Ahad Nasab admits that living in one of UTC’s residence halls is a brand-new experience for him, but he points out that it’s a brand-new experience for the students, too.
He is one of three faculty members living full-time in residence halls for the school year. Nasab is in the UC Foundation Apartments, STEM Director Jennifer Ellis resides in West Campus Housing, and Shewanee Howard-Baptiste, associate professor of exercise science in the Department of Health and Human Performance, lives in Lockmiller.
“It’s going to start slow as far as people gravitating to this idea,” says Nasab, department head in engineering management and technology. “Once a few students communicate and use me as a resource, then the word will get around.”
The faculty members acknowledge that the first thought for many students will be: “Oh, the teachers are here to keep an eye on us and make sure rules aren’t broken.” But that’s the job of the resident directors and assistants, the trio says.
“We plan to rely heavily on the resident directors and resident assistants, who have a pulse of what’s going on with the current students,” Howard-Baptiste says.
“We don’t want it to be a distraction to what they do,” Ellis adds.
What all three professors agree upon is they want to be mentors or friends when a student wants a friend or needs a tutor.
“The role is really going to depend on how students
see me,” Nasab says. “I can be a lot of things. I can be just a general mentor for life issues. I can be an academic mentor. Or, I can be just a buddy to bounce ideas around and just go things and have lunch and dinner.”
Joshua McPhatter, assistant director of academic initiatives in Department of Housing and Residence Life, acknowledges that “the idea of faculty living alongside students might seem unusual,” but he notes that when Harvard University was founded in 1636, faculty lived with students.
“The thought was that faculty could mold young students into proper adults,” he explains. “The Department of Housing and Residence Life wants to rekindle this spirit of faculty playing an important role in student housing. We want to connect living and learning to enrich the overall UTC student experience.
“At the end of the day, I see our Faculty-in-Residence members learning residents by name and story. If they do that, we are confident we will see an impact on retention, persistence and graduation. We will see the power and transformation that living on-campus can bring.”
Ellis says she believes she and the other faculty members can be a sounding board for all students, “whatever phase they are through the academic portion of things.”
“The goal is to help provide just another level of engagement for students in a more informal setting,” she says, adding that a residence hall can make students “feel comfortable coming to us with whatever issues they have, be it academic or not.”
Research data shows that students who are actively engaged in campus-based activities have higher grade-point averages and retention rates, Howard-Baptiste informs.
“Those are all important and key players in making sure that students are not just coming back each year, but they have a positive collegiate experience and that shows up in their grades, in their curricular activities and their community engagement,” she explains. “Not just in our classrooms or on campus formally but also to help cultivate relationships informally with programs that help students grow and mature on campus.”
The programs include sporting events, art and theatre programs and awards banquets, she adds.
“When programs are here at 7 or 8 or 9 at night, we’re here to support those efforts and support the students. So being on campus, I think, makes a lot of sense.”
The ultimate goal is pretty straightforward and simple, Howard-Baptiste says.
“They know that they can just drop in and talk.”