A randomly-assigned intolerable roommate is a legitimate concern for incoming freshmen, but the thought of living down the hall from a professor never even crosses the mind of most new college students.
Schools across the country are starting to toss professors into the residence hall mix, allowing faculty members (and sometimes their families!) to live rent-free among the students in hopes of encouraging a greater sense of community.
According to the Washington Post, professors that live on campus usually agree to answer questions, attend floor meetings and host small gatherings in their “dorms,” which are typically larger than the rooms occupied by students. The practice is growing in popularity at large urban universities wishing to create a more personal, small-campus feel.
In 1997, Caltech’s assistant director of resident life, Sue Friedman, told the Los Angeles Times “It’s very rare to see residence halls go beyond the concept of undergraduate or graduate housing. It’s rare to see faculty living in campus housing."
Although the trend is still not what you’d call common, USA Today reports that about 200 colleges in the U.S. have developed living-learning residential programs in an attempt to engage students outside the classroom and allow them to live on campus with others who have similar interests.
The practice of professors living among their students is actually nothing new.
“The basic concept goes to the roots of Oxford and Cambridge; when they were founded in the 16th century they had faculty that lived with the students,” W. Robert Midden, a Bowling Green State University chemistry professor who helped found the first residential learning community on the Ohio campus. “Harvard and Yale still have residential colleges,” he said.
In addition to Harvard and Yale, professors live among the masses at several other big-name schools.
Thanks to the Faculty-in-Residence Program at Duke University, students get the chance to interact with faculty members and their families on a regular basis— in a setting essentially regulated by students themselves, one that is largely free of the formality of the traditional teacher-student relationship.
The University of Florida’s Faculty-in-Residence Program promotes interaction between students and faculty outside of the classroom setting. Professors live in specially designed apartments within or adjacent to residence halls and help plan and implement educational, recreational, social and cultural programs while serving as a role model, mentor, advisor, and leader in the residential community.
In many of the housing options at Cornell University, faculty members and their families live and interact with students on a daily basis, enriching the campus living experience for both. Professors and their families enjoy socializing with students in various programs, especially those that involve food, music, and the outdoors.
UCLA’s Faculty-in-Residence Program strives to promote mentoring relationships between resident students and faculty members. Faculty members who live in UCLA residence halls are committed to student development and success, offering a variety of programs which allow students to share in their interests and learn more about the work done by UCLA professors, a unique opportunity for students to relate to faculty members on a more personal level.
Jeffrey Sich, a 55-year-old associate professor and director of educational programs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., lives in an apartment-style sophomore residence hall. When he told his friends in St. Louis that he was moving to D.C. to take on a new teaching position, they were shocked to learn he’d be living on campus. “It’s a great conversation starter," he told the Washington Post.
“I knew I’d be in a type of transitional state since I was coming to a new university from St. Louis, and this was a great way to immerse myself into the institution,” Sich said. “For me, it’s a six-minute walk to work, and it’s just really great being back on a campus again.”
Dr. Angela Hudson, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at UCLA, seems to share Sich’s feelings. “I love my Faculty-in-Residence position," she told AOL’s Wallet Pop. Hudson has lived in student housing for four years, currently in a faculty apartment with student housing located on the floors above. Her first years living on campus were on the same floor as undergraduates. “Residents were very respectful,” said Hudson. “No blaring music after 10 p.m., no loud partying.”
How do the students feel about all this?
Sich admits that not all students grasp the benefits of the faculty-in-residence program, but every Thursday a few of his students come by his apartment to talk about their future, rather than bar hop, The Daily Orange reports.
Maggie Malloy is a freshman international relations major at George Washington University who does not have a professor living in her dorm this year. “I have heard all the professors are really cool with helping on homework, discussing books and even cooking Sunday brunches,” she said. “Personally, I think it’s a great way to make connections in the university.”
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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