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Faculty-in-Residence program offers LSU students access to educators outside classroom

Students are no longer the only people calling LSU residence halls home.

Paige Davis meets with studentsLSU's faculty-in-residence program offer students living on campus an opportunity to interact with educators outside of the classroom setting.Eddy Perez/LSU University Relations

Beginning in the fall 2013 semester, LSU Residential Life is implementing a faculty-in-residence program, where selected members of the university faculty live in specially designed apartments within or adjacent to on-campus residence halls to share the on-campus experience with residents.

Steve Waller, director of LSU Residential Life, said that instituting the program is a significant next step in his office's living-learning paradigm that has been several years in the making.

"It takes your residential college program to the next level," he said. "When you look at other universities who have residential college programs, the next step is creating faculty-in-residence."

The goal of LSU's residential college program is to provide a small-college feel within a large university, so that students have more interaction with faculty that's geared toward academic success. As part of that goal, Waller said, the faculty-in-residence program encourages structured out-of-classroom interaction between students and faculty to seamlessly blend student learning and development inside and outside the classroom.

Two faculty members will serve as the initial faculty-in-residence – Paige Davis, an engineering graphics instructor in the College of Engineering with a focus on interacting with first-year students; and Johanna Dunaway, an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Political Science and the Manship School of Mass Communication. The two take on the faculty-in-residence roles in addition to their teaching workload.

Davis is the faculty-in-residence for the campus' east side. She serves Acadian Hall, Blake Hall, East and West Laville Halls, East Campus Apartments, Herget Hall, McVoy Hall and Miller Hall, as well as the Horseshoe community of Evangeline, Annie Boyd, Louise Garig and Highland Halls.

Dunaway is the faculty-in residence for the west side of campus, working with the Residential College Complex, Pentagon community of Jackson, Taylor, Beauregard and Lejeune Halls; Broussard Hall; Kirby Smith Hall; and West Campus Apartments.

Davis has also served as a liaison for the E2 program and leads a study abroad program called Encountering Engineering in Europe, which she said helped her to make the decision to join the faculty-in-residence program.

"It's a great opportunity to work with the students outside of the traditional classroom, and I've really enjoyed it," she said of the study abroad program. "I saw this position being similar to that. It gives me a chance to sit down with the students, eat meals with them and to just interact with them outside of what they're used to. It helps to build relationships with them and work with them on things other than engineering courses."

Dunaway said her love of LSU and campus life attracted her to apply for the position.

"I love coming to work on campus. My daughter goes to the LSU Child Care Center. We're here all the time, so we just thought, let's just move our whole life to campus."

Waller said that the faculty-in-residence program has been in the works since 2002, but various situations arose that caused implementation to be pushed back.

"The main holdup was finding a place for them to live," he said. "As we worked forward, we planned it with the Residential College One construction project and with the East Laville renovation project. We had some setbacks in 2005, with hurricanes Katrina and Rita causing the cost of construction to inflate, so we scaled back."

The national recession leveling construction costs, as well as a growth in enrollment beginning in 2009, helped to rekindle the idea, Waller added.

"The East Laville project was in design at that time, scheduled to start in 2010," he said. "That was the turning point."

Jonathon Hyde, associate director of education for Residential Life, said the program is modeled after similar programs at other universities. He said he felt the university would best benefit by selecting a small number of faculty-in-residence to begin the program.

"My experience with faculty-in-residence was at Cornell University and the University of Southern California," he said. "Their faculty-in-residence programs had more faculty involved than we currently have. Some were good, some were not good, and they were spread out amongst all the communities. We looked at their programs and mixed and matched what we thought was the best fit for us at LSU. A program like this sets us apart and makes us unique from many of the off-campus living options that students have."

Living in learning

Both Dunaway and Davis and their families have their own living spaces, either within or attached to current residence halls, Waller said.

Johanna DunawayVideo: Meet Johanna Dunaway Photo: Eddy Perez/LSU University Relations

"The original design followed a premise of providing a common space that would allow adequate room to entertain small groups of students," he said. "It could easily bring in 40-50, which is a reasonable amount of people. The kitchen and common space theme to allow that entertainment, but the private living space is separate. They can still have a private life."

