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Dorm program connects students and faculty

Amanda Michaels | Friday, April 16, 2004

For visiting assistant professor of anthropology Kimbra Smith, interaction between the students and faculty is an essential part of the college experience – which would explain why, at 6 p.m., she is in Welsh Family’s social space, surrounded by girls, bowls and raw fish. “It’s so great, just spending time with students, making sushi,” she said while she gently corrects one girl’s rice-spreading technique.Such a scene, whether it be sushi around a table or discussion over a pizza, is not uncommon these days in the seven dorms participating in the Hall Fellows Program. Started in January by the Student Senate’s Committee on Student-Faculty Interaction and supported by the Office of the Provost and the Office of Student Activities, the program aims to expose students to discussion in a more relaxed setting and to develop the professors’ awareness of student residence life.”In my experience, there weren’t a lot of ways to start a strong student/faculty relationship,” said Lauren Williams, academic commissioner for Welsh Family and chair of the Committee on Student-Faculty Interaction. “A lot of professors have never even walked into a dorm, so there’s a gap that needs to be bridged.”Academic commissioners from Lyons, Dillon, Keough, O’Neill, Breen-Phillips, Cavanaugh, Howard, Keenan and Welsh Family chose from a list of approximately 50 professors who earlier in the year expressed their interest in becoming Hall Fellows. “Exactly what each Hall Fellow does depends on the direction that each HallFellow and academic commissioner decides to do,” explained Williams. “The events can center around or be off-shoots of the expertise of the professor or simply ideas that interest both the professor and the students.”Welsh Family rector Candace Carson cites the enthusiasm that both the students and the professors seem to have for the program as an indication of its success.”There’s such great involvement from everyone,” Carson said. “Everyone is excited, because how many times do professors actually get to come talk to you where you are?”Williams plans to continue the program next year, and hopes that starting in September instead of January will encourage more dorms to participate.Though the position is unpaid, Smith – one of Welsh Family’s two Hall Fellows – considers it invaluable for both the students and the faculty.”One of the problems with college is that most students are stuck with people within a four-year age range. When I was in college I liked interacting with different age groups, and I really appreciated those professors who spent time outside of the classroom getting to know students,” Smith said. “Now it’s my turn.”