Faculty in Residence Bond With Students

Running into professors outside of class can be awkward, but for some students it happens daily.

Nationwide, university faculty members are increasingly opting to live in on-campus residence halls – all for the sake of fostering bonds between students and their professors, The Washington Post reported Monday. At Georgetown, five faculty members live in residence halls on campus along with chaplains-in-residence and hall directors as part of the Faculty-in-Residence program facilitated by Residence Life on campus.

The program seeks to promote deeper relationships between students and faculty outside the classroom, placing faculty members in apartments in Kennedy, McCarthy, Reynolds, and Copley Halls, as well as LXR. Tad Howard, a dean in the College who lives in Kennedy Hall, said the experience has helped him see the bigger picture of campus life.

“I love my job, love being on this campus, and saw a chance to deepen my relationships with students and get a better sense of their overall experience, beyond what I can see from the Dean’s Office,” Howard wrote in an email. Howard lives with his wife Susan and 19-month-old son Grady. “Before living on campus, I was already unable to leave my work at work – living at work seemed like a deliciously unhealthy way to blur that line a little more.”

Though Howard made a switch in living style when he opted to reside on campus, Grady has only known Hilltop life.

“He was born right here on campus (at the hospital, of course), has made countless college friends, and thinks he has a huge yard that a football team practices and plays in,” said Howard, who has lived in Kennedy Hall since the summer of 2007.

Dan Porterfield, an English professor and senior vice president for strategic development, spoke of the benefits of living on campus. “I love going to church in Dahlgren, playing pick-up basketball at Yates, and eating chicken fingers in Leo’s. I love sharing the Georgetown experience with my children who have performed in Rangila, cheered and yelled for the Hoyas, danced in Hoyathon, and sold lemonade in Red Square,” Porterfield, who lives in Copley hall with his wife and three children, wrote in an email.

any students appreciate the special relationships they can build with faculty members in their residence hall.

“Knowing someone as a friend and neighbor is usually different than knowing someone via a professional or academic setting . Any student can benefit from having a personal relationship with a faculty member,” wrote Paul Beidlingmaier (COL ’11), who worked with Howard as a resident adviser in Kennedy Hall as a sophomore, in an email.

Beidlingmaier is now one of two RAs for the Justice and Diversity in Action Living and Learning Community in McCarthy Hall where visiting professor in the School of Foreign Service Marilyn McMorrow is a faculty member in residence. He expressed an appreciation for impromptu meetings with professors as he goes about his day.

“Seeing professor McMorrow in the mornings as I leave McCarthy evokes an image of two neighbors catching up with each other as they go to retrieve the daily paper,” he said. “I can’t even count the number of times I run into Tad in the Southwest Quad lawn keeping an eye on [his son] Grady, making sure he is not tearing the place apart.”

“Over the four years I’ve been on the Justice and Diversity in Action floor, Professor McMorrow has been an important asset as a counselor, professor, advisor, and friend,” said Joseph Graumann ( SFS `11), who is the other RA for the JDA Living and Learning Community, in an email.

Both faculty members in residence and their students expressed their appreciation for getting to know each other outside the classroom.

“Nothing substitutes the connection you build when just hanging out with someone. Laughing and joking with a professor, seeing that they are regular people just like you, and participating in quality events with them build stronger relationships which just aren’t possible in class,” said Jacqueline Snell (COL ’12), a resident adviser in Kennedy Hall with Dean Howard, in an email.

“I think students who don’t have a faculty in residence miss an opportunity to get to know a faculty member on a personal level. As basic as it sounds, it’s easy to think of professors as `teaching machines’ who lecture from a dais and hold office hours without having an outside life,” Graumann said.

Maya Roth, assistant professor and program director of theater and performance studies in the College, lives in LXR with her husband Bill and son Yul. Her students have noticed the difference.

“As Maya’s student in several upper-level theater and performance studies seminars, it has been a true gift to meet with my classmates around her coffee table, all of us piled on couches and chairs, clutching cups of tea or lemonade and discussing plays,” Miranda Hall (COL ’11) wrote in an email.

By living side-by-side with students, faculty who live on campus gain an inside look at the experiences facing students on a day-to-day basis.

“As a senior officer of the university, I’m present to the 24/7 experience of students, not just their classroom experience,” Porterfield said, adding that his role as co-habitant complements his high-level administrator position. “I think it’s helpful for senior leaders to be aware of what’s going on around campus outside of the classroom, to be present to students, to rely on the university for the same services as students, to live with the same questions about security or wireless as students, and to be a part of the culture and vitality of campus,” said Porterfield, who has lived on campus since 2003.

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