Live-In Faculty Bring the Lesson Home
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 02:09
Professor Maya Roth’s office in the Davis Performing Arts Center looks every bit the domain of a seasoned theater professor — performance posters are plastered on the door, artwork lines the walls and books, papers and programs litter the tables. But for Roth, it’s far from her most important space on campus.
Roth is one of five participants in Georgetown’s Faculty-in-Residence program, which allows faculty members and their families to live in university residence halls alongside the students they teach.
Along with the chaplains-in-residence, these faculty members attempt to connect academics with student life in a way that enhances both facets of the Hilltop experience.
Roth, the program director of theater and performance studies in the College, has resided in a spacious fifth-floor LXR Hall apartment with her husband and five-year-old son for the past three and a half years. She sees living with students as an extension of her role as a teacher.
“Because I’m in theater — and I do creative practice as well as academic courses — from my first year, I’ve had a really close relationship with many students,” she said.
Roth holds several classes each semester in her apartment and organizes formal and informal events for students living on East Campus, often coordinating with resident assistants to attract more participants. These activities range from faculty dinners to themed group discussions to trips to the Kennedy Center.
Her role, however, isn’t limited to that of a floor event planner. Roth believes the simple presence of a family in the hall is comforting to students, especially those whose permanent homes are far from D.C.
“I don’t think quite as many students would stop by and say hi in the lobby if we didn’t have a five-year-old kid running around,” she said.
Roth also sees her on-campus residence as essential to balancing her roles as a parent and a teacher.
“Since having a child, I cannot imagine how I would do all that I did before, and indeed now even more, if I didn’t live on campus,” she wrote in an email.
While they can’t always compete with the entertainment value of an energetic kindergartner, Georgetown’s Jesuits-in-residence bring a spiritual element to the residence halls, while simultaneously serving as mentors, like Roth and her colleagues.
Fr. David Collins, S.J., holds open houses every week in his eighth-floor Village C West suite. All students are invited to stop by for good conversation and, if they’re lucky, Collins’ excellent hot cider and cookies.
“It’s an unstructured way for students to come up and, in fact, raise issues that they want to talk about,” Collins said. “The advantage of putting so much emphasis on unstructured open house is that it allows themes to be set by students.”
According to Collins, a history professor, the experience of living in a residence hall allows faculty to interact with students they might never otherwise encounter.
“I like the wide range of spontaneous interactions with students,” Collins said. “I have history students in the classroom. I have Catholic students in the church. ... [Being a Jesuit-in-residence] is completely outside those two main contexts.”
For Fr. Dan Madigan, S.J., an Australian priest entering his first year as LXR’s Jesuit-in-residence, the experience represents a chance to expand his understanding of American college life.
“I was very interested to meet RAs — that was an eye-opener, because I didn’t go to a school like this,” Madigan said. “I went to undergrad in Australia, and we always go to state university as commuters, so we don’t have the sense of 24/7 residential contact.”
A theology professor, Madigan echoed Collins on the value of meeting a more diverse group of undergraduates.
“One of the things I wanted to do was get to know a broader cross-section of students,” Madigan said. “We make a lot of the fact that this is a Jesuit university, but many students never get to meet a Jesuit.”
Fr. Matthew Carnes, S.J., the chaplain-in-residence in Kennedy Hall, served as a Jesuit-in-residence for five years at Santa Clara University. He is taking his first crack at Georgetown’s program this semester and is in the process of organizing dorm activities that go way outside the box.
“I’m going to lead a secret Jesuit tour,” Carnes said. “Essentially, at nine at night we go with flashlights to different historical sites, get keys to see secret places around campus ... and finish up with ice cream at my apartment.”
Whether they’re leading trips to the Kennedy Center or simply providing desserts and advice, it’s clear that faculty-in-residence are a useful — and possibly underutilized — resource for students.
“Their events bring together people from different floors who would otherwise not meet each other, but I don’t think students take enough advantage of the opportunity,” Giulliana Gonzalez (NHS ’14) said. “I think they’re a very good support network, even if you’re not religious. The chaplain I had wasn’t my denomination, but they were still a great support. Just because you’re not religious doesn’t mean you’re not in need of a chaplain.”
And despite the fact that Georgetown students have a reputation for playing nearly as hard as they work, faculty-in-residence say that dorm life is no more chaotic than is typical for a college community.
“I hear less student noise where I am now than I did in the house where I was living before,” Cadigan said, referring to an all-Jesuit residence on 35th Street.
Collins agreed, with one caveat.
“Other than when the Yankees won the World Series, I’ve never been kept up at night,” he said.