Residence Life initiative bridges gap between living, learning spaces on campus

One key initiative in the Office of Residence Life this year invites faculty members to visit students in their residence halls to continue the dialogue that begins in classrooms.

These faculty talks promote the idea that learning should take place everywhere on campus, residence director Jena Eberly said. The residence halls can be “an extension of the classroom, in that when we partner with faculty, we’re partnering with an academic initiative. This extends that learning process for students so they can really develop holistically.”

Five faculty members have participated in these informal gatherings in Cleveland-Young International Center and Lois Durand and Deerpath halls throughout the fall semester: Professor of History Shiwei Chen; Betty Jane Schultz Hollender Professor of Economics Carolyn Tuttle; Assistant Professor of Psychology Susan Long; Professor of Philosophy Janet McCracken; and Assistant Professor of Politics Caroline Nordlund.

Although the professors come prepared with a list of possible topics to discuss relating to their area of expertise, much of the conversation is student-driven.

Residence Life long has hoped to find a way to bridge the gap that exists between living and learning spaces. Eberly’s strategy to place ownership in the hands of the students and, in particular, the resident assistants, seems to be working.

RAs Mbakisi Gopolang and Yuhong Xie of Cleveland-Young, Winta Yohannes of Lois Durand Hall, and Ivaylo Valchev of Deerpath Hall have been especially enthusiastic. They are charged with inviting at least one faculty member to speak each semester, and they have been taking this responsibility seriously. After that initial contact is made, Eberly meets with the professor to develop a plan for the guest appearance.

From 10 to as many as 30 students have joined their professors in their residence hall lobbies for each event, some lasting as long as two hours.

A couple of programs have extended beyond the faculty community. For example, President Stephen Schutt recently attended a fireside chat in Roberts Hall, and alumna Maria de Velez Berliner ’87, an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University with experience in political and economic intelligence and security analysis for the U.S. Government, spoke in October during a campus visit.