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Universities Encourage Professors To Live With Students In Residence Halls

November 8, 2010

Two students in dorm room looking at a computerSome college students may be surprised to find new neighbors in their residence halls. According to Wallet Pop, colleges across the country are encouraging professors to live in student residence halls to create a homier, community-driven living environment and perhaps form lifelong friendships.

The program, called "Faculty-in-Residence", allows professors--and sometimes their families--to live rent-free and close to campus. In exchange, they must live among the masses and provide support to undergraduate students. The Washington Post added that professors must also attend floor meetings and host small gatherings (students, however, are not required to attend these gatherings).

The practice was used in the early days of academia and has recently been re-adopted, particularly at large urban universities to create more of a "small-campus feel". George Washington University, for example, started the program in 1998 with freshmen to create an academic feel in the halls. According to The Daily Orange, Syracuse University's independent campus newspaper, GWU administrators realized that freshmen students were already going through a big transition so in an effort to not overwhelm them, the program was revamped in 2004 and aimed towards sophomores, who were more accustomed to campus life and thus more likely to interact with faculty members in the residence hall.

Some students appreciate the opportunity to live with professors. Maggie Malloy is a freshman at GWU and although she does not have a professor living in her dorm this year, she told The Daily Orange she would be open to the opportunity for next year. "I have heard all the professors are really cool with helping on homework, discussing books and even cooking Sunday brunches. Personally, I think it's a great way to make connections in the university," she said.

Other universities, such as Duke and Cornell, have also begun housing professors in residence halls, noted Wallet Pop. The University of California Los Angeles has 16 professors from a variety of departments living with students to promote mentoring relationships.

While it might seem strange for professors to live among hundreds of freshmen or sophomores, many said they feel right at home. "It energizes me to be around such young, bright people," said Alexei Vranich, an adjunct professor of anthropology and archeology at UCLA. Vranich lives in a residence hall with 900 undergraduate students.

In fact, many professors are excited to get to know students outside the classroom, reported The Washington Post. Daniel Porterfield, a Georgetown English professor and vice president for strategic development, has lived in Copley Hall with his wife and three daughters for seven years. He said living with students helps him understand how a campus operates and what students think; it forces him to be "culturally savvy".

Steven Lerman, GWU's new provost who used to work at MIT, where he and his wife lived in a graduate dorm for nine years, said, "We got to understand [students'] lives in a way I never did in the classroom." Lerman's first visitor at his new GWU home was a former MIT student-neighbor.

Jeffrey Sich, a 55-year-old associate professor and director of educational programs at GWU, recently relocated from St. Loius and said he is looking forward to immersing himself into the institution. While he enjoys being on campus and among students, he has learned one important lesson while living in a residence hall: "I've learned you need earplugs Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights," he said to The Daily Orange.


Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin

Sources:

"Beyond the Hill In mixed company: GW pushes professors to live in dorms alongside students," dailyorange.com, October 13, 2010, Meghin Delaney

"Colleges' newest dorm dwellers: professors," washingtonpost.com, September 27, 2010, Jenna Johnson

"Universities moving some professors in with students," walletpop.com, November 2, 2010, Charlotte Taylor

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