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By L. Anne Newell
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 9, 1997

Faculty/student program 'eases transition for university students'

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Chris Richards
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Celia Sepulveda, program coordinator for the Student/Faculty Interaction Program, talks about the success of the program in her office yesterday. The program, designed to get new students involved in special events with faculty, has seen a remarkable growth in the last year.

The Student/Faculty Interaction Program, designed to stimulate relations between faculty and students outside the classroom, has tripled its participation numbers over the past three years.

The program had 6,444 student participants during the 1996-97 year, compared with 1,313 students for the 1994-95 year, said Celia Sepulveda, program coordinator for the Dean of Students Office.

The number of faculty participants has also increased, from 335 in 1994-95 to 1,107 in 1996-97, she said.

The program, which gives funds to faculty for various activities with their classes, allows participants to interact in a more social setting, Sepulveda said.

Sepulveda said the outside contact helps reduce students' feelings of intimidation.

Physics department head Daniel Stein used the program to hold an Aug. 22 orientation lunch for beginning physics majors.

"This is an extremely valuable program," Stein said. "Because of this lunch, we were able to introduce students to faculty and the department."

Stein said the program eases the transition for new university students.

"We talked in a more relaxed atmosphere," he said.

Stein said this manner is carried over into the classroom and office hours.

"It's easy to say 'come and see me,' but students actually will when they've talked to you before," he said.

Alaina Levine, communication director for the physics department, agreed the program is valuable.

"This is a great thing," she said. "It's sometimes a problem in a big university like this for students to talk to faculty outside the classroom, and feel comfortable."

Programs like this encourage such interaction, she said.

The program also encourages students to form faculty contacts that can be used for graduate school admissions and job references, she said.

Rick Shoemaker, associate director of the Optical Sciences Center, said he had a beginning- of-the-year dinner and telescope tour for optical sciences graduate students.

Shoemaker took the students to the Steward Observatory telescope at Kitt Peak.

It was a valuable experience because nearly half the students involved were international, he said.

He said he has used the program for two years, and plans to continue using it as a method of introduction between students and faculty.

During its last funding period, from the beginning of August to Sept. 7, the program sponsored 21 events and gave $4,000 in funding, Sepulveda said.

Twenty-five applications were submitted, with $9,200 requested in funding, she said.

To start the application process, a faculty member submits a proposal outlining the event to be funded.

A faculty member, graduate teaching assistant or staff member may submit a proposal for a class, she said.

First priority is given to those events that mostly affect freshmen and the core classes, Sepulveda said.

The second priority is the quality of the interaction, she said.

"We want to see something that shows real interaction outside the classroom," she said.

Sponsors are then required to write a paragraph or more on the interaction and give a list of participating students and faculty, Sepulveda said.

Sepulveda sees a bright future for the program.

"I want to see a lot of creativity coming from the faculty," she said, "things that get them outside. Arizona is such an ideal location for this."

"There are mountains, theaters, music and events in the community they can take students to," she said.

Students can approach a faculty member with activity suggestions, she said.

"We want the proposals to come from faculty, but students could definitely help with the writing and the application process," she said.

The Student/Faculty Interaction Program sponsors everything from traditional university events like Meet Your Major Fair, to field trips such as an upcoming trip to the Mount Bigelow Observatory, she said.

The program was established about 10 years ago in response to research that showed the more contact between students and faculty, the more likely students are to persist in school and graduate, said Carol Thompson, associate dean of students.

"It is a very successful program and very popular," she said.

Through the years, when various budget cuts have threatened the program, faculty have stood up in support of it, Thompson said.

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