For Dunaway, her residence is a two-story building attached to the Residential College Complex. The first floor features a living room, dining room and kitchen on one end and an office for student meetings on the other, while a private living space on the second floor.

"We had a bit more flexibility with the Residential College apartment because we built that facility with this in mind," Waller said.

The setup is beneficial to Dunaway, who has a young daughter.

"My apartment has a great view of the Residential College Complex," she said. "It's neat to see the students walking by and hear them talking to each other in the mornings. Being around these young people is really nice for us, especially for my daughter. She sees the students going to class and asks me what they're doing.

"Also, someone with small children has to constantly keep up with their child, cleaning after them and such. I like that we don't have to live downstairs, except for programming stuff and use of the kitchen. It makes it easier to have things on short notice."

Dunaway's apartment also features a yard, which allows for her to host group events as well.

"It's nice because, for example, we're able to tailgate for football games," she said. "We could invite more people because we had a lot of room."

Davis' residence is a second-story living space located directly above the lobby adjoining East and West Laville Halls. The space also features divided public and private spaces.

"With Laville, we were restricted a bit more with the space," Waller said. "Because of this, we split the apartment down the middle."

Davis said that she and her family have enjoyed the change of living on campus, adjusting quickly to the new environment.

"For our family, it works great," she said. "We have a wonderful balcony. We can sit outside and hear students outside playing guitar or games and they'll call up there to us. I love that we're right above the center of the Laville Halls, because the students hang out there. We go in and out of that area all day long. I know the Laville RA's and residents extremely well, but I'm working hard to get out and meet more of the community as well."

Part of that involvement is being able to take part in activities with students, such as eating meals with students.

"My family and I had dinner in the 459 Commons recently, and we really enjoyed it." Davis said. "That's just another way we get to spend time with the students. For example, I got to visit with a student from North Carolina.

Because of the locations of residence halls on the west side of campus, Dunaway holds office hours in both Kirby Smith and in the Pentagon community, in addition to her regular office hours in the Residential College Complex.

"I wanted to make sure that I'm as visible as possible for the students on the west side of campus," she said. "I don't want anyone to think they don't have access to me if they need anything."

Dunaway and Davis were both very visible during Move-In Day activities at the beginning of the semester, Hyde said, and they also opened their doors during staff training for dinners with resident advisors.

Having a family living in the residence hall can also help to curb conduct issues, Hyde added.

"Sometimes, students get here and think, 'Oh I'm with a bunch of 18-year-olds. We're going to party all the time,'" he said. "That can sometimes be curtailed when they realize that there's a family right down the hall and they don't want to disturb them."

Getting to know you

Hyde said having a faculty-in-residence helped to build his confidence as a first-generation college student, and he feels LSU's program can do the same for its students.

LSU Faculty in Residence - Paige DavisVideo: Meet Paige Davis Photo: Eddy Perez/LSU University Relations

"My experience was that the professors are the experts and I'm not and could never be there," he said. "It wasn't until I got to experience them outside the classroom talking about their area of expertise and relating to me as a students that I really saw myself potentially succeeding in my undergraduate and even graduate school careers."

Having increased access to faculty interaction and guidance helped Dunaway to better her focus on her education when she was a student, she said.

"Because I didn't meet my faculty member until I was well into my second year, I had a stretch where I wasn't focused on the most efficient path to graduation," she said. "So, I felt like this is a nice way to let those interactions happen sooner. Interaction outside of the classroom is so valuable. Sometimes, it's useful to have a faculty member's perspective, even when they're not currently your instructor."

Waller said that his hopes for the program are not only for the students to benefit from the interaction with the faculty-in-residence, but that more faculty take interest in the program so they can also see its benefits and help to expand it.

"We're hoping that through this, the students learn that faculty members aren't just that person in front of them lecturing all day long. They're real people."

Davis said that she feels that with the faculty-in-residence program, LSU has initiated a way for students and faculty members to better relate in today's academic environment.

"I think that LSU has set us up for success by providing us the resources that we need," Davis said. "We have a great living space and meal plans. Even if we're just in there sitting at a table by ourselves, it's valuable for the students to see us there, standing in line with them. For me, I think the students don't always think faculty are available. They think that we're too busy. This is a way to show them that we're not. That's why we're here."

More information about the faculty-in-residence program, along with other residential life programs, is available online at www.lsu.edu/housing.