Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Living in Close Quarters

Northwestern’s Faculty-in-Residence program is set to double in size for the 2016-2017 academic year

Reciprocal humanizing.

That’s how Brad Zakarin, director of the Office of Residential Academic Initiatives at Northwestern University, terms the campus’ six-year-old Faculty-in-Residence program in which current, full-time faculty members live in spacious apartments built into undergraduate residence halls.

Launched in 2010 at Elder Residential Community and expanded the following year to include the Allison Residential Community, the FIR program helps students see faculty members as individuals with lives and interests outside of the classroom, while simultaneously helping live-in faculty gain a more holistic look at student life beyond the university’s lecture halls and labs.

“So often faculty members are looked at like the baseball players in ‘Field of Dreams,’ where they disappear into the unknown at the end of the day before returning for the next class. Students, too, can be viewed much the same,” Zakarin says. “The Faculty-in-Residence program is a way to help both students and faculty gain deeper, richer and more personal insights into each others’ lives.”

And the opportunities for this “reciprocal humanizing” are about to grow.

As part of University’s 10-year housing master plan, the FIR program will double in size next academic year with the debut of new residential communities at Shepard Hall and Goodrich House. Two new faculty members will live in on-campus apartments and help shape the residential experience for approximately 300 students in each complex.

The FIR program’s expansion, Zakarin says, stands as a positive development for students who “can learn how to better relate to faculty and step out of their own academic bubble.”

Faculty in the FIR program, who receive a furnished two-bedroom apartment as well as an additional annual stipend, are charged to engage with residents and actively participate in the life of the residential community by leading academic, intellectual, cultural, educational and social activities.

For professor of instruction Renee Engeln, who is currently in her fifth year as the faculty member in residence at Allison, that has included dinners for students and her faculty colleagues, student musical performances and stress-reduction events.

Engeln says her FIR experience has engendered deeper respect for students and the passion they bring to their studies and extracurricular activities.

“I’ve been able to see different areas of the University that I could have easily remained blind to, and that’s created a greater appreciation for the student experience at Northwestern,” she says, adding that she currently has a number of students she first encountered at Allison now working in her lab.

Back to top