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New KPC program aims to improve student experience

Posted: July 31, 2014 - 7:58pm  |  Updated: July 31, 2014 - 8:07pm

After selling his tri-level, Soldotna home, Kenai Peninsula College Associate Professor of Psychology Paul Landen unpacked his belongings into a suite at the KPC Residence hall. It is now his permanent residence.

Landen is the first professor in a Faculty-In-Residence program, in which staff members live and work on campus that will be implemented at KPC during the 2014 fall semester. The goal is to increase interaction between students and faculty, he said.

“It increases a sense in students that they belong here,” Landen said. “Retention is increased and the students have a better and more enriching experience.”

Landen said his role is not to act as a tutor but to help students better navigate the intricacies of learning at KPC. One of his first priorities is getting to know his new neighbors.

Leslie Byrd, Residence Life Coordinator said Landen’s duties will also include administrative help, as well as expanding existing programs and coming up with new ones to connect KPC faculty with students. He file monthly reports how well he thinks the program is working, she said.

“He will not have an authoritative role,” Byrd said. “We are not adding another policy enforcer. He will act as a role model for good community behavior.”

Byrd said colleges through out the nation, such as Duke University, and the University of Texas are setting up simllar programs. When students feel more comfortable with their professors they are more likely to ask for help and consequently become more engaged in their studies, she said.

The coming school semester will be the second year since the residence hall opened, Byrd said. The first year the goal of having one-third capacity, was completed and this year she said they are likely reach their goal to be at two-thirds capacity.

Tammie Willis Associated Director of Residence Life said Landen volunteered for the position. He worked in residence life as he pursued his education, so he was eager to be involved in the residence hall.

“I have never had one (Live-In-Faculty employee) that sold his house to move on campus to be part of a faculty in residence program,” Willis said. “I think the fact that Dr. Landen did sell his house to be a part of this program says a lot about his motivation to increase student engagement and impact students lives.”

Will said the theory behind the program is based on a concept validated by the National Survey of Student Engagement, which gauges the level of student participation at universities. The survey has demonstrated that the more a student feels engaged, the more likely the student is to do well academically and graduate.

It has also shown that one of the major factors that influence how engaged a student feels is relationship with faculty, Willis said.

The program is designed to promote supportive and engaging interactions between students and faculty.

Landen said he is excited to see how the pilot program goes.

He said as a professor he is always looking for new ways to help involve his students and KPC is a college that is on the same page with this goal, he said.

“I can make a difference in a whole different way,” Landen said.

Kelly Sullivan can be reached at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

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