Faculty Members Get Taste of Dorm Life, Share Moments with Students

Students and faculty members came together for a night of music, games and making connections in the University Residences, as part of an event organized by the First-Year Residential Experience program.

“Activities like this make us have stronger relationships with professors,” said Sarah Reyad, a business and accounting sophomore and one of the dormitory residents. “I hope more faculty members will come to the dorms.”

With the aim of cultivating relationships between students and professors, three faculty members were invited at the end of the spring semester to spend the evening in the dorms and stay overnight in the freshman unit: Nathaniel Bowditch, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and associate professor of philosophy; Chelsea Green, assistant professor of music; and Michael Gibson, rhetoric and composition instructor. The faculty members helped introduce freshmen to the advising and registration system, after which residents of all ages joined in a music program led by Green.

“We were given papers with music, and we all sang along –– the professors, the musicians and us,” said Reyad. “It was really nice, all of us playing music together.”

For the faculty members, the interactive, student-centered music program was just as pleasant. “I find that students enjoy learning from other students, so I was happy that three members of the AUC Guitar Ensemble offered to perform a Haydn trio for the freshmen,” said Green, who performed solo classical guitar pieces, which were followed by a sing-along of Pharrell Williams’ songHappy. The event ended with a short lesson in traditional tabla rhythms. Green hopes the music program at the dorms will encourage more students to take classes in the Department of the Arts. “In my two years as a professor at AUC, I have mentored some excellent classical guitarists who would have been music minors had they known about the music degree programs when they were freshmen,” she said. “My rewarding experience with these talented students inspired me to stoke the curiosity and artistry of freshmen in hopes that a few might like to pursue a music degree of some sort or join one of our many performance ensembles.” Following the music program, which was open to all residents, male and female, Bowditch and Gibson went to spend the night in the freshman male unit, where they played games and chatted with the residents. “The best part of the professors coming was that it was so friendly and fun, and it broke the stereotypical teacher-student relationship,” remarked Mohammad Eid, a sophomore intending to major in accounting and finance. “The gathering also taught us new things. Dr. Nate reflected on some of his experiences with us and gave us tips on how we could reach our goals. Michael Gibson is a friend and buddy; he spent the night joking and playing with us.” Bowditch spoke frankly with the freshmen about his past experiences and his path to AUC. “They are going to each figure out their own way, but I wanted to share a different kind of life experience than they are used to hearing about from the men in their lives,” said Bowditch. “So I talked about some of my failures and my mistakes, the things that I got lucky with, my family life, different jobs I tried. I tried to give them something personal that would be interesting and, maybe, useful for them. You always have to be careful about boundaries, but I think it is important for faculty, and especially administrators, who can, at times, seem distant, to show that they are human and have lives; it’s okay to share that with students.” The faculty visit is one of many initiatives designed to integrate freshmen into the AUC community and help them form strong connections with one another. The First-Year Residential Experience Program was established last year to support this goal. “Freshmen share the same fears; they’ve never lived away from their families,” explained Saeed AbdulNasser, an actuarial science senior who has served as a resident adviser (RA) since 2012. “When people in the same class are living together, it is easier to strike up conversations and make friends. We want to create a sense of community and ownership in the dorms. We have a lot of interaction within the freshman unit. We have a meal together once a week; we play sports outside; we go on outings to mark birthdays. These are small things that really matter.” AbdulNasser is serving as an RA again this year and is planning another faculty visit to the University Residences this fall. “I want more professors to be involved in student life,” he affirmed. “Professors are more than welcome to come visit the dorms, and I am very thankful to the faculty who visited last spring. We want to cultivate interaction, mentorship and a social relationship that is personal, not just academic, between freshmen and faculty. We are hoping to provide an environment for residents to have a professor-student relationship outside of class. The goal is to have professors who can bring in another perspective for students, especially as they are deciding their majors.” Sharing the same viewpoint, Haia Bediwy, a construction engineering junior and a resident adviser in the female freshman unit last year, noted, “The point of such gatherings is to create a ‘living-learning experience,’ which is the overall mission of the Office of Residential Life.” Faculty members who participated in program noted that developing this relationship is as beneficial for the faculty members as it is to the students. “I love students; the more time I can spend with them, especially on their turf, the better,” said Gibson. “Being with them is the thing I enjoy most. We gain a lot of positive energy from the students. Plus, when we visit the dorms, we can see how they are living and experience it with them.” Bowditch echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of taking advantage of opportunities to strengthen the campus community. “Many of the problems you have to deal with in any community— whether it’s a city, a family or a university— come from misunderstanding or failing to appreciate the people you interact with,” he said. “Programs like this, where I can show the students who I am as a person, provide a healthy opportunity for connections to be made so that students have a better understanding of faculty, and faculty have a better understanding of students. It doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree, but we’ll understand each other better. This makes for a stronger community. I definitely encourage faculty to participate. I had a great time; I’d do it again.” Photo caption: Green playing music, as faculty and dorm residents sing along