have to be serious about it.”