An update from Dr. Mark Kerins, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the Morrison-McGinnis Residential Community:
As I’m writing this, we’re in the middle of a rare Dallas snowstorm and the roads have been pretty bad – I have to say, right now I’m really wishing I was already on campus and didn’t have to brave the crazy Dallas drivers to get to and from work.
So as you might guess from the previous sentence, I am not yet living in a dorm (or a Residential Commons, as they’ll all become next year), which makes me a little different from the past writers on this blog. I think all the posts thus far have been from colleagues who are already living on campus as part of the first wave of FiRs. I, on the other hand, won’t be moving in until the summer, when the rest of the inaugural Faculty-in-Residence will move onto campus in preparation for the launch of the Residential Commons program/system in Fall 2014. In fact, since Morrison-McGinnis will be undergoing renovation/construction this upcoming summer, I probably won’t be able to move in until August; it’s a little scary knowing my family will only have a couple weeks to move in and get situated before the building fills up with students, but also will get us accustomed to living with students around right away.
Until then, this is the FiR-living-in-Garland view on things. As an occasional writer here this spring, I’ll try to offer a little different perspective from the great stories about what it’s like living as a faculty-in-residence from those already doing it, instead focusing on the prep we’re doing behind-the-scenes in readying the RC launch for ALL the RCs, including those that don’t yet have faculty living in them and even those on the south quad that haven’t had anyone living in them yet.
We kicked off on-campus publicity for the Res Commons with a tent at Homecoming. My whole family came (my wife, Jessica, and our 2-year-old twins, Ben and Rory) to help, all of course in SMU gear. The kids got a kick out of homecoming – though they preferred the parade with people throwing candy to hanging around the tent. Not sure if the bounce house or the candy was the highlight but they had a busy day with it all and took a long nap after we went home.
Since then, I’ve been working with the fantastic Morrison-McGinnis leadership team – including Liz Rader in Res Life and students Alexis, Olivia, and Michael of the Residential Commons Leadership Corps (RCLC) – on figuring out plans for our RC. We’ve been busy figuring out plans for our RC, like what our motto will be, our crest, our planned traditions, community-building plans, and most importantly what we want the feel/vibe of our RC to be – how to make it unique and welcoming.
It’s an interesting challenge creating “traditions” and the like from scratch. I guess they have to start somewhere, but once something’s a tradition you never think of the people who originated it so that’s been a challenge – we’re trying to leave room for things to grow organically once we have our first full building of residents while also providing some foundational structures to build off. The same is true for the programming – we want the RAs, residents, and staff to all be part of figuring out what programming we do on both a one-off and ongoing basis (including which we hope/plan will be traditions), but also want to hit the ground running so can’t wait until the fall to start figuring it out. In fact, each RC is going to already have some events planned for the week students arrive on campus, so at least those early things we’re trying to get planned out this semester, while leaving more gaps later in the semester and year as we see what the vibe of our whole group is and what people want to do.
On the FiR-specific side, I’m dealing with much the same issue. My wife and I have a lot of ideas for events and programming to do, but also don’t want to overdo it and have too much planned. One thing I’m learning from my colleagues already on campus is that more informal events seem to generally work better. I’m sure a lot of it will be figuring things out the first semester and year – after all, that’s part of the excitement and challenge of helping launch the RC program at SMU is that we’re making parts of it up as we go along and are going to have to be flexible. But we’re looking forward to the challenge. And I figure people are always up for a movie night with food, right?