This year, HWS launched “Faculty Fellows,” a program that connects two members of the faculty to first-year students as mentors and community members, part of a Residential Education initiative to engage faculty and students in residences. The program creates opportunities outside of the classroom for first-years and professors to develop a shared sense of community at the Colleges. The fellows, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Robin Lewis and Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Hannah Dickinson, have led several events this fall, including granola making, clothing swaps, vegetable gleaning and an evening of Q&A’s about class registration for the spring.
The Faculty Fellows were inspired by the Sustainable Living and Learning Communities (SLLC), where faculty members hold their classes, attend programs and host assignment workshops in the residence hall. Overall, students in SLLC report feeling more connected to their faculty, and tend to achieve higher grade point averages as they more easily transition to college life. Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education Brandon Barile says that the Faculty Fellows program is a way to expand the progress of the SLLC by creating an environment where faculty are “seen as partners in students’ success at the Colleges, even in their residences.”
Alyda Twilley ‘20, who participated in a day of vegetable gleaning at a local farm with Lewis, says having a relationship with her professors is helpful.
“Having a connection outside of the classroom is a factor in my successful transition into college. It’s been reassuring to check in with Professor Lewis on a variety of issues, not just those related to a particular assignment in her class…. I feel empowered to take a risk in my writing or my classwork because I know that I can talk to her about it before or after, and that the conversation will be supportive even if we don’t share the same viewpoint.”
Lucas Mischler ’20, who has also participated in programming such as clothing swaps – which reduce the amount of clothes that would otherwise go to a landfill – has similarly developed a stronger connection to the HWS and Geneva community. “In my first semester at HWS I have discovered a passionate community at HWS that values collaboration and learning.”
As students prepared to sign up for classes in the spring of 2017, Dickinson and Lewis hosted programs in the first-year residences of JPR and the William Smith Hill designed to teach students how to register for classes, and how to pick classes that will help students reach their academic goals. Dickinson also hosted a program on succeeding in final exams, which included a collaboration with the Center for Teaching and Learning.
From Lewis’ perspective, becoming a Faculty Fellow has given her a better understanding of how residential life can affect students’ academic performance. Since becoming a Faculty Fellow, Lewis says she is a more “comprehensive” adviser.
“I now often start my conversations about academics with questions about how things are going with the roommate or on the floor in the residential area. I have found that having more knowledge about the ResEd side of things has both helped me to better connect to my first-year students and allows my students to feel more comfortable coming to speak with me about a wide range of academic and social topics,” Lewis says.
The Faculty Fellows program is organized by Residential Education. More programming and events will be announced in the spring of 2017.
Lewis’ research interests are sustainable consumption, sustainability in higher education, environmental governance and qualitative research methods. She most recently co-authored “Forest certification, institutional analysis and learning: An analysis of the impacts of the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme,” in Forest Policy and Economics.
Dickinson serves as a rotating director of the HWS Writing Colleagues Program. Her research focuses on the production and circulation of discourses about violence in higher education. Other research interests include writing program administration, peer tutoring and composition pedagogy. Her research has been published in a variety of journals, including Composition Studies, Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, and Reading Research Quarterly. She also co-authored the book, “Taking Initiative on Writing: A Guide for Instructional Leaders.”