Kevin Wright, Collegiate Professor
Kevin Wright, Professor, Department of Human Development
Education: BS and MA, criminology and corrections, Sam Houston State University, 1972 and 1973, respectively; PhD, community systems planning and development, Pennsylvania State University, 1977
Teaching specialties/research interests: Parenting, troubled youth, aggression and violence, delinquency and substance abuse prevention, positive youth development, organizational development and planning
Congratulations on your appointment as collegiate professor at Mountainview College. When do you take over from Bob Emerson?
Thank you! I officially started as Mountainview’s collegiate professor (formerly known as faculty master) in July 2011.
How long have you been at Binghamton and what assignments have you had on campus?
I just completed my 31st year at the University. I have served as chair of the Department of Human Development twice during that time. I’m also heavily involved in many community groups.
Since you mentioned the community groups, let’s start there. Would you tell us a little about that work?
In the past I did a lot of work in prison research and criminology, but now I’m mostly working with schools and community agencies to develop programs that keep kids from getting into trouble. I jumped at the chance to do this because I’ve seldom met anyone in prison who hasn’t had fairly horrific things happen to them in their family or their community.
Can you give us a few examples of current projects?
For the last couple of years I’ve been working with a number of schools to develop an alternative to in-school suspension for kids who are often given this punishment. In-school suspension doesn’t help us deal with students’ behavioral, social or emotions problems. They also miss their educational opportunities because they’re stuck in a room.
With the Opportunities for Broome Head Start, I have developed and implemented an educational program for parents of kids who are highly aggressive very early in life. Typically, these kids continue that behavior for the rest of their life. We’ve run six sessions and I now have enough data to determine if the program is working. Once I complete my analyses, I’d like to see the program in every Head Start in the nation.
A couple other things I’m involved in are the Binghamton City School District Community Coalition Group, which is working to better link youth-serving agencies with the school district; and the Binghamton City Police Neighborhood Partnership Committee, which is working to improve police-community relations.
With all this going on in addition to teaching, why did you apply to become a collegiate professor?
In the course of working with schools, communities and community organizations, I’ve found that I spend most of my time working at a very grassroots level addressing problems. It’s who I have become. When I looked at the job of collegiate professor, I realized that the skills needed and the activities involved are exactly what I do in the community. So I thought, why shouldn’t I apply those skills here on campus, with a group of students I think really highly of? We have amazing students at Binghamton…they’re enthusiastic, they’re engaged in learning, they want to do well and they’re a fun group to be with. They’re going to be the movers and shakers out there, so the opportunity to help them at a grassroots level was really compelling.
How do you think you’ll be able to help students?
Students are sometimes reluctant to approach and connect with faculty. As collegiate professor, rather than being this faculty member in a class, I’ll be sitting over in Mountainview running programs, walking around and being at events. I’ll be available there so students can connect with me in a unique way. I can give them “grandfatherly” advice. I can tell them how the University works, how to navigate things and how to deal with professors. I can help them find the resources they need. And I can light a fire under them if that’s what they need.
Why do you think you were selected for the position?
I bring some unique skills to the job. I’ve taught thousands of students, heard lots of stories and met lots of personalities. I’ve also dealt with many troubled families and troubled kids. I’m looking forward to using these skills as collegiate professor, because I think that job is special. Binghamton is one of few universities worldwide that has faculty who serve in this type of role. It’s a unique way for a medium-sized university to be more student-focused.
Speaking of “student-focused,” is that how you describe yourself? Is that what you see in the other collegiate professors?
Students say I’m a hard professor, but also that I’m fair and student-oriented. As far as the other collegiate professors, I noticed a spark among all of them. They’re very engaged, very serious and very enthusiastic about their job. They’re doing some really interesting things and integrating them into their communities.
What do you have planned for Mountainview?
One of the things I’ll do with students in my community is something I do with all my students: talk to them about their careers. I find that students want to have their futures planned out, and I tell them that that’s good and they should give it thought. But there will be things that will come into their lives that will totally alter their direction. Some things are good and some things are bad, but they need to be prepared for that because it will redirect them.
I’ve also met with Greg Steele, assistant director at Mountainview, and we’re excited to work on expanding existing programs and developing some new ones for the college. I plan to do a program that will help students learn how to navigate the University; it will consist of six sessions spaced over the course of the academic year. We’ll talk about things like what the University’s ratings are based on, what it means to attend a research University, what the different levels of professorship mean and how tenure works. I also want students to learn how important it is to get to know faculty, learn how use them and not to be afraid of them.
Since I know so many people in the community through my work, I want to get different types of professionals over to Mountainview so they can interact with students, perhaps at regular lunches. I also want to work on getting more of our students out of the residential community and into life experiences in the community.
In addition, my family and I live nearby and I think we’ll come over and eat in the dining hall on a fairly regular basis. This will give students the chance to connect with me, as a professor, on a personal level.
Are you familiar with the Residential Life environment?
With the exception of going to a couple dining halls, I’ve never spent any time in a residential area in the 30+ years I’ve been here. So, I know little about that aspect of campus life, and I think most of my colleagues are in the same boat. One of the things I’m also interested in is exploring how we inform the faculty about what it’s like to be a student.
What do you expect to be the most challenging aspect of the job?
Residential Life utilizes more formal structural processes than I am used to in the academic side of the University. I will need to adapt to those organizational processes. But mostly, one of the greatest challenges for me will be the schedule! I’m usually up early and to bed early, but Mountainview College Council meetings take place at night so I’ve got to turn my “clock” by about four hours. That may be difficult!