Students benefit most from opening day faculty and staff training at Abington

Opening day faculty and staff training at Abington

Several new initiatives have been put in place to bolster Penn State Abington's advising and mentoring systems. 

Credit: iStock photo

ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington is placing increased emphasis on a campus-wide support network to assist in student success and in overcoming obstacles that could impact four-year graduation rates.

According to the nonprofit organization Complete College America, four major issues prevent students from graduating in four years: lack of clear planning or advising, a change of majors, a change of universities, and taking unnecessary courses. Opening-day training for all employees addressed each of these challenges head on.

To start the day, Paul Apicella, Penn State’s Title IX coordinator, explained the University’s code of conduct regarding sexual harassment and assault and how faculty and staff can assist victims of such attacks. This includes everything from medical treatment and psychological services to national hotlines and police and legal information.

"I think this kind of professional development is exactly what faculty and staff on our campus most need in order for Penn State Abington to continue to develop as an institution that prioritizes social justice,” said Liliana M. Naydan, assistant professor of English and writing program coordinator. She said the campus community could benefit from additional Title IX training in the form of case studies and hypothetical scenarios.

To bolster the campus’ advising and mentoring systems, Chancellor Damian Fernandez announced several new initiatives, including:

  • A Laboratory for Innovation in Teaching and Education, headed by Michael Bernstein, to improve teaching practices, academic performance, and provide assistance for underprepared groups of individual learners.
  • The establishment of a new position, the coordinator for student success, filled by Chris Walters, to work with the entire campus community in support of student retention efforts.
  • And the coordination of all advising-related functions — advising, learning center, disability services, testing center — under the direction of Eva Klein.

Later in the morning, employees were briefed on the availability of the Abington Care Team (ACT), a service that provides members of the Abington community an opportunity to share a concern about a student’s wellness or safety. ACT seeks to take a proactive position to intervene with students having academic or health and safety issues.

All attendees then broke into smaller groups to learn more about effective tools to assure student success. Among them was a resource called MajorQuest that allows students (and prospective students) to explore various majors that might best suit their individual interests, including a recommended academic plan and career options.

In the afternoon, faculty and staff participated in a program titled “Community through Difficult Conversations,” directed by Noni Thomas Lopez, assistant head of school for teaching and learning at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City. Through personal narratives and small-group interaction, the program addressed the nation’s ongoing struggle to put an end to both overt and subtle forms of discrimination and racism.

Reflecting on this final session, Rosa Chism, senior lecturer in Spanish and coordinator of world language testing and certification at the campus, said that difficult conversations are part of everyday life.

“We just have to learn how to converse, to see our side of the conversation and the side of the other person,” Chism said.