The fall semester can be a difficult time for the first few years as they research their academic and social niches, but faculty in residence can help guide students through this time of transition.

The FIR program places faculty in Eastern Campus dormitories, where they serve as a sort of “dorm parent” and provide guidance and support. The FIRs also organize a series of events to get to know the residents of the dormitories.

Candis Watts Smith, Associate Professor of Political Science, is Southgate FIR and one of the few new professors in the program this year.

“Living with students allows you to stay truly humble, grounded, and close to their concerns and their way of life,” Smith said.

Kisha Daniels, assistant professor of educational practice and another new FIR, resides in Gilbert-Addoms. Daniels appreciates the University’s emphasis on ensuring that students have a network of connections.

“As I tell my advisers, I can be a lot of things to you: I can be your hyped man, I can be your shoulder to cry on, and if I can’t be any of those things, I can help you. find that person, ”Daniels said.

While FIRs described their difficulty in involving students during the pandemic, Daniels said this year has started off more easily.

“Even with the rough start of COVID-19, I’ve still been able to build a lot of good relationships with students, and I love having all of my advisors here in the building,” Daniels said. “It was nice to see them and get to know them.”

Some even offer the opportunity to meet other teachers and special guests.

Hsiao-Mei Ku, Music Practice and FIR teacher for Pegram, hosts concerts and meets and greets in the dormitory common room; these performances featured musical guests like jazz singer Nnenna Freelon and saxophonist Branford Marsalis.

Catherine Admay, senior lecturer in public policy and FIR at Basset for seven years, regularly hosts guest speaker programs.

FIRs sometimes offer special events. Daniels has created new lineup for the family weekend and runs occasional walks downtown to local restaurants. Smith hosts a “Monday Meetup” to catch up with the students each week. John Blackshear, Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Education and FIR at Trinity, hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for students staying in Durham during the holidays.

Outside of these events, FIRs are available for counseling and emotional support. Ku thinks this advice is invaluable.

“The classroom is great, but it’s one side of knowing, there’s a lot of stuff you don’t understand,” Ku explained. “Who will tell you when you have some problem in life to open a book on page 35, paragraph three to solve your problem?” You learn by getting to know your classmates and get to know your teachers.

Likewise, Smith tries to teach students skills that can only be learned outside of the classroom.

“Usually the things I tell them, I tell myself them too, so we’ll just have a conversation, it can be about time management, it can be about priorities, it can be about how to send an e – high quality email… we talk a lot about how to navigate your time as a student, ”Smith said.

Daniels urges all students in need of support or those with spare time to research their FIRs.

“Don’t be afraid to research your FIR, you don’t have to commit to every event or program in your FIR… if they take this step to go out and engage more with their FIR, they will be pleasantly surprised” Daniels said.

Blackshear agrees with his colleagues that the FIR program is a net benefit to the campus ecosystem.

“The best thing about living with students is the relationships we get to build, and they last,” Blackshear said. “The good thing about the faculty in residence is that we are not house supervisors, we are not there to change behavior… nobody does that who does not care much about the life of the students. and intellectual development. “

“The biggest reward is helping students understand who they are, what works for them and their passion,” Blackshear said.


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