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Faculty-in-Residence provide academic support, mentoring

Seth Fishman, West Hall, Faculty in Residence, 2011By Nancy Kolsti, News Promotions

When new faculty member Seth Fishman, above, arrived in Denton last fall and moved into his apartment, he wasn’t surprised to see students watching him as he entered his front door, or did laundry.

But Fishman, lecturer in the College of Education’s Department of Counseling and Higher Education, isn’t living in a typical college-town apartment complex. He’s one of five faculty members living with students in campus residence halls this academic year. Fishman’s apartment, which includes separate living and bedroom areas and a small kitchen, is located near the front desk of West Hall. The hall houses 380 students, most in their first year.

The Faculty-in-Residence Program provides students with another resource for academic support and mentoring and promotes greater interaction among students and faculty members. It’s a practice borrowed from the early centuries of academia, when England’s Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were formed in the 1100s and 1200s.

UNT’s program aims to enhance the learning environment for students who live on campus by giving students and faculty a chance to connect on a personal level outside of classrooms.

Dale Tampke, dean of undergraduate studies, said the Faculty-in-Residence program is one way that UNT seeks to provide students with the best undergraduate experience in Texas.

“Learning happens everywhere on campus, not just in the classroom,” Tampke said. “In many large universities, it’s difficult for students to connect with a caring faculty member. The Faculty-in-Residence program helps to provide that connectivity, and also gives faculty members a more nuanced understanding of students.”

Participating professors spend a certain number of hours each week with students.

Elisabeth Warren, director of housing and residence life, said students who know at least one faculty member who cares about them personally tend to persevere in college and have a great experience. And, at UNT, student success is the primary focus, she said.

A faculty member is initially selected to live in a residence hall for one academic year, and may apply for an additional year. Fishman said he decided to apply to the Faculty-in-Residence program after realizing he would have little time to move to Denton from Ohio, where he recently received his doctoral degree from The Ohio State University. He had not lived in a university residence hall since May 2001.

“For many students, talking with a faculty member in the residence hall is the first time that they’ve had meaningful conversations with faculty members outside of the classroom, and that’s important for their success in college.”

Fishman said he’s played ping pong with West Hall students and also provided snacks for the hall staff. He’s planning several programs on how students can make the most of their college experience.

“It’s a good experience for me to see students outside of class because I’m currently teaching a course on college student demographics. Meeting a new generation of students is beneficial for me and fits in perfectly with my class,” he said.         

Neilesh Bose, assistant professor of history, is spending his second year at Honors Hall, which houses 200 students enrolled in Honors College. The hall was built with an apartment at the end of a first-floor hallway to accommodate a faculty member.

“It’s been a nice living experience for me,” says Bose, who had not lived in a university residence hall for 18 years. “Living with the students helps me get to know them in a different way. I have met some very intelligent students in disciplines other than history, and most of my colleagues don’t have the sense of campus life that I have gained from living with students.”

Bose has shared his interest in theater with students in Honors Hall, taking them to see productions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and held small discussion groups about current events and a dinner for Diwali, an annual festival celebrated in Bose’s native India. He also recruited UNT academic advisors to present information on applying to graduate school and medical school.

Gorvind Iyer, below, associate professor of accounting, chose to live in Kerr Hall - the largest residence halls with nearly 1,000 students - during the 2010-11 academic year and has returned there this year. Iyer’s wife and children live in Phoenix.

“After my first year of teaching, my department chair urged me to apply to the Faculty-in-Residence program because I was always at my office anyway,” Iyer says. “I really enjoy living in Kerr Hall. I have reached a stage in my career in which I want to spend more time with students, and just get a context of their lives. It is very easy to lose sight sometimes about why I became a faculty member in the first place. I need to be reminded that the students are the reason I came here.” 

(Photos by Michael Clements)

Govind Iyer, Kerr Hall, Faculty-in-Residence


Posted on: Fri 03 February 2012

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