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Faculty committee tackles student life issues

John Smeaton (center) discusses student issues with Linda Lowe-Krentz (left) and Patricia Manz (right) during a recent meeting of the Faculty Committee on Student Life.

Lehigh’s Faculty Committee on Student Life (FCSL), an 11-member group that seeks to promote student success, has completed a productive inaugural year, developing a core competencies grant program and awarding 15 grants to support student life initiatives.

Funded programs ranged from Canstruction, in which students from Lehigh and Broughal Middle School designed and built structures using canned goods (all of which were donated later to a food bank), to the Lehigh Community Passover Seder, which invited the campus community to take part in a Seder to mark the beginning of Passover.

“The committee worked well together,” says FCSL chair Linda Lowe-Krentz, a professor of biological sciences. “I think everyone felt what we were doing was important.”

FCSL’s creation grew out of the university’s long-range strategic plan. The group contains six faculty members, three staff members, one graduate student and one undergraduate.

Faculty members representing colleges are Lowe-Krentz (Arts and Sciences), Patricia Manz (Education), Brian Davison (Engineering and Applied Science), and Catherine Ridings (College of Business and Economics). At-large faculty members are Roger Simon, professor of history, and Susan Szczepanski, professor of mathematics.

Soliciting a student perspective

Staff members are John Smeaton, vice provost for student affairs; Sharon Basso, dean of students; and Kathleen Hutnik, director of graduate student life.

Jordan Lynn Knicely, a graduate student in psychology, and Divya Nayar, who earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing in May, finished their terms as student members.

Smeaton, Basso and Hutnik serve indefinitely on the FCSL. Terms for faculty members are staggered: College representatives serve four years and at-large faculty serve two.

“The beauty of this set-up is that most of the group returns from year to year,” says Lowe-Krentz, “but you’re also adding fresh perspectives to the group every couple years.”

The committee embraced its charge enthusiastically, says Smeaton.

“We were able to provide funding for proposals that served a significant number of students and also demonstrated collaboration with students in the design and execution of the activity.”

The FCSL will take on an ambitious agenda next academic year, says Lowe-Krentz.

“We’ll address issues related to graduate student life. For example, many graduate students are here year-round, but bus transportation runs from late-August through early May, and the frequency of service changes in summertime.

“We’ll also update the student handbook and address the student policy on dissent. We’ll continue to work on communication between faculty and staff. For instance, we want to learn how faculty interacts with the athletic programs on campus.”

Furthering a Lehigh tradition

Other issues include budget and space constraints faced by student organizations, and medical excuses.

Nayar, now an analyst in the debt capital markets group of UBS Investment Bank in Manhattan, said the FCSL gave her an inside perspective on Lehigh’s commitment to student success.

“I learned that student success can take on multi-faceted definitions and include a student’s learning experience not only inside the classroom, but in the real world as well,” she said.

“Many institutions may have similar groups to foster student success, but Lehigh has taken it one step further by including undergraduate and graduate representatives. This will maximize the efficacy of the committee.

“I truly believe FCSL epitomizes Lehigh’s tradition of cultivating student success.”


Photo by Douglas Benedict

Story by Bill Doherty

Posted on Friday, August 06, 2010

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