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Faculty Focus: Reid blazes trail as ONU’s first director of freshman engineering

Kenneth ReidKenneth Reid has developed an interest in firsts. He just completed his first academic year as ONU’s first director of freshman engineering. He’s also just become one of the first people (the seventh, in fact) in the nation to receive a Ph.D. in engineering education. This latest personal accomplishment serves as another example of Ohio Northern’s faculty dedication to student success.

According to Reid, student success entails both the usual desires for good grades and excelling within the engineering program and a more complex goal: student integration. “Student integration means encouraging first-year students to become part of the engineering program and the ONU community and to interact more fully within their own peer group – their own freshman class,” Reid explains. “Research shows that the more integrated students feel, the more successful they are throughout their education.”

As freshman engineering students transition into the University atmosphere, peer support can only make them more successful. Reid’s main goals are to improve student retention and persistence within the freshman year of the engineering program so as to create a strong foundation on which students can build their futures.

“ONU already has a strong, hands-on, project-based program,” Reid says, “but I wanted to make sure that our freshman students didn’t get lost in the shuffle of their first year on campus.”

Reid tried to look at each area of the engineering program and place it into perspective for students. In his first year as director, Reid focused on introducing engineering students to the idea of entrepreneurship and how their degrees may benefit the world in bigger ways. “It’s about the big picture – not just about completing your degree,” Reid says.

Reid also points out that in most engineering programs at other universities, students do not take engineering classes until their second or third years. “ONU’s program encourages students to encounter engineering from the beginning,” Reid says, “and to see it as part of a global picture.”

As Reid continues with his plans for the freshman engineering program, he would like to offer even more support to first-year students. “Along with tutoring, I am trying to begin a ‘Freshman Learning Lab,’” Reid says. These Freshman Learning Labs would include an extension of professor office hours and a mentorship program between upper classmen and freshmen.

Reid’s ultimate goal, however, is to encourage students throughout their experience in the engineering program. As he continues to research “what makes students stay in engineering versus what makes them leave engineering,” Reid hopes to maintain the ONU tradition of improving student success.

Lydia Bottoni
Junior literature major