Working with professors in a course, peer learning assistants create a bridge between professors and students, and are particularly helpful to first-year students who benefit from these peer mentoring relationships with fellow undergraduates.
As a PLA, you may lead small group discussions, assist struggling students and provide feedback, while earning course credit. PLAs are selected by Clark faculty members, so there isn’t an application process, but if you’re interested in becoming one, here’s how to explore your interest:
Talk to your professors
If you know you want to become a PLA, reach out to your professors, particularly those for courses in which you were high-achieving. Tell them why you want to become a PLA and ask if they have a need for one in any upcoming courses. If they don’t, they may be able to refer you to another department or professor seeking a PLA.
Connect with previous PLAs
Peers with PLA experience can provide a student’s perspective about what it means to be a PLA. Ask them if it was fun, rewarding and/or challenging, as well as if it opened doors and if they’d repeat the experience. Talk to a few peers to get multiple perspectives on the experience.
Consider your schedule
PLAs typically dedicate 10 to 15 hours per week to assigned tasks, from holding office hours to attending courses. Look at your schedule and consider your time management to decide if becoming a PLA is a good fit for you.
If you are eligible for federal work study, your stipend can serve as reimbursement for working as a PLA. However, not all students are eligible for this funding. If this is the case, you could act as a PLA for institutional credit, for example through an independent study or directed reading.
Talk to your department chair or the department administrative assistant
If you’re interested more in the subject rather than working with a specific professor, let the department chair know your interest. They may be able to connect you with other professors within the department you haven’t worked with yet, but be aware that most professors select students with whom they’re familiar.
The key to success in this search is accessing your resources and building your network. If you need further help, contact the LEEP Center to discuss next steps or other ways of getting involved in the classroom as an on- or off-campus mentor.