Students, profs benefit from interactive Faculty Fellows program

By Keith Allen

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Cookies with or without walnuts?

Ann Kerwin, faculty fellow and professor of surgery, asks this question each time she goes to the Sigma Chi fraternity. Kerwin brings homemade cookies when she has office hours at the fraternity.

"The young men in the fraternity are quite a diverse group," Kerwin says. "I talk with them and work with them. It is definitely more on a personal level; they can talk to me about anything."

And that is what the Faculty Fellows program is all about students interacting with professors outside the classroom.

"We want every student to know every faculty fellow is their faculty fellow," said Donna Swaim, faculty fellow coordinator and a professor in the humanities program.

The program was initiated in 1984 by Dr. Cliff Lytle to increase interaction between students and faculty, Swaim said.

There are now 18 faculty fellows. Swaim said they are in offices, residence halls, Intercollegiate Athletics, the Center for Off-Campus Students, two Greek houses, the Honors Center and four ethnic cultural centers.

According to research she has read on student affairs, Swaim said that it is much more likely for a student to graduate if the faculty are approachable. She said that the program eliminates the mystique surrounding faculty.

The important part of the program is accessibility of the professors, said David Williams, faculty fellow and a professor in the Communications Department.

"I walk through the hall (Maricopa) eight or nine times a day," Williams said. "I talk about dropping courses, exams, et cetera. During the O.J. Simpson trial I spoke to students about the trial as they watched television."

"When the (university) was smaller, there was more time to talk to students. Faculty Fellows forces you to take that time," he said.

Jim Van Arsdel, director of Residence Life, said, "Fixed space is important, but there is the need to find time out of that; at the front desk or in a lounge where they can talk in natural terms."

Van Arsdel said one faculty fellow, who is now retired, worked the front desk of a residence hall as a way to get to know students.

Professors seem to benefit as well, when taking time to interact with students.

"It is beneficial because I stay in contact with young people," said Frank LaBan, faculty fellow and theater professor. "I find out what they think of adults and what they think of what is happening today. It keeps me young and tuned in."

"It is knowing that whatever happens, you have an immediate effect on his or her problems," said Ray White, faculty fellow and professor of astronomy. He said as a professor, sometimes you don't know you had an effect until 20 years later.

"I find I'm a parent, friend and counselor," LaBan said.

Williams said, "Because I'm talking to a variety of majors, I get to see what else is happening and meet a variety of students. Professors forget that there are other kinds of students."

Swaim said most professors spend time in an isolated department group, but through faculty

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