GURUS provide peer mentorship to Honors students


Adjusting to college life can be both a thrill and a challenge.  Students not only need to get used to living in a new place, meeting lots of new friends, and doing their own laundry, but also adjust to a more rigorous level of study.  Those in the University Honors Program are no different.  Thankfully, NAU has a program aimed at helping Honors students adjust to campus life in the form of Guides to University Retention and Undergraduate Success, or GURUs, which are peer mentors designated to those within the program.

GURUS sit in on Honors 190 courses, which are seminar classes for entry-level Honors students focusing on critical reading and writing.  Like a teaching assistant, GURUS help lead discussions and maintain order in the classroom.  Unlike most teaching assistants, however, GURUS also socialize with their students through group activities.

Katie Sheridan, the senior academic adviser for the University Honors Program and the coordinator of the GURUS, says that the GURUS’ impact remains once students leave the classroom.

“They’re the liaison between the faculty members and the students as well as good role models and mentors,” Sheridan says.  “They can touch base with students on how things are going as they transition into college, manage stress, and take on new responsibilities.”

GURUS are selected from past students who have taken Honors 190 and passed with a “B” grade or higher.  Through a typical application process, prospective GURUS are required to write essays describing what would make them a good mentor for incoming students.

Sheridan points out that the GURUS’ work requires a great balance of time, energy, and commitment.

“Their role isn’t entirely academic, and it’s not totally social; it’s somewhere in between,” Sheridan says.  “We’re looking for friendly, outgoing students who are readily available for our incoming freshmen.”

Freshmen aren’t the only ones gaining positive experiences from the GURUS, however.  Many of the mentors themselves gain positive experiences, especially when they have an impact on someone else’s life.

Ryan Monahan, a junior physics and astronomy major, has been a part of the GURUS since his sophomore year.  Now Monahan serves as President of the GURUS program, which makes him responsible for planning meetings and delegating tasks to his fellow GURUS.


Monahan says he hopes to one day be a teacher, and that working with the GURUS has increased his love for education.

“My first year helped me get used to being in front of a classroom and helping others,” Monahan says.  “It was my stepping stone; I discovered I love helping fellow students in the classroom.”

Sheridan says the goal of the GURUS has always been to show freshmen how to be successful in college through positive role models who have already succeeded in their own ways.

“Participating in an honors program in college sounds a little scary, so we want to have a good variety of students in our GURUS program to show other students they can be successful,” Sheridan says.