In Dorms We Teach: The Faculty in Residence Program
From left to right: Professors Michael Finewood, Emily Bent, and Robert Mundy
When three dedicated and involved Dyson College professors were given the chance to create an integrated living-learning community inside Pace’s dorms, education moved forward into a new era. The Faculty in Residence (FIR) program brings faculty members into the residence halls, expanding the borders of the traditional classroom and making learning more accessible, personalized, and cooperative. Residing full-time in apartments located inside the residence halls, professors organize events and conduct workshops, which take experiential learning outside of the classroom. Studies have shown that this type of student-faculty engagement increases student GPA, raises retention and graduation rates, and improves overall student satisfaction.
“As a Resident Advisor, I love having a Faculty in Residence who’s always willing to collaborate on programs with me and other students,” said April Keane ‘19 (Communication Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies). “It’s important for students to feel connected to the faculty at their university and this program does just that.” The FIR program launched in fall 2015 in conjunction with the grand opening of the Alumni Hall dormitory on the Pleasantville campus. “We began planning for the Faculty in Residence program long before the construction of Alumni Hall,” said Alerie Tirsch, director of Residential Life and Housing on the Pleasantville campus. “The potential for connecting students to faculty members and increasing student success made this dream a reality.” As of spring 2017, there are three faculty members—all Dyson College professors—living in dorms alongside their students.
A unique learning opportunity for faculty and students.
The test pilot faculty member for the program’s launch on the Pleasantville campus was Assistant Professor of English and Pleasantville campus Writing Center Director Robert Mundy, who was welcomed with open arms. “Our students have been so inviting. They’ve gone out of their way to make me feel at home.” He has found great success with the launch of a satellite writing center in the dorm, which hosts collaborative Sunday night writing workshops,and has worked closely with the newest faculty member in residence, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Michael Finewood, who resides in the Pleasantville campus’s Elm Hall dorm. They are currently collaborating with a group of students on research exploring the connection between physical space and writing, and as part of their fieldwork, have traversed New York City’s outdoor spaces and observed how the environment can affect their writing. Their research findings will be the basis for publication and student conference presentations on the topic of physical space and writing.
On the New York City campus, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Emily Bent was tapped to join the 33 Beekman residence hall community when the building was opened in fall 2015. “As a relatively new faculty member at Pace, the FIR position seemed an ideal way to get more involved with the campus community and student-body and to feel more at home.” Without ever leaving her new home, Bent organizes essay writing programs, resume and interview workshops, and community-engagement and personal wellness programs like empowerment yoga and pancake dinners. Some of her most successful programs have been off-campus trips like apple picking and hiking, and “Sundays with Shadow,” a weekly puppy play-group hosted by Bent and her rescue dog Shadow. The group provides stress relief, relaxation, and social time for students, and allows Bent to learn more about her students and connect with them on a deeper level.
The professors really live in a dorm?
While technically part of a dorm, each faculty apartment is designed to be a fully functioning, full-time home for the professors and their families. In Pleasantville, Professors Finewood and Mundy each have a furnished two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and living room. Professor Bent’s lower Manhattan quarters are understandably more compact than those on the Pleasantville campus, but her apartment still sports one bedroom and an open-concept kitchen and living room, plenty of space for her and her husband, plus Shadow. She also has an office across the hall from the apartment, which she uses to meet and work one-on-one with students.
The response to this program from students has been overwhelmingly positive on both campuses. “The FIR brings a welcoming presence to our community while also inspiring our students to get outside of their comfort zones and make a difference," said Resident Assistant Georgia Bender ’18 (Criminal Justice).
The faculty are also excited about their time in residence, and are always coming up with new and unique ways to connect with students. Professor Finewood is currently developing a community garden co-op headed by students on the Pleasantville campus. Through the innovative Faculty in Residence program, the possibilities for this and future student-faculty collaborations are endless.