Occidental's Eric Newhall Wins National Student Advocate Award
Eric Newhall, director of the Occidental College Core Program, has been named one of 10 recipients of the national Outstanding First Year Student Advocate Award.
The honor, presented by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, recognizes faculty, staff, administrators and students who enhance the lives of first-year college students.
For winning the distinction, Newhall will be recognized at the National Resource Center’s annual conference in Dallas in February. He was chosen from among 235 nominees.
“Eric describes himself as attempting to create a program for first-year students that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for them to fall between the cracks,” said Occidental Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs Kenyon Chan, who nominated Newhall for the award. “From the beginning of his career, he has always taken particular care with first-year students, because he understands the difficulty and complexity of navigating that transitional year.”
In addition to his faculty appointment as professor of English and comparative literary studies and American studies, Newhall is director of the Core program, whose cultural studies seminars and colloquia form the centerpiece of the first-year experience. With the help of an Irvine Foundation grant, Newhall in 2002 implemented the Learning and Living Community program in which first-year students are assigned to residence halls to live with other students enrolled in their Core seminar. Under the format, students are encouraged to continue classroom conversations in their dormitories and at meals.
“Students who feel comfortable and at home will be more likely to learn from each other and to perform to their full potential,” Newhall said. “At the same time, because our student body reflects the diversity of southern California and the United States, as well as international students, it introduces students on a very personal level to cultural perspectives other than their own.”
Newhall also is founding director of Occidental’s Multicultural Summer Institute, an annual five-week program that prepares students from disadvantaged backgrounds for the start of their Oxy academic careers.
Newhall began his Occidental teaching career in 1975, after having graduated from the institution in 1967. He holds a master’s and doctoral degree in American literature from UCLA. Apart from his teaching duties, Newhall also is associate dean of the college. He is a five-time winner of the Loftsgordon Award for Outstanding Teaching, given by each graduating class to a professor with “exceptional ability to communicate and inspire.”
“Eric’s role for more than 20 years has been a sensitive and pivotal one here – lobbying for change, creating programs to enhance new students’ success, serving on key committees and searches, and teaching his peers about teaching,” Occidental President Theodore R. Mitchell said. “He influences the success of all our students and faculty.”
The National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition is based at the University of South Carolina. The Outstanding First Year Student Advocate Award is co-sponsored by the Houghton Mifflin Company.