Providing academic support -- and making new
by Brian Fitzgerald
He practically laughed in her face. When Nancy
Morrison, the area director for BU's upper Bay
State Road residences, first told Stephen Esposito
about Boston University's Faculty-in-Residence
Program, he replied that living on campus was out
of the question.
"No way," he recalls saying, as visions of
Animal House danced in his head. "I did dorms 20
years ago." Granted, campus life at Boston College
was great fun when he was an undergraduate. But why
would an associate professor of classical studies
in the College of Arts and Sciences want to
moonlight as a noise meter, telling students to
turn down their stereos at 3 a.m.?
"However, I talked with a few people and
discovered that the job isn't about being a hallway
police officer," he says.
"The purpose of the Faculty-in-Residence
Program is to provide a unique means for faculty
and students to communicate. It helps make the
students' college experience richer
Then he spoke with Diane Meuser, an associate
math professor at CAS, who has been a
faculty-in-residence for the past 17 years. "She
sold me on the idea," says Esposito. "Even though
all teaching professors at BU have office hours, I
believe that it is still a challenge for any of us
to provide enough outreach. She told me about going
to dinner with students, tutoring them, having
coffee with them, and lending an ear when they have
problems. I thought, 'What a great way to bridge
students' academic life with residential life.'
It's really all about helping create a sense of
A year ago Esposito left sub-urban Framingham
behind for Boston University's West Campus, moving
in with 600 students to Sleeper Hall, one of three
13-story towers that house a total of 1,800 people.
"It has been fantastic," he laughs, pointing out
the window of his living room to Nickerson Field.
"In the late fall, after the leaves fall off those
trees behind the end zone, I have a perfect view of
the football games on Saturday afternoons." He
turns to graduate student Heath Hightower (SSW'99),
Sleeper Hall's head resident assistant (RA).
"Seri-ously," says Esposito, "I think we
accomplished a lot last year."
"We really did," says High-tower. "Steve has
been extremely helpful in developing cultural and
recreational opportunities for students here. The
RAs and the residence hall associations, whose
leaders are elected by the students, often find it
difficult to organize programs and events.
Sometimes we'll work hard planning a program and
one student shows up. But last year we had a lot of
success. For example, Steve proposed that we get a
band called Beverage -- which is made up of a
handful of astrophysics students -- to put on a
concert in the Claflin Hall cafeteria. It happened,
and more than 300 students showed up."
"More than 300 on the night of a big home hockey
game," Esposito adds. And this year, Carolyn
Robinson, SAR clinical assistant professor and
neighboring Rich Hall's faculty-in-residence, "is
planning to organize several ballroom dance
lesssons, and then we're going to have a big
But Esposito makes it clear that his duties
aren't primarily to help provide entertainment to
students. "They're here to learn, but often they
have this mind-set that learning stops as soon as
they're through studying for the day. But in
college you are immersed in learning, inside and
outside the classroom."
Esposito says he is also part of a support
system. "If a freshman wants to change majors, it's
not automatic that he or she knows whom to see for
advice," he says. "The student just arrived here.
We can't assume that he or she will know where to
go. And if someone is struggling with a roommate,
boyfriend, or girlfriend, or has some kind of
emotional problem -- my door is open and I keep
everything confidential. Half of all the students
in these residence halls are freshmen, and there
are a lot of fragile and tender lives here. Believe
it or not, even with 600 neighbors, a student at
times can feel lonely."
The Faculty-in-Residence Program began in 1974
through the efforts of then President John Silber.
Director of Residence Life Jack Weldon says that
research on student retention and academic success
shows that faculty-student interaction outside the
classroom leads to a higher rate of student
"The program also puts more role models in
residence halls," says Weldon. "There are about
9,700 students on campus and 250 resident
assistants. The 17 faculty in the residence halls
spend 10 to 15 hours a week attending, planning,
and sponsoring residence hall programs and
interacting with students."
One of the main reasons Esposito applied for the
job, "aside from the fact that I can walk to work,"
he says, "is that one professor told me that he has
made many friends who have kept in touch with him
after they graduated, and I hope to do the same."