The Challenge and Rewards of Faculty-Student Interactions in the Residence Halls
Challenge I: Our students want to share experiences with us outside of the classroom and the lab.
Challenge II: How do I find the time to schedule this into my already over-full schedule?
These two challenges summarize our dilemma: we would like to spend time outside the classroom with our students, but finding the time can be difficult. The trick is to start with a small time commitment of once a year and do something you enjoy with a group of students. If each faculty attended one event a year with a student group, the amount of faculty-student interaction outside of the classroom would increase exponentially.
One of the best ways to have a more personal encounter is to attend a dinner in one of the many MIT dormitories, fraternities, sororities, or living groups.
Students – undergraduate and graduate – enjoy chatting informally with professors. It is their chance to see you as a person, in addition to your role as a teacher or researcher. Don’t worry about the conversation topic; our students are naturally inquisitive, engaging, and most appreciative of the chance to talk.
Another way to be involved with a group of students in a residence hall is to become a House Fellow. Here you receive a budget to support an activity, such as going to a concert or a ball game, apple-picking or a movie. The size of the group is usually from 10 to 20 students, and the students help organize the event.
I recognize that the “down time” for a relaxing dinner or other event is nights and weekends; the same time that is often family time. However, bringing your family to an event can add an extra dimension – after all, life on campus often restricts students to their own age group, so having the family there can be fun for all. For example, stopping by a Sunday brunch with your family on your way to an event in Boston is a convenient way to combine both activities.
If you would like to explore being invited to a dinner, a brunch, or an event at a residence hall, contact me or one of the Housemasters directly (a list of the housemasters can be found at web.mit.edu/dsl/resources/housemasters_tutors.htm). A more extensive list of ideas for interacting with students can be found at web.mit.edu/dsl/faculty/interaction.html. Some of these other activities will be highlighted in future Newsletter articles.
Challenge III: Taking the first step . . .
Try it: The company and the experience will be most rewarding.