Model Student-Faculty Engagement Program Expands
The Faculty Fellows program at the UA, established decades ago, is expanding and now includes six Engagement Faculty Fellows.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes and Emma Muriel, University Relations - Communications
Feb. 24, 2016

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Kathryn Maxwell, an Engagement Faculty Fellow, and Sabrina Bigelow, an Eller College of Management student
Kathryn Maxwell, an Engagement Faculty Fellow, and Sabrina Bigelow, an Eller College of Management student (Photo: Amanda Cheromiah)

Dedicated to undergraduate student engagement, and informed by research indicating that students tend to be more academically successful when they are immersed in a supportive campus environment with tailored guidance, the University of Arizona established the Faculty Fellows program decades ago.

The UA original has been used as a model for comparable programs at higher-education intuitions nationwide and is now expanding, with a new cohort of six Engagement Faculty Fellows named.

"Faculty Fellows allows faculty to meet students where they are, whether that is a residence hall, a cultural center, a resource center or a place they work," said Jessica Litvack, program coordinator for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Academic Initiatives and Student Success, who oversees the program. 

"The interactions with Faculty Fellows are different at every site, yet at every site, they are making incredible connections that help students to advance academically, personally and professionally, and ultimately provide an interpersonal UA experience that makes this large school feel much smaller," Litvack said.

One example is the Wildcat to the Rescue Fun 5K, to be hosted by Faculty Fellows on Saturday. Check-in begins at 9:30 a.m. and the run begins at 11 at Old Main.

Katie Maxwell, a senior accounting lecturer in the Eller College of Management, is one of the UA's first Engagement Faculty Fellows. In her role, Maxwell supports UA BookStores student employees who work in the Student Union Memorial Center, connecting them to real-world opportunities that enrich their experience outside of the classroom.

With a desire to coach students in the art of job hunting, Maxwell wants to help them leverage their studies and experiences for a great start to a career. "I have a natural passion for career development," Maxwell said.

Other members of the inaugural cohort of Engagement Faculty Fellows, devoted to enhancing interaction between students and the faculty, are housed at the Office of Sustainability, VETS Center (two fellows), Career Services and Leadership Programs. They include:

  • Distinguished Professor Paul Blowers, faculty member in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, at the Office of Sustainability. Blowers has been working with student groups, such as the as Compost Cats, helping them to identify and execute collaborative projects. He also engages students in research, tours, community events and other projects related to sustainable living.
  • Faten Ghosn, associate professor in the School of Government and Public Policy, and Ed Prather, associate professor of astronomy, at the VETS Center. Ghosn and Prather have involved students in roundtable discussions, particularly about war in the Middle East, climate change and the experiences of LGBTQ military service members.
  • Steve Reff, economics lecturer in the Eller College of Management, at Leadership Programs. Reff works with fourth-year Blue Chip students, helping them to strengthen their mentorship skills while working with freshmen and sophomores in the program. He is helping the Blue Chip seniors to prepare for life after graduation and also involves students in roadway cleanup projects along East Speedway Boulevard, from main campus to Interstate 10.
  • Eleni Hasaki, associate professor of anthropology and religious studies, at Career Services. Hasaki has facilitated tours to campus locations, such as the UA Ice Fields, the Campus Arboretum and the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab, while informing students about careers they may not be attuned to entering. She also has partnered with other UA faculty to facilitate cross-collaborative, cross-site and interdisciplinary visits and discussions with students.

Each fellow initially is appointed under a one-year contract and assigned a campus site location to build relationships with students, helping them to think critically and get involved. The 45-member fellows program, representing a broad range of experiences and disciplines across campus, supports a group of students estimated at more than 10,000.

Engagement Faculty Fellows at the Office of Sustainability, Career Services and Leadership Programs are supported by Vincent Del Casino, vice provost for Digital Learning and Student Engagement and associate vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

With the UA's 100% Engagement initiative in mind, Del Casino devised the idea to expand the original Faculty Fellows program, which originated with now-retired Cliff Lytle, a political science faculty member. Launched in 1984, the program began at four residence halls and has since grown to 36 sites campuswide, now including all undergraduate residence halls and cultural centers.

"One of the greatest benefits to faculty is that they have an opportunity to meet individuals across campus they may not have had the opportunity to speak to or collaborate with otherwise," Litvack said. "Because of the cross-disciplinary relationships they develop amongst one another as fellows, we are able to have a much broader impact. Through cross-site, cross-fellow programming, students are also able to meet with others who live in different residence halls and who may be connected to different cultural or resource centers. This also helps to enrich the student experience."

Crystal Soltero, associate professor of practice in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies, is one of the newest Faculty Fellows, serving the students of Posada San Pedro Hall. 

"I love being able to serve as a resource for students' questions about Tucson and the UA," said Soltero, of the College of Education.

"Connecting students with all of the opportunities offered at the UA feels really good. But even more than that, I love being able to connect students with each other as a way to build a stronger residence hall community. We have a lot of fun together, and I know our activities have helped a lot of them get to know each other in a deeper way."

Based on the program's evaluations, students have reported feeling more welcome and connected on campus. Others have reported that Faculty Fellows have helped them to gain a stronger understanding of what it means to be a college student, and some have relied on fellows to help with conflict resolution.

UA senior Sabrina Bigelow, an accounting major in the Eller College, works at the campus bookstore. 

Although Maxwell taught Bigelow in her first accounting course as a UA student, the two have come to know each other well through their work at the store, Bigelow said.

"Katie has since been a great mentor for me throughout the last couple of years," said Bigelow, who is scheduled to graduate in May. She plans to pursue a law degree at the UA, crediting Maxwell with supporting her in her academic and personal goals.

"Katie has gone out of her way to help me with my post-graduation plans. She goes the extra mile, not only to provide seminars on how to advance professionally, but also to get to know students on a personal level."

Extra info


Wildcats to the Rescue Fun 5K


Run begins at Old Main


Feb. 27; check-in is at 9:30 a.m. and run begins at 11

Presented by the UA Faculty Fellows program, the Wildcats to the Rescue Fun 5K will benefit Helping Hands 4 Childhood Leukemia. More information is available online:

To make a donation to the Faculty Fellows program, visit Under "Designation," mark "Other" and type in "Faculty Fellows."

UA Faculty Fellows include:

  • Connie Beck, associate professor of psychology, assigned to the Transfer Student Center.
  • Rick Bennett, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences, assigned to the Disability Resources Center. 
  • Bryan Carter, associate professor of Africana studies, assigned to CATS Academics. 
  • Aurore Chabot, School of Art Professor, assigned to Maricopa Hall.
  • Cholik Chan, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering professor, assigned to Asian Pacific American Student Affairs.
  • Regina Deil-Amen, associate professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education, assigned to Kaibab-Huachuca Hall.
  • Frank Galarte, assistant professor in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies, assigned to the LGBTQ Resource Center Department.
  • Vic Piscitello, marketing lecturer in the Eller College of Management, assigned to La Paz Hall.
  • Dennis Ray, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, assigned to Yuma Hall.
  • Ron Trosper, American Indian studies professor, assigned to Native American Student Affairs. 
  • Karen Zimmerman, School of Art professor, assigned to Cochise Hall.

To learn more about all of the UA Faculty Fellows, visit:


Resources for the media

Jessica Litvack

UA Faculty Programs


Beth Miller

UA Student Affairs and Enrollment Management