The idea of using students to proactively develop an interest and relationship with freshmen students is not new. The precursor to today's SAFE program began in the early 1970's through the African-American and African Studies (AAAS) Department. Students who had completed introductory AAAS classes and done well were recruited to mentor freshman AAAS students in their end of semester class presentations. Therefore, the main interaction counselors had with their students was academic and in the AAAS classrooms for the majority of the time.
The next stage in the evolution of the SAFE program as we know it was the Black Student Union (BSU) sponsored "WHY" (We Hear You) peer counselors. The program started in the early 1980's. WHY counselors were volunteers who were chosen to mentor new freshmen in the Black Student Union. The interaction these early counselors had with students was chiefly social, consisting of cultural, political and spiritual programs sponsored by the BSU.
All the while, minority attrition statistics and cumulative GPA statistics showed that there wasn't much improvement being made. As a matter of fact in the years 1981-1983 the average GPA for African-American students was 1.84 points. An estimated 45% of minority students did not return to UNC Charlotte for a second year. Something had to be done.
In 1986, the Dean of Students Office under the direction of then Associate Dean Mary Howard Hamilton recognized the need for more intensive peer mentoring. The Dean of Students Office initiated a peer-mentoring program for minority freshmen who were not in the AAAS department. This program utilized paid peer counselors. At the same time Educational Support Services (E.S.S.) had a similar idea. E.S.S. began a mentoring program; while the Dean of Students Office program focused on the orientation and fit of the student to the university.
In 1987 Dr. Gregory Davis left a full-time faculty position in the AAAS Department to become the Minority Student Advisor for Educational Support Services. He and Dr. Howard-Hamilton merged the Dean of Students Office and Educational Support Services peer mentoring programs into one. The SAFE Program was born.
In 1990, then coordinators Dr. Gregory Davis and Jeanette Barker enlisted the help of Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Ted Elling, to track the academic progress of SAFE students. The SAFE Program has continued to thrive, growing each year. In 1994, former Assistant Dean, Angela Haigler came on board and worked to quantify and assess the components of SAFE in order to clearly define what makes a student "SAFE-ly" Involved. She also focused on strengthening the SAFE Counselor role. Today, SAFE is a successful retention program here at UNC Charlotte and throughout the region.