Baylor University provides undergraduate students with a transformational educational experience that develops students' leadership potential, helps them explore their faith and beliefs; challenges them academically; and prepares them for service in a world more connected today than at any time in history. These experiences take place in classes where students know one another and where their faculty know them by name. Students have opportunities to contribute to research typically reserved for graduate students. They join organizations that help them find their voices, and they build mentoring relationships where they find guidance and a helping hand.
Baylor's Faculty-in-Residence program is one of those ways the University fosters and shapes social, cultural, educational and spiritual life within its on-campus residential communities. Faculty-In-Residence live among students and work collaboratively with Student Life leadership and residence hall staff to cultivate relationally driven communities.
Below, Robert Creech, Ph.D., professor of pastoral ministry at Truett Seminary and faculty in residence at University House in North Village for the past seven years, shares what the opportunity has meant to him, while Brent Phillips, professor of trombone in the Baylor School of Music (who will fill Creech's position as the University House Faculty-In-Residence beginning in fall 2020) looks ahead to the opportunity to share life alongside students.
"It's key that the first word in the program is faculty, because it is an academic role in some ways. We have an apartment that we live in within the residence hall among students. Almost every residence hall has a faculty in residence. Baylor has invested a lot of time and effort in placing faculty members to live among students," Creech said. "We've learned through this investment that students tend to do better if there's a member of faculty living in the residence hall with them. Part of our role is just to help students get to know each other and have a sense of belonging to the place in which they live."
The program allows for students to engage with members of the Baylor faculty in a less formal setting, which is especially meaningful for first-year students for whom meeting with professors can be an intimidating prospect. However, by being on campus with students, sharing meals and living in the same place as them helps breaks down some of those barriers and encourages students to be a little more open to the faculty that are part of their academic life.
The faculty are encouraged to build programs for the students that either enhance their academic abilities or expose them to new ideas, speakers or campus organizations that will contribute to their holistic development. Being a faculty member of this program means taking on a role of community-building in addition to being an academic resource.
"Faculty-in-Residence give students the opportunity to come alongside faculty in research and through intentional programming, establishing friendships and working together in a community of learners," Phillips said. He is looking forward to starting his tenure at University House by intentionally fostering a welcoming Christian community with a focus on mentoring the residents of University House and helping them grow their Christian identity and personal vision. "It is my desire to encourage and model Christ's love and strength in the relationships I foster through my tenure as a Faculty-in-Residence."
The positions for the program are always competitive and come with a rigorous application process. "The application starts with a letter of interest where you make your case for why you would be a good fit for the program. Those applications are collected and reviewed, and then there's a multi-round interview process committee that has students, hall directors and staff from Campus Living & Learning," Creech said. "It gets a bit competitive and sometimes ends up with three candidates, any one of whom would do a great job, and you've got to make a decision from among them. In my seven years, there's never been a situation where there was an open position and nobody was interested." Dr. Creech went on to highlight that he believes that the competitive nature of this program speaks highly of the caliber of the faculty at Baylor University.
Personalized education and development of not just a student's academic abilities but the enrichment and growth of their whole person is a hallmark of Baylor's transformative undergraduate education. The Faculty-in-Residence program is one among a bevy of ways Baylor celebrates its distinctive position in higher education as a place where scholarship and faith work in concert to educate students in a comprehensive way.
"It's one of the places where that part of Baylor's vision really touches the ground and is very centered around our common commitment to Christ and to our students. Students who live in a residence hall are going to be surrounded by leaders who have a clear commitment to Christ and are committed to them," Creech said.