Fairleigh Dickinson University has two very distinct sides to its College at Florham campus, one half being strictly academic, and the other residential. It is a rare occurrence that a professor will visit the residence halls, or that a member of the Campus Life staff make the trek up to the academic buildings.
With this divide in mind, Assistant Dean for Academic Support Programs and Strategic Initiatives Director Mark Sapara suggested the Faculty-in-Residence program to Dean of Students Brian Mauro in late Spring 2010.
The concept of the Faculty-in-Residence was something Sapara had been introduced to as a graduate student and Residence Director at Rutgers University.
“The Faculty-in-Residence assisted us in programming, lived on campus and were there as a resource. They would make dinner for students and have an open forum in their apartment, and the students loved it because it was such a rare experience for them,” said Sapara.
Sapara also believed that having a faculty member living on campus would help to bridge the divide between the academic and social aspects of student life.
“This kind of program works to break down the divide that often exists between student affairs and academic affairs. Students’ lives don’t exist in vacuums – intellectual growth and social growth happen in all venues, and this program speaks to that,” he said.
After receiving enthusiastic feedback from Dean of Becton College Geoffrey Weinman, clearing the program with the Human Resources department and sending out the application, Professor Sarah Crabtree of the history and social sciences department was chosen as the first resident faculty member.
Sapara is pleased with the final decision.
“Sarah Crabtree is the perfect choice - she’s young, enthusiastic and was working with learning communities last year. She also took our Freshman Intensive Studies students to museums in New York, so she was already actively involved with student programming and student life,” Sapara said.
Crabtree moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., into her on-campus apartment in August. As compensation for her extra involvement in the program, she receives an apartment free of charge, a small budget for student programming and a few meals in the campus cafeteria.
If the program’s first year is a successful one, there is room for it to expand and include a larger, more diverse group of faculty.
Though most of the fall semester will be focused on working out final adjustments to the program, Crabtree already has ideas for programming for Spring 2011.
“Right now I’m working with a student in my class. We are trying to arrange a trip to a Broadway play,” said Crabtree. “I’m also working with another student to do trips to local attractions where I could give presentations on the history of the places. Next semester will be exciting too because we can do events for Women and Black History Month.”
Crabtree noted that, like any major change, the move has its share of ups and downs.
“It continues to be an adjustment. I had to get a car, which I didn’t have in New York,” she said.
“I was used to the commute from New York City. I had an hour on the train to wrap my head around getting ready to teach. I sort of feel like I don’t have that anymore – it eliminates that mental preparation of ‘I’m headed to work.’ But on the positive side, this has let me appreciate the student side of campus. What goes on there, how lively it is, conditions that they’re living under. I see what’s going on in the dorms. It also lets me have interactions with students. I feel as though I’m more integrated into campus life.”
Crabtree also expressed her vision for the program’s potential.
“I would hope to see that this is an art of creating a more vibrant FDU community,” she said.
“This is a way for students and professors to know each other more holistically. Professors don’t know how much students are working between jobs, classes, et cetera. Students too don’t realize that professors teach three or four classes, have research and service requirements and, of course, we have lives on top of that. It’s a way to create a space where we can know each other as more whole.”