EVANSTON - Psychology professor Benjamin Gorvine has been named Faculty-in-Residence at the newly renovated Willard Hall and brings a wealth of experience from earlier roles at Northwestern to his new position, which starts in fall 2018.
Gorvine becomes Northwestern University’s fifth Faculty-in-Residence, joining a list of live-in faculty whose work increases connections between students and faculty to enrich and deepen the rewarding experiences of residential life.
“Being in the building, being on the ground is so important, because it makes being involved in student life much easier,” said Gorvine. “This role will enable me to foster activities and connect with the community while I am here, and it lets me have my finger more on the pulse of student life on campus as well.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin underscored the benefits of the University’s commitment to this arrangement in creating such opportunities for students to live in close proximity with faculty mentors and teachers.
“We are fortunate to have such a close partnership between the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of the Provost,” she said. “The shared commitment to enriching students’ experiences and supporting them on their Northwestern journeys makes joint initiatives like this rewarding for all involved, including our growing cohort of Faculty-in-Residence and Residential Life staff.”
Gorvine is no stranger to residential life. He has been Faculty Chair at Shepard Residential College since 2015 and serves as lead advisor, assistant chair and associate professor of instruction in the Department of Psychology in Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
But in this case, he will bring his family to live in a newly designed apartment at Willard, and the experience of living in the building full time with Willard students is the aspect he is particularly looking forward to.
“My family is really excited about this. My wife, Amy Milner-Gorvine, is a middle school humanities teacher at Roycemore School in Evanston, and she is looking forward to it, and our daughters are, too,” he said. “They really love the idea of living around college students.”
Renovated Willard Hall
Northwestern reopened the newly renovated Willard Hall in January. The hall can house 260 students and includes the second Engagement Center supporting the Southwest Neighborhood. It also includes air conditioning and new furniture in sleeping rooms, a redesigned Fran’s Café with full menu service and snacks for students, lounges, classrooms, multi-functional spaces, newly remodeled bathrooms, a fitness room in the lower level and a laundry room on each floor.
A spacious Faculty-in-Residence apartment was integrated into Willard, and Gorvine has been appointed to start a three-year term beginning in September. The new position represents a step toward a goal of ten Faculty-in-Residence apartments spread across the anticipated five Neighborhoods.
“The Faculty-in-Residence position depends on ‘presence.’ Success requires visibility and approachability,” explained Ron Braeutigam, associate provost for undergraduate education. “Ben is a fixture for Psychology majors and members of Shepard Residential College. Some learn statistics from him. Many get plan-of-study advising from him. And still more seek guidance about job and graduate school decisions from him.
“Even when the formal link of course enrollment or living in Shepard ends, students keep in touch with Ben. These are the kinds of connections we’re hoping to expand to more students and faculty,” Braeutigam said.
New residential experience
Northwestern unveiled a framework Jan. 18 for a new residential experience for its undergraduate students. The proposed approach is designed to help students thrive by creating distinct, robust “Neighborhoods” with access to common facilities, support structures and programs.
The proposal provides recommendations on building community for students and ensuring an inclusive, engaging and universal residential experience in the years that follow. The University community now has the opportunity to comment further on the proposals in the innovative framework, outlined in a report by the Undergraduate Residential Experience Committee.
Spirit of mentorship
Gorvine has a wide range of research experience revolving around statistical and research methods as well as a background in clinical psychology. He has a history of working with students and helping them thrive, including researching how they learn on teams and in collaborative environments and how they deal with stress management.
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Earlham College in 1994, a beloved liberal arts institution in Indiana, where faculty put their focus on teaching, mentoring, advising and shaping their students as human beings as well as for success.
Gorvine takes that spirit of mentorship seriously and brings it to his roles in teaching, advising and collaborating with students at Northwestern. His peers and his students have given him high marks for his listening skills and ability to help them on any topic.
“We have been in the psychology department for eight years together, and in addition to being colleagues, he’s my office neighbor, and we’re good friends,” she said in an interview. “And one of the benefits of being an office neighbor is I can hear him advising students -- and it always serves as a reminder of the kind of professor I want to be.
