LSU is buzzing again with students returning from their holiday breaks, but civil engineering professor Clinton Willson rang in the first few days of the New Year on a quiet campus.
As one of two LSU faculty members selected to live on campus as a part of the Faculty-in-Residence program at LSU, Willson lives in a specially-designed residence hall apartment for one academic year.
“My wife, Kay, and I are very social people and saw this as a way to have a direct impact on the LSU students and community,” he explained. “Paige Davis, the former faculty-in-residence, was very positive about the experience, and we jumped on it.”
According to LSU Residential Life, 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. The Faculty-in-Residence participants are encouraged to directly impact students’ residential experiences through involvement that promotes social and intellectual development, academic support and advising in the residential college setting.
Willson, his wife and his son currently reside in an apartment that connects East Laville and West Laville halls. The apartment is “fabulous,” Willson said. It is also spacious enough to host large groups of students for programs and dinners.
“One of our favorite programs so far was ‘Acoustic on the Balcony’ where we invited students to share their musical talents,” he said. “That was a lot of fun.”
One of Willson’s fondest memories so far occurred in the weeks following campus move-in day in fall 2015. He and his wife hosted meet-and-greet events for several nights, where they invited students into their home after an informational session or program and provided refreshments.
“One evening we had about 10 students stick around for about an hour or so, and after chatting for a while, we realized that only two of them knew each other before coming up to the apartment,” he said. “Hopefully, that kind of informal event helped them make some new LSU friends.”
The apartment features a number of amenities and perks, including the convenience of having no commute and little to no yard work or maintenance.
“Our two balconies are by far the best parts of the apartment. One faces South Campus Drive, while the other one faces the Laville Courtyard,” he said. “Both are great places to relax—in particular, the balcony facing the courtyard feels almost like our own private tree house.”
The Willson family also likes how easy it has been to get to know many of the students living on the east side of campus and “the wonderful group” that makes up the ResLife staff.
Willson said he would recommend this experience to other faculty, but would caution those interested to “realize you can’t just come home at the end of the day and hibernate.”
“Being a faculty-in-residence means being a visible presence in the residential communities and being accessible to students within limits,” he said. “You need to eat in the dining halls, let students pet your dogs, and go to programs and events to meet students and answer questions.”
Though it’s been a while since Willson lived in a residence hall—they were called “dorms” when he resided in one, he joked—the Faculty-in-Residence program has provided him with memories and experiences he intends to use moving forward in his career.
“I am now remembering what it was like for a freshman to show up on a large campus and learn to manage the social and academic demands on their time. Since I don’t teach freshmen, I am also being reminded of what freshman year is like,” Willson said. “These experiences should help me better assist the university and college in programs focused on freshmen and sophomore students and helping them transition to college life and succeed.”
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