Knight Learn Lessons at Princeton
During Mid-Career Fellowship
Windsor, N.J. - MCCC English Professor Laura Knight and History
Professor, Dr. Craig Coenen, spent time on campus at Princeton
University last year as part of the Mid-Career Fellowship
Program. Mercer traditionally selects two faculty members
for this energizing academic experience each year.
Coenen and Knight met with 11 of their community college colleagues
from across the state for monthly seminars to talk about issues
at their schools, including differences and similarities,
as well as approaches to teaching and assessment. They also
discussed projects they selected to work on, with each participant
presenting his or her project to the group in the spring.
Coenen, a sports enthusiast and author of a 2005 book "From
Sandlots to the Super Bowl," focused his research on
the value of intercollegiate sports at the community college
level. While college administrators may think of sports programs
as an easy way to cut budgets, Coenen's research, entitled
"Benefits of Sports Programs at Community Colleges,"
found that athletic programs can actually benefit the bottom
line at many schools. Interviewing MCCC Athletics Director
John Simone, Assistant Director Ryan Zegarski and the former
director, Professor Emeritus Al Leister, Coenen drew from
data at Mercer in addition to his research of other colleges.
"Not only are sports programs worth it economically,
but these students often serve as models of success,"
Coenen says. He notes sports teams bring paying students to
a college, and they also tend to be loyal alumni. They provide
college newspaper reporters and Radio/Television students
with news coverage opportunities and their successes are picked
up by local newspapers and on the Internet. "For a nominal
expense, there is a great return," he concludes.
Professor Laura Knight and History Professor Craig Coenen
focused her research project on "New Student Orientation
or 'How Do I Read My Schedule?'". Knight presented an
overview of MCCC's New Student Orientation (NSO) program and
looked at other local and national programs. Among the Best
Practices she explored are making NSO attendance a requirement,
offering incentives for attending and staying throughout the
program, adding an online option, involving more faculty members,
and broadening the scope of what is presented. Knight believes
that requiring orientation is a winning strategy for students,
particularly if they attend in person as compared to online.
"It establishes a baseline and provides a real connection
to the college," she observes. "These students are
more likely to use the library and other facilities and to
seek help at the Learning Center. They are more likely to
get involved in campus life."
of the Mid-Career Fellowship was the opportunity for Coenen
and Knight to enroll in Princeton classes. Coenen especially
liked the course "Law and Work" that he took last
fall, a seminar-style class composed mostly of seniors taught
by Associate Professor Paul Frymer. "Professor Frymer
appreciated my presence," Coenen said. "I was able
to draw on my own expertise in labor history." Frymer
also found Coenen's work background helpful. "When I
was young, I worked at Blockbuster, Pizza Hut and at a paper
factory. I was able to help reinforce his discussion of labor
rights and sweatshops." Coenen notes that he was teaching
his own U.S. History class at Mercer while taking the Princeton
class and added newly learned content to the curriculum when
he covered issues of labor and employment.
Knight found her Princeton class entitled "American Places"
especially fascinating. "It blended sociology, history
and literature," she said. "We read works of fiction
and then looked at the social and historical realities of
the time period." The course has given her ideas about
creating a similar interdisciplinary course at Mercer, perhaps
working together with Coenen.
Both professors say that Princeton's faculty and students
were welcoming and gracious and that the experience has reinvigorated
them in the classroom. Knight observed, "It gave me a
chance to step back and think and to be on the other side
as a student again. I have brought many ideas back to Mercer.
My students will benefit."
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