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Meet Professor Peter Collier
Meet Professor Peter Collier

Professor Peter Collier took a non-traditional road to his position at PSU and that dramatically informs his research and teaching. He deeply understands that not everyone arrives at a university skilled at "being a college student." Dr. Collier began his education studying engineering at Iowa State University in the late 1960's. From there he moved to New York City where he studied at Julliard and later worked several years as a commercial song writer. He moved back to Oregon in the 1970's, but did not resume his academic studies until 1985 when he earned an associate degree in nursing from Rogue Community College. He earned a Bachelor's degree from Southern Oregon University in 1987 and finally landed at PSU after earning his Ph.D. in System Science and Sociology in 1997. His wide-ranging education and real-life experiences make Collier uniquely qualified to study and teach about the sociology of higher education, identity development and social psychology.

Currently Professor Collier's research focuses on issues around how a lack of familiarity with the taken-for-granted aspects of higher education make it more difficult for students from non-traditional backgrounds to succeed at the university. "Students First" is a demonstration project aimed at developing and testing practical methods for colleges to retain low-income, first-generation students through effective student advising resources. Collier stresses that the ways in which university systems interact with students must change to take into account how student backgrounds influence learning preparedness and education goals, and additionally, students must both have access to and be informed of a range of available on-campus tools to successfully transition from non-traditional backgrounds to successful learning behaviors. The "Students First" project will help students understand university expectations thereby improving retention and promoting success.

Professor Collier regularly publishes and presents on his research findings. Recent publications include "Serving and Learning: A Student Workbook for Community-Based Experiences Across the Disciplines," Stylus Press, 2005 (co-authored with Christine Cress, Vicki Reitenauer and other PSU collaborators ); and an article in Self and Identity, "Role Theory and Social Cognition: Learning to Think like a Recycler," 2005. He is the Principal Investigator on two projects, "Students First: Improving First-Generation Student Retention in Higher Education," funded at $374,940 by the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Improvement in Post-Secondary Education Grant Program; and "Improving First-Generation Low Income Student Retention in Higher Education: Examining the Persistence of Role-Mastery Based Advising and Telementoring Intervention Effects," funded at $15,000 by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Research Grant Program.

An enthusiastic teacher, Professor Collier attributes his success to his ability to connect academic concepts with real-life experiences through metaphors and stories that are engaging to students.

Name: Peter Collier
Title: Professor, Sociology
office: 217O CH
phone: 503-725-3961