EVANSTON, Ill. --- This year professors Benjamin Gorvine and Quincy Stewart have joined the special ranks of generations of Northwestern University faculty who share their knowhow with like-minded students by hanging out with them in residential colleges.
Faculty masters provide guidance for each of Northwestern’s 11 residential colleges. Each college is organized around an area or multiple areas of interest including business, science, the arts and broader themes.
The program continues a long tradition of residence-based learning at Northwestern as the University embarks upon a ten-year master plan to improve the on-campus living experience.
“One of the missions of the residential colleges is to create this small liberal arts environment within the larger university,” said Gorvine, associate professor of instruction in psychology and the new faculty master at Shepard Residential College.
“You’re more connected with other students with similar interests, and you get some automatic connections with faculty with whom you may not otherwise connect with in the classroom,” he said.
The living and learning communities are designed to broaden the Northwestern learning experience.
“I didn’t know much about the residential college system here, but I quickly found out that this is a really cool experience,” said Quincy Stewart, associate professor of sociology and the new faculty master at Slivka Residential College of Science and Engineering.
“You get to hang out with really smart students and do some really cool things,” he said. “You get to help them develop intellectually and build a community on campus.”
The master provides intellectual leadership by engaging with student members and encouraging participation by fellows, who are faculty and staff members affiliated with the college.
“A lot of the master's work is indirect in that it involves guiding the student executive board toward putting together a robust and diverse calendar of programming,” said Bradley Zakarin, director of residential academic initiatives in Northwestern’s Division of Student Affairs. “
Northwestern News talked with Gorvine, who teaches statistics and research methods in psychology, and Stewart, whose teaching revolves around quantitative methods, about why they were interested in becoming a master, what makes their particular residential college special and more.
Why were you interested in becoming a residential college faculty master?
Gorvine: I’ve been interested in taking on more of a leadership role within the residential colleges. I have been a faculty fellow at the Ayers Residential College of Commerce and Industry for a number of years, and I have just always really enjoyed the type of engagement you can have with undergraduates in the residential college program. One of the really nice things about residential colleges is you get interaction with students that is not centered around evaluating them. It gives you a very different sort of experience.
Stewart: I didn’t know much about the residential college system here, but I quickly found out that this is a really cool experience. You get to hang out with really smart students and do some really cool things. You get to watch them and help them develop intellectually and help build a community on campus.
What type of research do you do, and how will you be able to apply it to your role as a residential college faculty master?
Gorvine: Statistics and research methods in psychology, both core courses for the department, often are the courses that students are least enthusiastic about taking. Sometimes the classroom is kind of an obstruction to engaging with students, and one of the many strengths of the residential college program is that we can have this connection with students. Engagement is kind of a given, and it is built in a way that is often hard to get to in a classroom setting.
Stewart: I teach quantitative methods and statistics at the graduate school level. I also teach an undergraduate course talking about the experience of racial inequality. Everyday individuals engage this system of inequality, both contributing to it and being affected by it.
What is cool about Slivka is that it reminds me of being an undergrad. I get to hang out with students, talk about the different computer programming languages they’re using and what I am doing with data in my own research. It’s neat to see the overlap between the two, because they’re different in respects of substantive topics.
What are you enjoying the most at the start of your faculty master experience?
Stewart: I love seeing different types of theater and finding out what students think about these sorts of things, because they’re often seeing these things for the first time. Living in this type of intellectual environment is a lot of fun.
Gorvine: For me, it’s just exciting to get out of the silo a little bit and be with students who are from very different disciplines. I enjoy the multidisciplinary conversations and hearing about the work students are doing in their different majors and departments.
Why do you think a residential college environment is a good choice for first-year Northwestern students?
Gorvine: There definitely is an advantage to living in an intellectual community. It is nice to land in a community that is set up for you. There are automatic and fast benefits of affiliating with a residential college right away.
Stewart: I agree. I think of it as sort of like choosing a family. The ability to migrate into a family unit and have intentional sorts of activities at such an intense level is something we don’t see anywhere else. For any incoming student, that’s a clear benefit to migrate into a built community that is very welcoming.
What about your specific residential colleges appeal to you?
Stewart: Slivka is somewhat emblematic of myself in that it is quirky, but it is really cool. The students are really excited about almost everything. It seems that anything they do, they do it to the best of their abilities. That’s very appealing to me.
Gorvine: I think for me the multi-thematic aspect of Shepard is really appealing. There are lots of puns also about Shepard students being sheep. I certainly enjoy those. I am learning about the many existing traditions within Shepard. Shepard has moved into a different space this year. I am interested in helping Shepard carry over some of those traditions.
Why do you think it is important for faculty to participate in engagement with students like the residential college program?
Gorvine: One of the benefits of this sort of setup is it provides a structure for students to engage with faculty. I think accessibility to faculty is available to all of our students, but it is sometimes harder to access unless you have the temperament or personality to go out there and initiate the conversations.
Stewart: Northwestern is a really great research university, but what separates us in many respects is that we have a fairly small undergraduate population. Within this undergraduate population, we are able to use a residential college program to really build up the liberal arts. What we can do is create these unique relationships between faculty and students where it is not about how many students we can fit into a classroom, but about how we can educate the individual holistically.