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Experienced SHU professor gives advice to students

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="311"] Courtesy of[/caption] After teaching more than 4,000 students over the 20 years that he has been at Seton Hall, Dr. John Paitakes, senior faculty associate of the criminal justice department, has a good idea of how students learn. Now he has used that knowledge to put together a list of eight tips for student success. Dr. Paitakes said that even the simplest decision that students routinely make, such as deciding where to sit in a classroom, can be an early determinant of how well the student will do in the course. The eight factors, listed in Tips on How Students Can Be Successful in College, that set proactive students apart from the rest include classroom seating, preparation, restfulness, class participation, assignments, attendance, professor interaction and student networking. Dr. Paitakes backs his claims with experience and evidence from his two decades as a professor at SHU. He previously taught at Raritan Valley Community College, Kean University, Rutgers University and in a doctoral program at Union Institute & University. Recalling a former student at Seton Hall who did particularly well from the beginning to the end of her academic career, Dr. Paitakes says she made herself distinct from the beginning by sitting in the front of the classroom and asking plenty of questions. Dr. Paitakes says that while he does not explicitly tell college students where to sit, their choice does make an impression on the professor. A student perpetually seated in the back row might raise some questions. “What perception does that give to the faculty?” Dr. Paitakes asks. “Are you trying to hide out? Are you trying to work on personal things?” Dr. Paitakes takes class participation (fourth factor of student success) seriously. In the courses he teaches, participation counts for 25 percent of a student’s final grade. While students may fear being wrong in front of their peers, Dr. Paitakes says students should take a chance at answering questions, even if they unsure on being correct—wrong answers can spur further discussion. Dr. Paitakes says that verbal communication with professors and peers (seventh and eighth factors) better prepares students for communicating beyond the classroom. Dr. Paitakes uses his experiences coordinating criminal justice internships to support his claim. “A lot of employers come back to me and say, ‘they’re very good on technology, but their communication skills aren’t always that good,” Dr. Paitakes said. Dr. Paitakes had 25 years of field experience in criminal justice before he began his career as a professor here at Seton Hall. He initially worked as a probation officer, supervising both juvenile and adult probation. By the time he retired, he was the Assistant Chief Probation Officer of the Somerset County Probation Department in Somerville, N.J. Dr. Paitakes was then appointed to the New Jersey State Parole Board (SPB) and began teaching full-time at SHU. Drawing from experience, Dr. Paitakes says that his goal as a professor is to prepare students for ‘the real world’, or as he puts it, “out of the classroom and into a job.” Dr. Paitakes’ list can be found at story/news/local/2015/08/20/ tips-succeed-college/31980165/ Brianna Bernath can be reached at


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