Peer Learning Assistant Spotlight: Erin Smith

Every freshman at the University is required to take a first year seminar course. In each of these courses there is an upperclassman that assists students through not only the course material but through their adjustment into college. Erin Smith, senior public relations major was a Peer Learning Assistant (PLA), for Dr. Marina Vujnovic’s Hollywood Journalism freshman seminar course for Fall 2013.

During her freshman year, Smith found out about the PLA program by watching her PLA help lead Dr. Kelly Ward’s freshman seminar class on technology changing the world. Smith had been an orientation leader before applying to become a PLA. She believed the experience helped her to understand the expectations freshmen look for in their first year, especially compared to her first year at Monmouth.

“Working [as an orientation leader] showed me just how important the first year is for students,” Smith said. “I wanted to be there as a PLA for the freshmen class and alleviate any small stresses such as roommates, minors and pledging.”

Becoming a PLA fit perfectly into Smith’s schedule when Vujnovic approached Smith about becoming her PLA. Smith previously had Vujnovic as a professor and they both shared similar ideas about the material freshmen needed to understand.

“Professor Vujnovic would allow me to talk to freshmen about the student experience aspect and we both trusted each other with the material,” Smith said.

Vujnovic enjoyed having Smith as her classroom PLA as much as Smith enjoyed the experience. “She is a really dynamic person, a true dream for any professor as far as classroom teaching assistant goes,” Professor Vujnovic said. “She is certainly the best PLA I’ve ever had a pleasure to work with.”

Additionally, Smith had been actively involved on campus upon applying for PLA position. She believes in particular that the Student Government Association (SGA) gave her insight into the things students were looking for at the University.

“As a PLA, I was able to answer any questions about any clubs they wanted to be in because I knew all the different clubs and activities at Monmouth from SGA,” Smith said. 

On the days Smith taught the class, she enjoyed when students asked her questions and she could give them answers.

“I loved seeing the weight being lifted off their shoulders,” she said. “Still today I have students reach out to me to get information about Monmouth and just to stay in touch.”

One of Smith’s students, freshman Allison Carestia, fondly remembers Smith as her PLA. “Erin is a really friendly face in the Monmouth community and she has extensive knowledge about many aspects of our school,” Carestia said.

Smith’s advice to those applying to become a PLA is to understand that the students truly need a PLA’s guidance. “If you are lucky enough to become a PLA, sink your teeth into it,” Smith said, “Whether the professor teaches every day or you are teaching every day, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion.”

PHOTO COURTESY of Tara Egenton