KENNESAW, Ga. | Oct 5, 2022
When students begin their college journeys, they’re often faced with tremendous change – greater independence, often balancing study and work, all while learning about the vast array of academic programs, student organizations and activities.
A new resource at Kennesaw State called the President's Focused Learners (PFL) program works with students one-on-one to help them navigate some of those challenges, giving them the guidance they need to succeed and keep them on track to graduate.
“The transition from high school to college took a toll on me,” said Kennesaw State student Kayla Turner. “Leaving my family was difficult, and on top of that, I wasn’t connecting with my chosen major.”
Turner saw an advertisement for the PFL program, which promised to help students navigate resources and expectations at Kennesaw State, including help for students who may want to change majors. She attended an event and met Hannah Stocks, executive director of Student Advising and Retention and PFL’s first director.
“From the minute I met Hannah, she has been my mentor and really helped me figure out my place at Kennesaw State,” Turner said.
After a one-on-one meeting, Stocks suggested Turner take an aptitude test to find what professions fit her personality and interests. The result was crime scene investigator.
“Seeing that result was almost emotional,” said Turner, whose family is full of police and military members. “Throughout my life, so many people have told me to go into criminal justice, but I pushed away from it. When I saw that result in front of my eyes, I knew it was the path meant for me.”
Stocks, a Kennesaw State alumna and former academic advisor, helped Turner make the transition to the criminal justice program, housed within the Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and build a new class schedule. Turner also plans to enroll in the Roswell Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy, where she will learn about the ins and outs of the police force, later this year.
“The PFL program is in place to give students resources or information they need to be as successful as possible,” Stocks said. “Being in college can be overwhelming because students have so many responsibilities. PFL helps students find their niche and feel connected to things that matter the most to them.”
There is no application for the PFL program, and since the program began in Fall 2021, Stocks and her team have served more than 2,000 students. In addition to helping students change majors, the PFL program hosts workshops on topics like time management and connects students to financial aid resources. There are no boxes students must check or meetings they must attend. PFL is a program designed for each individual.
“Ultimately, my job is to show these students that we care for them, and we are paying attention to their needs,” Stocks said.
PFL is just one of several programs focused on helping KSU students navigate the transition to college.
Where PFL focuses on students’ academic and logistical needs, the new FLIGHT: First-Year Connections program helps students connect with one another, build a community, and create a sense of belonging and affinity for KSU.
The program, which was developed by the Division of Student Affairs with the support of the Office of the President, brings together multiple units on campus — Orientation, Student Leadership and Service, Counseling and Psychological Services, Residence Life, and Housing, among others — to ensure that students can connect with the resources they need.
“This is a long-term strategy to create an identity where every student in that class knows they’re part of a team, of a family,” said Eric Arneson, vice president for Student Affairs. “KSU is committed to student retention and graduation, and we know that students who are engaged with their school tend to stay; students who are not too often fade away.”
Students are officially welcomed to the FLIGHT program during orientation sessions, spanning from May to July. During that time, students receive a special FLIGHT jersey, which includes their class graduation year. The inaugural class, FLIGHT26, has already taken off.
“There is already an incredible energy around the FLIGHT program among the students, which I find to be fantastic,” Arneson said. “It has taken on a life of its own, and that is the greatest endorsement for what we’re doing here.”
– Abbey O’Brien Barrows
Photos by Darnell Wilburn and David Caselli
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.