Meet Patty Klug, director of the Roz and Gene Chaiken Center for Student Success

August 31, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Patricia Klug recently began her tenure as the inaugural director of the Roz and Gene Chaiken Center for Student Success in the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts. She comes to Penn State via Juniata College, where she served as disability coordinator and then director of student accessibility services.

In the following Q and A, Klug shares her vision for the Chaiken Center and recaps her professional journey that brought her to Penn State.

Welcome to Penn State! Tell us a bit more about yourself.

I am a first-generation college student who grew up in central Minnesota. My mother was an entrepreneur who owned and managed a doughnut shop and then an ice cream shop, and my dad was a diesel mechanic. Although neither of them attended college themselves, they were committed to making sure my brother and I received a college education.

After receiving my undergraduate degree in English from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1992, I worked for two years at a software company in Minneapolis as a sales assistant. I returned to college in 1994 after marrying my husband, Dave, and began working in higher education as a teaching assistant while pursing my master’s degree in English and rhetoric at St. Cloud State University. I graduated from that program in 1996 and taught for more than 20 years at various colleges while raising our two children, Matthew and Paige. In addition to teaching English, literature survey and communication courses, I taught first-year seminars and college success- and transition-related classes, served as a first-year adviser, and held an administrative role overseeing general education curriculum and faculty. I had the pleasure of teaching students from various groups (traditional-aged students, adult learners returning to college to re-train for new jobs, and newly arrived immigrant populations to central Minnesota), and had the chance to work in in-person, remote, and hybrid environments long before the pandemic.

That experience gave me the valuable perspective that students bring unique strengths and face various obstacles while attaining their college degree. For that reason, I became very interested in helping students transition to college – particularly first-generation students, students with disabilities, students of color, international students, immigrant students and other underrepresented groups for whom the transition can be more challenging.

I started my own coaching and consulting business in 2014 and managed that business for three years while also teaching first-year seminars and gender classes at the College of Saint Benedict and St. John’s University (CSBSJU). I also returned to graduate school at St. Cloud State University and obtained my master’s degree in higher education administration in 2017. Much of my research and writing for that degree focused on serving diverse students in higher education.

My family and I relocated to Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, soon after I graduated so I could begin my tenure at Juniata College. While there, I was deeply involved in increasing campus accessibility overall for students with disabilities and raising awareness around neurodiversity. I also taught workshops with faculty and EDI administrators on universal design for learning, and I established a faculty, staff, and student combined accessibility committee.

What interested you in becoming the inaugural director for the Gene and Roz Chaiken Center for Student Success?

I was interested in the position because it presents both challenging and meaningful opportunities to create systems of guidance and support that ensure a world-class liberal arts education is an inclusive endeavor for all our students. We have told students who have been admitted to Penn State that they have earned access to this educational opportunity, so we as an institution should give them the guidance and support that they need to make sure their academic, career, and life aspirations can be realized.

Helping students connect to the right resource at the right time during their educational journey is both crucial for them and fulfilling for me. I love doing the systems thinking and design, and I also love working with students one-on-one to help them develop into the people they want to be.

How are you settling into your new surroundings?

I have found the Penn State and College of the Liberal Arts staff to be incredibly welcoming, and I am so excited to work with staff and faculty who are committed to the same student-centered vision as I am. I am enjoying being surrounded by the beauty of campus, my new friendly and professional colleagues, my soon-to-meet students, and the great amenities of the campus and State College.

Speaking of “new,” the Chaiken Center for Student Success is also new. Tell us more about the center – its purpose, what types of services/resources it will eventually provide, and who will be able to take advantage of those resources.

My vision is for the Chaiken Center to become a beacon that shines a light on the wonderful resources that our college has to offer students, and to identify, create, and develop other resources we may need to help students be successful academically, personally, and professionally. I also plan to complement and enhance students’ connection to resources and services already provided by the college’s Office of Academic Advising and Career Enrichment Network. My goal is to first develop programming and a place for connection for the college’s Chaiken Scholars, and then build upon that model after that to the benefit of all students in the College of the Liberal Arts.

I will also be looking to create an open learning and gathering space where students can come in, talk with me and others, engage in workshops, and interact with each other about the challenges and opportunities they are experiencing. I also am looking to gather input on student experiences on campus and hear from them what resources would be most beneficial to them.

What are some of the center’s most immediate priorities in your mind? What are some of the longer-term goals?

The most immediate to me is to connect with students, starting with the Chaiken scholars, learn about their experiences, and hear how they believe they could be better guided and supported. I also want them to get to know each other to develop peer connections. Once our space in Burrowes is ready, students will be able to study together, get to know one another, and meet others who we invite into the space to showcase the resources and information they can provide students.

I then want to connect with our first-year and Pell-eligible students to learn similar information that can inform how we can better support their transition to college and ensure that their distinct learning needs, interests, and aspirations are cultivated. I want to know how we can help students bring their whole selves into their learning and help them achieve their version of academic, career, and life success. With this knowledge, I will be able to expand and build out future programming for all students in the College of the Liberal Arts.

Programming will include networking, mentoring and communication skill-building opportunities; open chats for exploration; informal presentations from guest speakers about available University and college resources; collaborative programming with the Career Enrichment Network; workshops on topics such as the importance of building your own personal success team, talking with your professor, and learning about your internal motivators; and mindfulness and wellness activities.

Where is the Chaiken Center located? Are there regular “drop-in” hours?

The Chaiken Center and my office are both located in 101 Burrowes Building, which is a beautifully renovated building. I will be announcing regular drop-in hours in the coming weeks; in the meantime, please feel free to stop in, introduce yourself, and say hello (masked of course).

You will see a transformation of the space over the semester as we re-design it as a welcoming space for students and others to collaborate and share resources, information, and dialogue.

How can students learn more about the Chaiken Center?

Students can email me, call 814-865-6006, or stop by 101 Burrowes Building to learn more about the Chaiken Center. We will be launching a web page soon and will hold a “pandemic safe” open house once our space is fully transformed. In the meantime, I plan to connect with our Chaiken Scholars, so we can get together and I can learn how they would like to see the center address their needs.

This might be a difficult question to answer, but how do you define “student success?”

Student success is and should be defined by each individual student. My work is to guide, support and empower students as they explore, develop, design and execute their plan for academic and post-graduate success. For the center, this means providing the roadmaps that allow students to achieve their academic, personal, and professional goals. The center also is here to help students leverage their liberal arts education so they can pursue their desired future journeys.

What do you love most about working with students?

I love working with students at a unique point in their lives when their perspectives of the world are expanding and developing in transformational ways. They are learning about themselves and others, gaining deep knowledge and understanding about a variety of content areas, and beginning to see how all of it – and us – are connected. I love that I get to be a part of their journeys and hopefully be one of their guides or mentors along the way.

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Last Updated September 01, 2021