The University of Toledo assistant professor of anthropology moved into the renovated residence hall at the same time as the underclassmen he shares a home with — only he had a U-Haul truck for his furniture and they had stuffed their belongings into their parents’ cars.
“The thought of me being able to be closer to students to help them focus on academics on their terms in their home and really help them have a positive college experience really drove this idea home for me,” McKether said.
The new apartment in Carter Hall doubles the University’s Faculty in Residence Program.
Dr. Vijay Devabhaktuni, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, is living in the existing faculty apartment in MacKinnon Hall.
Devabhaktuni said he considers himself a student-focused professor and was interested in the idea of relating to students in a different way.
“I don’t think like a teacher in a class, I think like a student. Before I give homework, I stop and think about it, knowing that students don’t like too much,” he said. “I’m hoping this opportunity will let me grow by interacting with an even larger group of students outside of engineering, since they will be studying a variety of disciplines.”
UT Director of Residence Life Jo Campbell started the Faculty in Residence Program two years ago with Dr. Tavis Glassman, assistant professor of health education, as the first participant living in MacKinnon. The program aims to give both faculty and students a better understanding of the other through increased informal interactions.
Both faculty apartments include two bedrooms, a kitchenette and a living room.
Introducing themselves to students has been much of their work so far, McKether and Devabhaktuni said.
“They see me around and have realized I’m not a Res Life person, but are still wondering why I’m always around,” McKether said. “It’s a process to let them know I’m here and they can use me as a resource. Got a question about a paper? I can help. Having trouble preparing for a test? I’m here.”
Devabhaktuni said he sees his role as supporting the Residence Life staff in making the on-campus living experience a rewarding one for students.
“I really want to be part of a team with those in Residence Life, the students, the staff — everybody involved with living in the halls,” he said. “Whatever I can do to help that team as we come up with new approaches to keeping residence life active and safe and create opportunities to learn more and more.”
McKether and Devabhaktuni have signed up to participate in the Faculty in Residence Program for up to three years.