February 11, 2008

Prospective Saluki Advocates welcome at training

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Supporters of Southern Illinois University Carbondale will have the opportunity to become a Saluki Advocate this week as the University offers its first round of training meetings for the new program.

Saluki Advocates can be students, faculty, staff or alumni who act as a personal guide for community college students. Saluki Advocates will train twice yearly, receive a $50 signup stipend and travel allowances as they represent the University at colleges, high schools and other outreach events throughout the year. The program is part of a $278,000 Illinois Board of Higher Education grant, which is renewable for two additional years.

The first training sessions are set for Thursday, Feb. 14. The first session will run 10 a.m. to noon and the second session is set for 2 to 4 p.m. The sessions will take place in the Kaskaskia and Missouri river rooms at the SIUC Student Center. Anyone interested in becoming a Saluki Advocate is welcome to attend either of Thursday's sessions.

Becky Robinson, a researcher and doctoral student with the Department of Workforce Education and Development at SIUC, said the program is part of an overarching renewed effort to recruit students from Southern Illinois to attend the University. Creating Saluki Advocates, she said, is aimed at creating support for current students while also increasing the comfort level of prospective students, as well as also removing any barriers to attending SIUC.

"With Saluki Advocates, these students will have a friend here before they get here," Robinson said. "It's important for students to have a support network for all students. There are a lot of students out there who really could use a friend. Saluki Advocates can provide that."

Cynthia Sims, assistant professor of workforce education and development, will conduct the Saluki Advocate training. The training will focus on the theme of "persistence' as a means of achieving education goals. During roundtable discussions, participants will share their own stories of persistence in order to better understand how that quality can benefit current and incoming students, Robinson said.

"We want our Saluki Advocates to focus on persisting to progress," Robinson said.

Participants also will learn how to find the answers to students' frequently asked questions by learning more about the University's structure and its Web site.

Another portion of the training seeks to link Saluki Advocates with each other based on background and interests. Training participants will fill out a questionnaire that includes educational, geographic and extracurricular background. To ensure safety, all Saluki Advocate applicants will undergo a criminal background check, Robinson said.

Once trained, Saluki Advocates can choose to conduct "Dawg Days" events at various locations, such as their former high school or community college. Dawg Days allow Saluki Advocates to tell their SIUC story to others, sharing and encouraging prospective students and other community supporters to consider the University for filling their educational needs. Saluki Advocates will give presentations on different aspects of SIUC programs and student life.

Saluki Advocates will receive a $50 travel stipend for such events, Robinson said. She hopes to schedule up to 250 such events this year.

"The training sessions are just the start," Robinson said. "Our Saluki Advocates will be extremely valuable resources for the University to tell its story and support its students."

Plans call for officials to offer two training sessions each semester. Additional training sessions, including an evening session, are set for March 18.

Both the Feb. 14 and March 18 training sessions are aimed at preparing the new Saluki Advocates for a major event on March 29 on the SIUC campus, Robinson said. The University is inviting 1,000 community college and high school students to visit campus that day, in conjunction with the SIUnity and Diversity Celebration. During the event, Saluki Advocates will hold a barbeque, host games and talk to prospective students about the advantages of attending SIUC.