A student’s bond with a professor can be just as important as grades. Really.
“Other than your friends, the most important relationship you have in college is with faculty members,” says Chris Martin, WVU vice president of University Relations. “Teachers have been the most important people in my life. They have opened my horizons and helped me to understand what I could be.”
And to help those relationships develop, West Virginia University has established the Faculty Fellows program to connect students with professors outside of the classroom – making them more approachable and allowing students to form mentoring relationships.
“This is a great opportunity for students to interact with professors in a way they might not normally get a chance to,” added Martin, who formerly served as dean of the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism at WVU, is a current faculty member and one of 15 Faculty Fellows.
Faculty Fellows, which augments the Resident Faculty Leaders program, was started as part of WVU’s residential college model, first implemented when Lincoln Hall was opened in 2006. Since then the program has spread to three other residence halls.
Under the program, members of WVU’s faculty teach courses in the residence halls, eat meals with the students, organize trips and events and provide opportunities for students to learn more about their career of choice.
During her time as a fellow, Martin has had meals with the students, organized focus groups on social media and is planning a trip to the Newseum in Washington, D.C. in the spring.
David Slusarick, a graduate student and residential advisor at Dadisman Hall, said the fellows program helps to smooth the transition from high school to college.
“It helps students realize that professors are normal people that are very approachable and accessible, and it makes them more comfortable with the idea of turning to a professor for help,” Slusarick said. “It also helps with networking, scholarships and getting accepted into programs.”
Fellow and humanities lecturer Caleb Winters has taught a course in Lincoln Hall and Anna Schein, associate curator of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection at WVU Libraries, has organized weekly library tours.
The freshman seminar class Winters taught was called “Pop Culture and Your Life.”
“It was a neat opportunity to give my assessment and then give the students a chance to give their opinion and teach each other,” Winters said. “The students had a lot of opportunity to steer the class and talk about what they wanted to talk about. It was a really good class that the students and myself took a lot away from.”
Other fellows have planned trips to museums in Pittsburgh, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Pocahontas County, Harpers Ferry and Coopers Rock, among others.
Overall the program benefits the faculty just as much as the students.
“I get to learn what the students are interested in and what they do in their spare time. It is a constant reminder of why I do my job, what it is really about,” Martin said.
For more information on WVU Housing and Residential Education, visit http://housing.wvu.edu/ .
By Colleen DeHart
WVU News and Information Services
CONTACT: Trish Cendana, Residential Education