Garrett Gilliom is a sophomore Honors student who is currently serving as a peer mentor in Professor Cindy Ebinger’s first-year Honors colloquium, “Sea Level Rise: Causes and Consequences.” Garrett also took this colloquium as a first-year student, and while he is majoring in math and computer science, he says that Professor Ebinger’s class provided him with a unique opportunity to step outside his field and learn more about the environment, which he is also passionate about. It’s why he took this class in the first place, and why he’s back helping to teach it now.
Garrett says his main role in the class is serving as a mentor to the students, by both assisting with course content and guiding them as they find their places at Tulane. When Professor Ebinger initially suggested he apply to be a peer mentor, he agreed because of his growing passion for mentorship. Between serving as a Computer Science Teaching Assistant, an orientation Wave Leader, and as Green Wave Ambassador, Garrett looked forward to connecting with more first-year students and helping them adjust to life at Tulane.
Garrett says that being only one more year into his college career than the students has helped him cultivate a closer relationship with them. Not only does he believe it has made him more approachable to the students, but Garrett has also been able to draw on his recent experience having taken the very same class. He says that he remembers what it was like to be confused by new concepts presented in the class, and that he can now act as a better bridge between the students and Professor Ebinger.
While Garrett enjoys assisting Professor Ebinger in class, working with students so they are better prepared to understand the material and do well on course assignments, he is especially fulfilled by his work done outside the academic sphere. He meets with the students regularly, offering advice and introducing them to on-campus opportunities. “I’ve made a lot of connections on campus, which has allowed me to learn a lot from different people and gain new perspectives on different organizations and disciplines on campus,” he says. “I feel like I not only know a lot, but I also know a lot of people who know a lot, so if I don’t know something, I can usually point a student in the right direction.”
Garrett was able to expand his Honors experience by living in the Wall Residential Learning Community (RLC) last year. He credits the academic community in the RLC with helping to foster a collaborative environment, in which he could learn from students passionate about different disciplines that he is not necessarily pursuing in his own classes. He says that these interactions within the Honors RLC, combined with his experience as a peer mentor, have helped him find the kind of academic work he’s most attracted to. “I really like problem solving, working with numbers, and being logical about tackling problems,” he says. “I’ve had these opportunities to work with other people who are in classes that are related to my major but aren’t really interested in it, and I’ve realized that I can really help and teach them how to do these things… It sort of made me realize that I really like teaching, and it’s a possibility for me to go down that path in the future.”