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Keeping Students Connected Results in a Richer Experience

For Sarah Kirby, professor, housing specialist and department extension leader in the Department of Youth, Family and Community Sciences(YFCS), making sure her students succeed is a top priority.

“My greatest accomplishments are when my students succeed. I will never forget my first master’s student who went on to earn her Ph.D. at my alma mater [Oklahoma State University]. She’s now teaching in New York,” Kirby said.

Kirby teaches multiple online courses at NC State, including YFCS 585: Professional Ethics and Family Policy, YFCS 500: The Supervised Professional Experience and YFCS: 540 Environmental Influences on the Family. She’s worked for the university for 21 years and has been teaching in the YFCS graduate program for a decade.

When asked about the advice she’d give her online students, Kirby said, “[Online and] distance [education] courses are very different from face-to-face and require that students become disciplined in scheduling time for studying and assignments, especially on weeks when the class doesn’t meet together.”

Kirby suggests students identify a specific time for each course early in the program and hold themselves accountable for that time. She also encourages students to participate fully in their NC State Online and Distance Education courses. This includes participating in discussion forums, web conferencing and social media.

“It is important to feel connected and your experience will be richer for it,” Kirby said. She adds that she enjoys interacting with her students. According to Kirby, she learns as much from her students as they do from her.

“Our students are engaged in the field and are passionate about the work they do. Many of our students are nontraditional students and are practicing family-life and youth professionals and as such they bring a wealth of applied experiences to their studies,” Kirby said.

In addition to being a professor, Kirby is the State Coordinator for the Healthy Homes Partnership which focuses on improving the health and safety of children and their caregivers by reducing housing hazards that cause injury and disease. She’s also actively involved in educational programs related to preparation, response and recovery after natural disasters.