Outside the classroom, the rapport between
undergraduates and faculty can often be awkward and
limited. Like oil and water — or rows of boys and
girls at a grammar school dance — they just don't
In an effort to help break down barriers and forge
stronger ties between the two groups, Homewood's Office of
the Dean of Student Life this fall will launch a new
program that seeks to provide students and faculty
opportunities to interact in informal settings outside the
classroom and more closely link faculty with the
This Faculty Associates program will officially launch
next week, with a get-together for participating faculty
and interested students at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19 in
the AMR Multipurpose Room.
Just prior to the open house, the Office of the Dean
of Student Life will assign at least three participating
faculty to each of the four freshman residential housing
units: AMR 1, AMR 2, Buildings A and B, and Wolman House.
The faculty will not reside in the facility but rather have
an "association" with the building's residents and can
choose to host the majority of their planned activities
there. In addition, faculty pictures and brief bios will be
posted on each building's bulletin boards. The bios will
include descriptions of the faculty's academic area and
interests, in addition to his or her hobbies and talents
outside the classroom.
As part of the overall effort to bring faculty and
students closer together, the university has also created a
Faculty Fellow program. Amy Lynne Shelton, an assistant
professor in the Krieger School's
Psychological and Brain Sciences with a joint
Neurosciences in the School of Medicine, will be the
first Charles Commons Faculty Fellow and will reside, with
her family, in the new upperclassman housing facility for
the next two years.
Susan Boswell, dean of student life, said that both
the Faculty Associates program and Faculty Fellow concept
came out of talks with students who in recent years have
expressed a strong desire to intermingle more with the
"The ultimate goal with these programs is to foster an
environment where informal interaction is the norm instead
of the exception," Boswell said. "Clearly, I think students
are often intimidated in making that first step with
faculty, but I think faculty are just as intimidated when
it's outside of the classroom. A student might come up to
them and say, 'So, what did you do on Saturday?' I think
that sort of feels uncomfortable for the faculty member. I
think the students and faculty are two groups that would
love to interact, but they are not sure how. Part of what
we are doing is fostering an environment where that first
move is easy."
The Faculty Associates program will feature on- and
off-campus activities limited only to the imaginations of
the participants. Students in each of the residential
housing units will identify activities that their "house"
would like to host and forward that list to the faculty
members, who can simply show up and enjoy the event.
Faculty will also come up with their own ideas for
activities, from anything as basic as a coffee and cookies
discussion in the residence hall's lounge to a guided tour
of a local museum. Boswell said that faculty might also
choose to host a themed meal, lunch on campus, movie night,
bike ride at a local park or a trip to a local attraction
like the National Aquarium or an Orioles game.
Each event will be advertised within the residential
community and will be open to all students who live
The budget, organization and logistics of the events
will be handled by Office of the Dean of Student Life
"We are there to assist and support the faculty and
students in doing any sort of program they want to do,"
Boswell said. "Sometimes students might want to participate
because of the event, sometimes because of the faculty
member involved, but it doesn't matter. The idea is to get
them together any way possible."
Additionally, Boswell said that the Faculty Associates
program will allow faculty members the opportunity to
expose students to their interests — academic and
nonacademic — and possibly ignite student curiosity
in new topics or a new major or minor. She hopes it will
also increase the possibility of undergraduate research
assistantships and improve the overall student-faculty
Matthew Roller, chair of the
Classics and one of the first faculty to sign up for
the program, said that during his days as an undergraduate
at Stanford, there were a variety of successful programs
that connected faculty to residents.
"In some cases I think it was a great boon to
students, though it can also be a bit awkward, and there's
no way around that," Roller said. "But it's the kind of
program that I know serves at least some students very
well, and I think it's worth making available and
What activities does Roller have in mind? He said he's
pondering a Roman feast.
"It's just a wild idea for the moment. I would need to
dragoon the students in my Roman Dining course into being
the chefs. Ingredients and quantities are a problem. So
we'll see," he said. "Another idea for programming is to go
to the Walters [Art Museum], much less off-the-wall."
To date, nearly a dozen faculty have signed up to
participate, but the program can and will accept more. For
more information about the Faculty Associates program and
to participate, contact program coordinator Mindelyn Buford