A doctor in the house
By Danielle Masterson
A snapshot of a group of soaked students in rain ponchos sits on an end table in Diane Meuser’s apartment, between a box of vinyl record albums and four shelves filled with running trophies and pictures. A television is noticeably missing from her living room, which boasts a towering view of the city. A bicycle is propped up against a wall in the hallway.
Meuser, a CAS associate professor of mathematics and statistics, doesn’t live in a trendy complex in the heart of the city. Her apartment is nestled in a corner on Claflin Hall’s 12th floor, among BU undergraduates. The two numbered doors leading to her rooms are adorned with bright yellow construction paper announcing its occupant as “Diane.”
As part of BU’s Faculty-in-Residence Program, Meuser has lived among West Campus students for 24 years. Through the program, she coordinates group events with students, including the rain-soaked adventure to New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock memorialized in the photograph in her living room. Despite the advice of mountain rangers to go to a nearby pumpkin festival, she recalls with a laugh, the Claflin students refused. “They all said, ‘Let’s hike the mountain,’” she says.
Meuser moved to Claflin about 10 years ago after living for several years on the first floor of Rich Hall, where there were no students. She prefers her Claflin digs, she says, because she can interact with students on a personal level. She also hopes she is a role model, which is one of the University’s goals for the program, developed almost 30 years ago and run through the Office of Residence Life. Meuser says today’s residence halls are much different from the Animal House–like dorms of the 1970s. “Times have changed,” she says. “Students are more serious and want to study in the dorms. There is not that massive partying and hanging out like there was when I was an undergrad. The dorms are a civilized place.” There have even been professors living in the residence halls with their spouses and children.
Because Meuser lives among the students, she says, they feel more comfortable approaching her for help on what classes to take, organizing their schedule, and handling other professors. “I enjoy giving them advice,” she says. “I often don’t know the answers, but I try to figure them out and help.”
To take part in the Faculty-in-Residence Program, which provides a rent-free living space and partial meal plan, professors must offer weekly evening “open hours” in the dorms. Each Monday, Meuser holds court in Claflin’s first-floor common room, offering math help to all students. “I work with them individually,” she says. “I really like that sort of personal contact. Typically, I teach a large freshman class, so when I go in to give a lecture, it is for a big crowd. But when students come to my math help sessions, I get to know them better.”
Besides math tutoring, Meuser has open-house ice cream socials at her apartment. But first, she has students check out her Web site for the list of homemade ice cream flavors available. To date, there are more than 500 possibilities, from fruity ambrosia to sweet yogurt honey. The get-togethers are held by floor and facilitated by Claflin’s resident assistants. Because students tend to get to know others on their floor well, Meuser breaks the ice by asking them to tell the group something no one else knows about them. “We hear all sorts of funny stories,” she says. “It’s a good way to get them to open up.”
Meuser shares her love of the outdoors by coordinating an annual hike on Mount Monadnock. This year’s hike, which is open to all students, will be held on Saturday, October 23. She also enjoys taking students biking to such places as Concord and Lincoln — two towns she says they may not see on their own during their time at BU.
Meuser has left a lasting impression on many of her student neighbors. While walking on Comm Ave last year, a former Claflin resident approached her and threw his arms around her. He mentioned he wanted to have a faculty-student soccer game. “He said, ‘Of course, you are going to play on the student team,’” she recalls with a smile.
Meuser has stuck with the program so long because she enjoys the opportunities she has living on campus. “It fits in well with my own activities,” she says. An avid runner and cyclist, Meuser has a unique training ground. She began running shortly after she started teaching here. “I had an office near the BU Beach and when I first began running around the path at the Charles River, I thought I would try to do one loop from the BU Bridge down to MIT and the Harvard Bridge. I just kept adding bridges to the loop.”
Meuser has no intention of leaving the Faculty-in-Residence Program anytime soon. “I might outlast this dorm,” she says, laughing. “Whenever I see one of those nice houses in the suburbs, I look at it and say, ‘Boy, it would be so boring to live there.’ What would you do? There would be nothing going on. In the dorms, there are always things going on. I like living on campus and being right in the middle of things.”
For more information on Diane Meuser’s October 23 hike to Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, visit her Web site, http://math.bu.edu/people/dmm. The hike is open to all students.