Editors’ note: In August 2014 SMU will debut the Residential Commons on-campus living model. Eleven Faculty-in-Residence were selected to live among students. This is part nine of 11 FiR profiles.
After first hearing about the new Faculty-in-Residence Program from a colleague, David Son, SMU professor of chemistry, knew it was an opportunity he wanted to investigate.
“A couple of years ago, our departmental coordinator went to a lunch where this program was described. She thought I might be interested and from what she told me, I was,” Son said. “I didn’t know specifically who to contact, but after calling various departments on campus, I was finally directed to Jeff Grim, assistant director of residence life. Jeff set up a meeting, and he filled me in on the details. After this initial discussion, I knew I would be interested.”
According to Son, it took him and his wife, Heidi, less than five minutes to make the decision to participate in the program. Son says his wife has been completely behind the move throughout the entire process.
The couple has two children, a 7-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Son knows it will be different at first for students to live in a dorm with younger children but hopes it will eventually become normal.
“In the beginning, it will probably be a novelty for the students to see a family with young kids living in the commons. But after the novelty wears off, I hope the students will see us as normal residents,” Son said. “We’re certainly not going to impose on the students or force our presence on them, but I hope they will feel we are approachable.”
Although the couple’s new apartment is located in Boaz Hall, Son says they don’t have any reservations about moving into the dorm.
“Some people I speak with, particularly students, think I’m crazy for bringing a young family into a college dorm. Boaz Hall, in particular, has a certain notoriety on campus. I think we know what we’re getting into, and we’ll be ok with it,” Son said.
For Son, one of the perks provided by living on campus is the easy five-minute walk to work. In addition to location, on-campus living will provide Son the opportunity to relate with students in an out-of-class setting, another benefit Son saw in the program.
“We’re hoping to get to know the residents at a more informal level,” Son said. “I expect our relationships with the residents to be different than faculty-student relationships in a classroom or laboratory setting. At the same time, I don’t expect all the students in our commons will be open to these interactions, but that’s perfectly OK.”
As for planned activities the couple has for residents, Son plans to play it by ear. However, Son says his wife loves to bake goodies and host small groups, which is something they hope to do with residents. According to Son, him and his wife are also regular runners and would possibly want to organize a running group.
“I expect we’ll host small groups on a routine basis,” Son said. “We’d also like to take small groups to attend various campus events in which our commons’ residents are participating. My wife and I also go running on a regular basis, so maybe we’ll organize a weekly ‘running and coffee’ morning event. There are many possibilities.”