Rising above adversity

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Clare Lydon transfers experiences to help her peers

Clare Lydon would be the first to admit that her own undergraduate career did not get off to the greatest start. When she first arrived at Northern Arizona University her sophomore year as a transfer student, Lydon found acclimating to life on campus more difficult than she had expected.

“When you start as a freshman, it’s easier to meet new people and make connections,” Lydon says. “When I came in, that excitement had dwindled a bit. I was unaware of the resources available to me, and didn't make many connections on campus.”

The turning point came when Lydon formed relationships with two of her professors. Darby Winterhalter Lofstrand, a lecturer in theatre performance, and Amy Criddle, a lecturer in accounting, helped Lydon to realize that she had a strong, motivational support base right here on campus.

“They really helped me feel like I could succeed,” Lydon says. “They were happy to be in the classroom, which made me feel a lot more excited and comfortable to be there.”

A perfect fit

These experiences inspired Lydon to become a mentor herself. After receiving an e-mail detailing a new Peer Mentoring Program designed solely for transfer students, Lydon dedicated herself to using her own experiences and lessons learned to aid transfer students in similar positions as she was.

“I was pretty excited after hearing about the mentor opportunity,” Lydon says. “I knew my transition wasn’t the smoothest, so I was excited to help someone with theirs.”

Lydon was selected along with 13 other individuals to comprise the initial class of transfer peer mentors. In her role, it is Lydon’s responsibility to meet with students every two weeks and monitor their transition. Lydon stresses that while she is there to offer advice on academics, she also makes it a priority to establish meaningful social connections.

“Transferring here is not just about school and education; that’s important, but there’s so much more to it,” Lydon says. “The social part and finding ways to get connected weighs on them. It’s about asking them how they’re getting connected, whether they need help, and what I can do.”

Despite having no prior mentoring experience, Lydon says she acclimated to the position quickly, and that she thrives on assisting students to avoid the pitfalls that plagued her first semester.

“I think it was a little intimidating, but more than anything, it was really exciting,” Lydon says. “I try to give advice or ask questions related to my experience. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to get involved and make connections.”

Transferring experience to the next level

Lydon is already figuring out ways to implement her experience into her marketing degree.  Regardless of job title, Lydon’s goal is to give back to the community.

“If I could mentor in my job, that would be great,” Lydon says. “If I can’t implement the mentoring and what I’ve learned, I would love to use it volunteering or working with students.”

In the end, Lydon credits Northern Arizona University for helping her overcome these issues and broaden her horizons while she continues to pursue her dreams.

“I would say the university is helping me not only get to my goals, but always helping me find new ones,” Lydon says. “Even though my transfer semester wasn’t really smooth, I’ve learned so much more than I think I would learn anywhere else, and I’m really grateful for that.”