Need a condom? Have a question about drug abuse? Especially
during the winter months, the trip to University Health Service is
often less than appealing. So when you have a question about your
health or the health of a friend, where should you turn? A pilot
program in the residence halls called PULSE is striving to be the
answer. Now active in South Quad, West Quad and Couzens residence
halls, Peers Utilizing Leadership Skills for Education has 40
students trained to guide dorm residents with health issues.
Since one-shot health education programs in the residence halls
were unsuccessful, a group of UHS faculty members decided informal
leaders within the community might better serve residents.
“We need input from students to be able to create programming
and initiatives that make sense to them and are relevant to
them,” said PULSE director Traci Jarrett, the sexual health
educator at UHS. “We thought housing would be a great place
to start.” Resident advisors sought out strong leadership
characteristics in their residents, selecting several to become
The program was looking for members “who weren’t
necessarily your traditional peer health person, but people others
went to naturally for ideas,” explained Jarrett. “We
were overwhelmed by the response.”
PULSE members have a training session each week to learn about
important health issues on campus and organizations that specialize
in helping students. Jarrett said some of the organizations
scheduled to visit the PULSE mentors in the future weeks include
Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, the Office of
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs and Counseling and
“It’s not so much that we’re taking over the
role of ResStaff or what UHS does, that’s the controversy of
it,” said LSA sophomore and PULSE member Jessica Petrus.
“We’re just providing another source or a liaison to
the ResStaff or UHS. If students have questions and they
don’t know where to go, they can come to us.”
West Quad hall director Gina Arendsen decided to have PULSE in
her building because it is a great resource for students. “It
in no way takes away from the RA, as they still have information
around health issues and concerns,” she said. Arendsen also
values PULSE as a leadership opportunity for residents.
PULSE members are not trained to diagnose students, Petrus
explained, but they are there to help refer students who may be
lost and confused about health issues or simply need to talk. Much
of their training is in sex education, and PULSE members also have
condoms to provide for students.
“Since we are not ResStaff, we don’t have the
obligation to report people if they have been drinking underage or
doing drugs, we don’t have that authority,” Petrus
added. “In terms of confidentiality, we don’t need to
let ResStaff know.” Only in severe cases do PULSE members
ever reveal the information they receive.
While some students have seen the PULSE bulletin board outside
the Couzens cafeteria, few are familiar with the program. This
pilot attempt has had a difficult start-up since few residents
understand the way peer health mentoring works
Those who do know about it, like the idea. “I think just
having someone else besides the RA there, someone who is your age,
gives you one extra resource which is always nice,” said LSA
freshman Nisha Patel, who lives across the hall from a PULSE
“It’s a good resource for students,” commented
LSA freshman Angela Atchinson, who considered joining the program
herself. “I’m unsure how often it is really going to be
used,” she said, pointing out that there is a need because
many students on campus are having sex, but they would have to feel
comfortable approaching a PULSE representative.
“More people come interested in what it is actually
about,” LSA freshman and PULSE member Carrie Genualdi said.
“They like to look at our book and see what’s going on
(with the program),” she added, even though Genualdi, who
lives in Couzens, has not had many visitors.
“It’s difficult to get the word out, so no one
really knows what PULSE is,” Petrus noted. She also
hasn’t had any visitors in West Quad. “All the
interactions I’ve had have been with my friends or people I
know on campus already. Even if it’s someone you know very
well, we can use all of this training to guide them.”
PULSE members would eventually like to organize programs for
their halls. Right now, they are working with ResStaff to put on
activities like the Safe Sex Parties in Couzens and South Quad.
Having events like this in a fun atmosphere is helpful in promoting
PULSE and safe sex habits, Petrus explained. It is important for
residents, “to get good information on the safest things they
can for contraceptives and to get to know PULSE and what
we’re all about.”