Grads in dorms: lessons from the past; Program aims to avoid problems of faculty residence plan

by Scott Anthony | 11/11/93 6:00am

Almost 10 years ago, the College made an attempt to integrate professors into residence halls to help bridge the gap between undergraduates and potential mentors. Plagued by a lack of funds and minimal faculty interest, the program ended four years ago..

But this year the College tried again, renovating rooms in some dormitories and introducing graduate students into the residential life of undergraduates. And administrators say this time the program is working.

Five graduate students who were picked by the Office of Residential Life last spring as graduate associates now live in undergraduate dormitories as part of the pilot program.

The graduate students are supposed to serve as mentors for undergraduates in the clusters, said Dean of Graduate Studies Dick Birnie.

Like the graduate students program, the faculty masters program had professors who served as advisers to the various clusters on campus, said Professor Laurence Davies, who was a faculty member participating in the program.

Davies said as a faculty master he met regularly with Area Coordinators and Undergraduate Advisors, and also organized social functions to mingle with undergraduates.

The program was stopped in 1989 due to a lack of funding, according to Davies.

Administrators say the graduate students program fits the needs of students better than the faculty masters program.

One difference is that professors did not live in the dormitories, but were required only to have offices in residence halls.

One difference between the two programs that might signal the success of the new initiative is that undergraduates can identify better with graduate students than professors, Davies said.

"It's the same general concept," he said. "The difference is grad students would be closer to the undergraduate experience."

There are two fundamental differences between the programs, Birnie said.

"There are people closer in age to other residents and closer in academic experience," Birnie said. "And it's a residential setting rather than an office setting."

Birnie said he has been to several social functions that combined undergraduates and graduate associates, and he said there was positive interaction between them.

"It was a very warm and cordial mix of undergraduate students and graduate students," he said. "That's what I see as a positive."

Birnie said he thinks the graduate associate program is a good one.

"I'm very enthusiastic about it," he said. "I think it's nice for undergraduates in clusters to have this resource."

But Davies said he thought it was positive for students to have a faculty member to associate with.

"It seems like a perfectly normal arrangement to me," Davies said. "I believe it is a very valuable experience ... I felt it was very much an educational experience for both groups to mingle. It helps to bridge the gulf between students and faculty."

The graduate associates can help to bring faculty members into the residential experience, Birnie said. As an example, he said one graduate associate invited him to eat apple pie and talk about life after Dartmouth with students.

"This process has the potential to involve more faculty in dorm life," Birnie said.

Davies said he supported the return of the faculty masters program sometime in the future.

"I believe very strongly in the program, but it's not for everybody," he said. "I don't think the faculty should expect to do it. It's good to integrate the social and moral life of the community."

Assistant Dean of Residential Life Allison Keefe said the Office of Residential Life will evaluate the graduate associate program in the next year and decide if there is room for expansion.

She said that so far she has heard praise for the program.

"The biggest complaint is that some undergraduate students don't know the graduate associate program is even in existence," she said. "The associates attend almost every cluster function."

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