Enhancing The Living & Learning Experience
Oct. 20, 2022
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins
The transition from high school to college life can be difficult for many students. A typical 18-year-old freshman at any institution must balance their grades with several factors, including newfound friends and surroundings.
For four years, Sam Houston State University has offered a faculty in residence program that can help alleviate some of these transitions for new students and forge relationships between them and their professors. The program also provides the university’s professors a unique opportunity to communicate closely with their students while also maintaining their privacy and standard of living.
“We have been working towards this for quite some time, since we started learning communities,” said Joellen Tipton, executive director of Residence Life. “Many fellow universities in our region have faculty in residence and it really enhances the living and learning experience for students to have a faculty member living among them and having an office in their residence hall.”
Currently, one SHSU professor is participating in the faculty in residence program. Leslie Anglesey of the English department lives in a two-bedroom, two-bath setup in Piney Woods Hall, where she also occupies her own office.
“I have had amazing experiences working and living among student residents,” Anglesey said. “As a first-generation college student myself, I thought of my professors as serious scholars and was afraid to bother them with my questions or concerns. I didn't want them to think I wasn't equal to the task of their class, so I rarely took advantage of office hours and never got to know them outside of the classroom. My goal with our program is create fun and interactive programs for student residents to get to know faculty as people and to hopefully break down some of the barriers that prevent faculty and students from interacting more.”
Hopefuls apply for a chance to live in the residence hall, where they will stay for one or two years free of charge. They are also given 30 free meals per semester so they can meet and eat with students in the dining halls. In exchange for the free setup, professors are asked to work extra office hours and to be accessible to the students.
“We were able to start the program when we built our learning center in Piney Woods Hall,” Tipton said. “We also built an apartment specifically designed for faculty in residence.”
A similar apartment was built in San Jacinto Hall, which officials hope will be utilized next fall. While they live in the same building, the faculty quarters are separate from the student rooms. Tipton believes the close proximity to a professor will help ease the transition for young students into college life.
“One of the purposes is for the students to get used to being around a faculty member in a more informal setting so they are not intimidated,” Tipton said. “A lot of times, our freshman students are too nervous to go to office hours. If they are meeting a faculty member in an informal setting and they get to know them as a person, they don’t seem as mysterious.”
Individuals participating in the program are also asked to increase faculty presence in their communities by occasionally having their colleagues come speak or participate in a meet and greet. They may also invite small groups of students into their apartment to have lunch on their patio, which also comes with the provided living space.
Anglesey’s presence has already resulted in visits from mass communications assistant professor Katharine Hubbard, who ran an improv workshop for the students.
“It gives students practice speaking in front of others in funny, informal ways,” Anglesey said. “Dr. Hubbard's skills in improv highlight the diverse interests, hobbies, and experiences our faculty members bring to their teaching that students might not recognize without the program.”
Other programs coming to Piney Woods this year will involve the Office of Student Money Management, the School of Teaching and Learning and the Honors College.
While there has been enough interest to generate an application process and an ultimate selection, Tipton and other officials would like to see an uptick in the program’s exposure as well as the overall number of applicants.
Applications will be accepted from mid-October through January with the selection process taking place in February. Applicants are interviewed by a panel of residence life staff, academic staff and academic success center staff before an individual is chosen to stay in one of the two available locations.
Anglesey encourages any faculty or staff members interested in collaborating on programming to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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