Teaching, and Living, at BU
Teaching, and Living, at BU
The majority of BU faculty interact with students chiefly through classroom lectures and office hours. But a select group of 15 not only teach undergraduates, but live alongside them in residence halls across campus. They are part of Residence Life’s Faculty-in-Residence program (FIR).
The program was launched in 1974 by John Silber (Hon.’95), then BU president, to provide faculty from various University schools the opportunity to get to know students in an informal day-to-day setting.
Today, FIRs, as they are commonly known, are role models, resources, and advocates for students, helping them develop their interests through collaborative, innovative, and fun activities.
Faculty-in-Residence are expected to host at least three open hours in their apartment each week for students living in their residential community. These can range from viewing parties to watch the latest episode of the reality show The Bachelor to preparing and testing meals that may later be introduced into the residence dining halls. FIRs are also responsible for organizing a minimum of one educational, interdisciplinary program for their community each semester.
The program is open to full-time professors at the assistant professorial rank or above who have at least two years of full-time teaching experience at BU. One of the goals of the program is to have as diverse a group of faculty as possible participate. In exchange for their services, professors in the program are provided with an on-campus apartment and a partial meal plan. But the real reward, they say, is the chance to interact with, and learn from, students outside the classroom.
“I’m always struck by how real their lives are, and by that I mean how they’re facing a lot of issues,” says Bryan Stone, School of Theology associate dean and E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism, who, with his wife, Cheryl, has been a FIR at Warren Towers since 2000. Stone estimates that Cheryl, an educational coach at Roxbury Community College, has baked more than 50,000 chocolate chip cookies over the past 16 years for their weekly open hours sessions. As someone who teaches religion and pop culture, he says, living among college students informs his work on a regular basis. “Staying in tune with pop culture means staying in tune with a younger generation.”
“I get to enter the lives of these young people at a really crucial moment,” says Jennifer Knust, a College of Arts & Sciences and an STH associate professor of religion, who has two grown sons. Knust has lived at Warren Towers for three years and has become well known for her own chocolate chip cookies.
Students say they’ve benefited from a chance to live alongside professors. Tamara Barboza (MED’16, SAR’20) says that having onsite connection and collaboration with faculty “opens doors for everyone.” She says the various dinners, meetings, and events hosted by FIRs provide great networking opportunities for students and offer an opportunity to met new friends and learn about other cultures and countries though activities like cooking.
FIR veteran Karen Jacobs (SAR’79), a Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences clinical professor of occupational therapy, has 11 years under her belt. Her StuVi II apartment is a home away from home for her guests. Jacobs says that as the mother of three grown children and grandmother of four, being a Faculty-in-Residence has been a perfect fit. “I always had a very loud home, so this fits my personality beautifully,” she says. And the program has had an added benefit. “I’m 66,” she says, “but I feel 36. I think the students keep me young.”
Jason Kimball can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.