CSUN Professors Collaborate for BCFS Freshman Connection to Strengthen the Learning of CSUN Students

April 22, 2014

By Kristina Munoz

A collaboration between two or more people allows an outlet of progress and creativity that can be viewed as limited or too great a project for solely one person to perform.  In effect, a person participating in a collaborative project can gain greater knowledge and insight.

In accordance with Building Connections for Success’ fundamental of faculty and peers working to improve the academic experience and graduation rate of students from low-income backgrounds, the Discipline Based Freshman Connection program seeks to reach that goal through faculty participation.

The program connects students with similar majors and places them in a University 100 and introductory major course of their chosen major.  Students of similar academic goals find themselves amongst peers whom are navigating the new setting of a university and beginning the academia courses to earn a degree.

After a BCFS meeting during the summer, faculty began the steps to partner with professors of similar disciplines for a Fall semester collaboration within the Discipline Based Freshman Connection program.

Professor Kim Henige

Last summer, Assistant Professor Kim Henige’s and Dr. Ashley Samson were informed Henige’s University 100 and Samson’s Kinesiology 200 course would be linked for the professors’ collaboration.

“I admire the work Kim does for her students,” said Samson in response to why she chose to collaborate with Henige.  “She is one of our faculty who truly cares about our students and I see her as someone that I can learn by her hard work.”

Henige was enthusiastic about partnering with Samson for their courses.

“Ashley and I are both very student-centered,” said Henige.  “Although we are in the same department, we do not have many opportunities to work together.  When I found out I was going to have the opportunity to collaborate with a faculty member in my department, I was excited to be able to work with Ashley because I think we have similar philosophies and values when it comes to teaching and interacting with students.”

The collaboration benefits students in the reinforcement of information.  The students attend two different courses, but are around two Kinesiology professors with two different teaching methods.  It allows for a more expanded and ongoing learning experience.

For their collaboration, Henige and Samson created a “linked assignment” that transferred between their courses.  They sought to take the student’s vision outside of attending school for a degree, but adapting it to preparing for a career.

For Henige’s University 100 and Samson’s Kinesiology 200 assignment, each student chose what his/her ideal career was and wrote a research based essay concerning the aspects of their chosen job.

Professor Ashley Samson

“They were required to research all aspects of the career using resources including school websites, career outlook websites and an interview with someone currently working in that career,” said Henige.  “Students were required to give the career some deep thought based on the specific career outlook, daily responsibilities, required, schooling/licensing/certifications, their personal strengths and interests/passions.”

After researching a specific career, students are prompted to reflect and write about how they feel about their chosen career.

“I think it is important for the students to know exactly what the career they are pursuing entails,” said Henige.  “Since they are freshman, they have plenty of time to change direction.  It is important for students to give their career lots of thought and consideration as early as possible so they do not get too invested in a career that really is not for them.”

The primary aspect of Henige’s assignment is the interview of a person in their chosen career and Samson’s is the creation of a portfolio that encompassed all information regarding their chosen career.

“I emphasize that they should follow their strengths, interests and passions because that will lead to a happy and successful career and life,” said Henige.

“Each time I assign this essay, two or three students conclude that the career is not what they originally thought and decide to change paths and sometimes even change majors.”

The assignment can be seen as a road map for the student to follow or see what lies ahead of them if they pursue on a chosen course.  It is a tool for them to find their success.

“I feel that the linked assignment really helped get the students to start thinking about what it really takes to get to the career they want,” said Samson.  “So many of them talk about wanting to attend a physical therapy school without actually understanding its process.”

Samson and Henige’s collaboration extends pass the students.  Their respect for one another is a reflection of their positive partnership.

“Kim is a great role model for someone who really connects with the students and as an undergraduate advisor she really sees them on the ‘front lines’,” said Samson.  “I strive to be more like her in her approach to student relationships.”

Henige asserts that Samson’s understanding of the students makes her a great faculty member.

“Before Ashley came to CSUN, I was the faculty advisor for the Kinesiology Majors Club (KMC),” said Henige.  “After Ashley arrived and settled in, I knew she was the perfect person to take over as KMC faculty advisor.  Ashley relates well to students is well liked and respected and is a great role model and

mentor.  I admire that about her which is why I was happy and anxious to collaborate with her [from the beginning].”

Their hard work at collaborating and enhancing the academic experience of their students is witnessed and praised by colleagues.

“Kim and Ashley’s partnership reflects the spirit of the grant: to help foster student success through mentorship and collaboration,” said Coordinator of BCFS Freshman Connection Lisa Riccomini.  “As a team, Kim and Ashley show their students that CSUN faculty care about their academic and personal well-being. Through their interaction with each other, they teach students that faculty spend a lot of time thinking about freshmen success and ways to support their transition into university life.”