“He has such a good way with students, and he is always willing to help. They understand that, and they see that in him. They trust him a lot, even students who might normally struggle to ask for help have an easier time asking him for it.”
Engeln recently concluded a six-year tenure as the Faculty-in-Residence in Allison Hall, and she emphasized Gorvine’s longtime involvement in residential college life and how it has already carried his work with students beyond the classroom, beyond his advising role and beyond his work with student groups.
“The Faculty-in-Residence role seems like a natural extension for Ben,” she noted. “His wife is a wonderful teacher, as well, so the two of them will be great. They are very service focused people, but they are also very good at getting young people to care about others.”
Gorvine’s student associates also sing his praises. Daniela Ruiz, 22, a senior from Atlanta majoring in chemical engineering, worked closely with Gorvine when she was president of the executive board at Shepard Residential College and Gorvine was Shepard’s Faculty Chair.
“He was able to guide students into what their strengths were and help us learn to work together toward a common goal,” Ruiz said. “I really liked how he was able to let students get their voices in and allowed us to make our own choices.”
She also admired his fun-loving spirit and willingness to embrace his students. One of the highlights of their time together, Ruiz recalled, was during the Residential College Board field day, a spring tradition that includes a shopping cart race.
“You put your faculty member in a shopping cart, and he did that and allowed students to push him around the lakefill,” she said. “I remember he came fully dressed in complete sheep costume -- I saw a huge sheep (the Shepard mascot) in the middle of the lakefill. … I think that really added to the experience: having a professor take time off to come and to really embrace the idea and go the extra mile.”
Over time, Ruiz got to know Gorvine’s family and learn about him personally, often going to an Ethiopian restaurant to have dinner with students and his family. “I have really enjoyed that, spending time with his kids and wife and hearing their stories,” she said.
Gorvine has two daughters, Sophie, 12, who will be living with the family in the newly renovated Willard faculty apartment, and Emma, 18, who is a first-year student at Earlham College, following in her father’s footsteps and looking forward to visits to their new home.
Making folks feel at ease
Gorvine teaches a variety of psychology courses for his department, including Stats and Research Methods. He also offers courses in clinical psychology, such as Child Psychopathology, as his teaching interests are informed by his background as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.
Before he was Shepard Faculty Chair, he also was a faculty fellow at Ayers Residential College of Commerce & Industry for several years, and his long record of advising and mentoring students is one of his strengths.
One of those students, Jasmine “Jazz” Stephens, 25, a 2015 Northwestern graduate in psychology from Oakland, California, had Gorvine as her advisor and said he was extraordinary.
“Ben is one of the most amazing professors I had the chance to work with at Northwestern,” Stephens said. “He knows so many Northwestern resources and is amazing at both directing people to them, and listening and being present for his students. He always treats his students holistically, caring about both their academic lives and who they are outside of classes.
“Ben has a way of making folks feel at ease,” Stephens added. “When I wanted to do my thesis in psychology, Ben agreed to be my thesis advisor, even though what I was looking at was completely outside of his field of study. He supported me and very much wanted to learn alongside me.
“He really encourages students to explore their different interests, not only by showing interest, but by actually investing in providing people opportunities,” said Stephens, who now works for Northwestern at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Well-being in Chicago.
Gorvine especially likes the idea of spending time at Willard with students in relationships that don’t necessarily involve evaluating them as a faculty member. He is already starting to plan ideas for collaborations on programming with other Faculty-in-Residence colleagues and working with other faculty and staff in the Neighborhood.
He and his wife are looking forward to holding receptions in their living room, which has a fireplace, a remodeled kitchen at one end and a sign over the entrance reminding guests that it was once Willard’s “Common Room.” Gorvine can imagine hosting academically-focused events, group discussions and community gatherings.
Mainly, he aspires to live the mentoring model he learned as an undergraduate at Earlham, one that still goes to his core as a teacher.
“The best teaching is often much more about relationship building, than just about the content,” he observed. “It’s about making students feel intellectually and personally respected.”