Jakob Lazzaro explores why some Northwestern faculty call residence halls home. (Transcript below)
Lazzaro: Living on campus is part of the college experience, but after one or two years most students are ready to move on. But did you know there are professors who live on campus, maybe even in your building? Yes, as part of the faculty-in-residence program, some buildings at Northwestern contain fully fleshed out two-to-three bedroom apartments where professors live with partners, kids and even pets. I'm Jakob Lazzaro, and for Ask NBN I first spoke to Dr. Brad Zakarin, the director of the Office of Residential and Academic Initiatives, to find out how the program got started.
Brad Zakarin: So, in 2008 there was a campus master planning process, which involved a lot of campus constituents and outside consultants, and they recommended a new model of housing called residential communities that would incorporate faculty and residents, which was not a model northwestern had ever used before. It represented a way to sort of take a step forward from the residential colleges.
Lazzaro: Zakarin says that the main goal of the project is deeper connections between faculty and students.
Zakarin: I think at the most fundamental level, there’s a reciprocal humanizing that happens. I think too often, faculty teach a class and they walk out of the classroom and students walk out of the classroom and the interaction is over at that point.
Lazzaro: Theater professor Melissa Foster has been the faculty member in residence for Shepard and 1838 Chicago since the beginning of this year. Before that, she was a fellow at Jones.
Melissa Foster: An email came to all of the fellows, faculty fellows, describing this program, and honestly when I read it I came home, and didn’t know how my husband was going to feel about it but I said, ok, this is exactly what I want to do and is perfect, perfect for me- let me tell you about this. And he was 100 percent on board. He said it is meshing everything that you sort of are passionate about into a position.
Lazzaro: Foster says the hardest part of campus life is learning to manage when students are on break.
Foster: So, in the summer we’ll just live there and I’ll miss all the residents that are gone. And that will be weird, and it was really weird over winter break! Then it just becomes more of your house, and you become more of a normal family because we eat dinner almost every night in Allison. Obviously, that didn’t happen over break and it was so funny because, you know, they all went home, the cafeteria closed or the dining hall closed, and we literally- my husband literally said what do we do? I mean we don’t have any food, we don’t- what do we do? We had to go shopping and it was very humorous because we forgot how to be grownups.
Lazzaro: Foster’s daughter, who is only five years old, had a pretty seamless transition to campus life.
Foster: I think it will be very interesting to watch her grow up, she’s only five. One time I got held up at the entrance because somebody was asking me a question. She ran ahead. I had no idea where she went, and I found her- a resident had her, like she had picked her up and she was on her hip, and the resident was like “Do you want pizza? Do you want blah?” And so she had just taken her and was getting her dinner and it was really cute. And that happens kind of a lot.
Foster: There’s an event we do every week, she and I, called Spot the Treat Tot. It’s like Where’s Waldo but with her. It basically means that she and I will be somewhere either on a floor in one of the two buildings or in the engagement center, which is a common area, or somewhere passing out treats. She’s in her pajamas, cause it’s right before bedtime, and she walks up and down the hall and she goes “Cupcakes! Who wants cupcakes!” And then doors fly open and they get a cupcake from a five-year-old. But otherwise, she goes to her school and we’re in our house and her life is just her life. I think she just thinks this is just how life is.
Lazzaro: There are currently four live-in-faculty members spread out between Allison, Shepard, Goodrich and Elder. When the new Willard opens next year, it will have an apartment- bringing that total up to five. The eventual goal of residential services? 8 to 10 faculty members living on campus.
The music in this episode is credited to PurplePlanet.com, and for Ask NBN, I’m Jakob Lazzaro.