Associate faculty principals integrate academic life into living communities
November 13, 2014
“To know and be known” resonates throughout the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston as its motto, and its four associate faculty principals model this approach to students in an accessible and genuine way.
Their goal is simple: to integrate academic life into living communities on campus, where students spend most of their time
Matthew Gabriele, associate professor of Medieval studies in the Department of Religion and Culture in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, serves as faculty principal and leads the four associate faculty principals.
“The best moments in an education occur after the class, the lecture, the movie—when the conversation happens, when the junior fellow and faculty can interact meaningfully, when the discussion can range across topics naturally,” said Gabriele. “The best moments are when the student is left wanting more of that conversation and so seek it out by taking more classes, by attending more events, by provoking those conversations among their peers. We’re fortunate that our associate faculty principals love those conversations and seek them out.”
The residential college houses approximately 800 students (also known as “junior fellows”), ranging from first-year to graduate students. The junior fellows are divided into four “houses:” Hickory, Hawthorn, Holly, and Honeylocust.
Each house is led by a live-out associate faculty principal, who is tenured or on a tenure track. They come from different fields throughout the university, and are deeply invested in undergraduate education. They engage with students through open office hours within the residence hall, dining together at house dinners in Dietrick Hall, and organizing and implementing their own programming for the students.
Sheila Carter-Tod, associate professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, is in her third year as an associate faculty principal and leader of Holly House. She has seen the community and its residents evolve from the beginning.
“There are a handful of them that I’ve worked with since they were freshmen. It’s amazing to watch them develop as leaders, both within the residence hall and in the community,” said Carter-Tod.
She allows for students’ voices and ideas to be heard, while leading them toward the Aspirations for Student Learning. For example, students in Holly House desired to help build a home through Habitat for Humanity last year. While coordinating the service efforts, Carter-Tod helped to organize a lecture regarding service learning to incorporate the Aspirations of Student Learning.
Zac Zimmer, assistant professor of Spanish language and literature in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, brings his dog to the residence hall to allow students to take a break from work for a taste of home. He also posts his rock-climbing schedule to invite students to climb alongside him—always wearing his Hawthorn House shirt.
“The most important thing is cultivating a relationship between students and faculty outside of the classroom. Part of that is modeling for them the role that intellectual inquiry can play in daily life and enjoying the resources and opportunities we have at the university, while encouraging them to grow into well-rounded individuals who are scholars and model citizens,” said Zimmer.
Dennis Hidalgo, assistant professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, serves as the associate faculty principal for the Honey Locust House. His commitment to his students and his research in the areas of Hispaniola, 18th-century slavery, and ideas of race and 19th-century nationalism has helped him develop an environment for students in West Ambler Johnston that links academics to their residential experience.
He worked to implement movie nights, where faculty members discuss cultural and intellectual issues in movies with the junior fellows.
Kwame Harrison, the Gloria D. Smith Professor of Africana Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, leads the Hickory House. Diversity among the associate faculty principals stands out to Harrison because, he said, when students have partners throughout campus, their experiences are richer and stronger.
“Meeting students outside the classroom and modeling intellectualism to them has a much greater long-term impact. Doing things primarily for the credits will only take you so far,” said Harrison.
More information regarding the residential college program is available online. Students may submit an application to live in the residential college by visiting the application website.Written by Holly Paulette.