Harper launches Buddy System to foster connections between students


Students participating in the Buddy System gathered around for a well-being social hour on the quad on Sept. 15, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Katye Speer.)

This fall, Harper launched a new program called The Buddy System, which is an initiative to help connect Harper students who would like to meet new friends or establish connections with other Harper students (whether students are taking in-person or virtual classes).   

Staff from a variety of departments on campus, including Harper Wellness, Academic Advising and Counseling Services are working together to help meet a need expressed by students. 

“We were hearing from students that one of the main issues they were struggling with during the pandemic and taking classes remotely was their inability to connect with other Harper College students,” Manager of Harper Wellness Elizabeth Ripperger, one of the pioneers of the Buddy System, said.

While students often have the power in their own hands to make friends and connections, the Buddy System is an avenue that makes it a little easier and less stressful as they know that the other person was also looking for a similar experience. 

To participate in the Buddy System, students complete and submit an online form. The Harper College staff then matches students with one another based on similar areas of interest,  like programs of study and/or hobbies that students mention in the form. 

Once the matches are complete, the staff introduces participants to one another via their Harper emails.

“No system is perfect, but Katye Speer and I tried to ensure that students had at least one general item in common with one another,” Ripperger said. Speer is an academic adviser at Harper. 

Participants in the program receive weekly discussion topics and resources to help facilitate a conversation with their buddy as well as invitations to social opportunities. Free t-shirts and other free promotional items are provided to participants throughout the semester.

Students can carry on the Buddy System correspondence via email or move to another preferred mode of communication — it is really up to the students to make the effort to connect with one another, whether it be virtually or in person, after they’ve been matched.

Safia Arastu, a fifth-year Harper student, appreciated the flexibility that the Buddy System provides.

“Buddy System is a chill and nice way to meet other students without being forced upon,” Arastu said. 

According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, students are more likely to graduate and be retained if they feel connected to campus. That connection often comes through building relationships. 

“Making friends in college can sometimes be a difficult and/or different experience for students, and then you add a pandemic on top of trying to make friends — it can be an isolating experience,” Ripperger said. “As a result, Katye and I really wanted to provide students with those initial connections.” 

To participate in the Spring 2022 program, students need to fill out the online form, by the end-of-day Friday, Feb. 4 in order to be effectively matched with another student.  

If you have any issues or questions regarding the buddy system, please email Beth Ripperger, at [email protected].