LANCASTER — St. Mary's High School is beginning a new adjunct professor program that involves bringing in accomplished professionals and college-level professors to guest lecture in certain classes throughout the semester.
The goal of the program is to take the theories and concepts students learn in the classroom and expose them to the next-level thinking and application from someone who has real-world experience in the appropriate fields.
Head of School Kevin Kelleher brought this idea to the school's board of trustees and is excited about the program's potential.
"There is really no limit to ideas for a program like this, because we have such a knowledgeable and successful alumni and friends base here at St. Mary's, with experienced professionals in so many different fields," Kelleher said, noting these include college professors, judges, wealth management professionals and neurologists. "The possibilities as to what our students can learn are endless, and will hopefully give them the edge when it comes to gaining extra experience and maybe even choosing a career path."
St. Mary's will work various adjunct professors into different departments throughout the spring semester, growing the program each year. The adjunct professor program will begin in January with Dianna Cichocki, clinical assistant professor in Management Science and Systems at the University at Buffalo School of Management, joining faculty members of St. Mary's mathematics and finance departments.
Cichocki teaches statistical decisions in management and statistical foundations in analytics, with a focus on incorporating technology into her curriculum. She wants to add a new dynamic to the typical high school classroom.
"Most of my lectures at UB are set up online, so I would love to set up something similar to an online lab for St. Mary's students to get them exposed to a different kind of classroom setting, and to really introduce them to (Microsoft) Excel because there is rarely any time to learn these skills in a regular high school stats or precalculus curriculum," she said. "Just having a basic working knowledge of the program can really give St. Mary's students a leg up in college."
The business world is clearly in need of people who can work with and manipulate "big data," and Cichocki noted that the field is only going to grow. "Data analytics is a huge field to get into, so if students have some exposure to these concepts, that's huge for colleges and employers," Cichocki said.
Dean of Academic Affairs Keith Junik expects students to respond well to the program as a whole.
"The kids will get excited to have a guest lecturer. Just to have the opportunity to mix things up on this level is exciting for us all," Junik said. "The teachers, themselves, are excited as well, as they are always looking for new things to incorporate into their lesson plans."
Junik emphasized that the ultimate goal of St. Mary's as an academic institution is to leave students as well prepared as possible for life after high school, and the adjunct faculty program will only bolster this goal.
"Academically, we want to expose our students to as many things as we can, so that the things they try in the future won't seem so abstract, and so they have confidence to not only succeed in college, but also in life beyond the classroom," Junik concluded.