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New faculty-in-residence Elizabeth Lenaghan will join Elder Hall

Writing professor hopes to create environment where students mentor students

Faculty-in-Residence Elizabeth Lenaghan
Faculty-in-Residence Elizabeth Lenaghan and Jason Kelly Roberts.

Elizabeth Lenaghan, director of and associate professor of instruction in The Cook Family Writing Program and assistant director of The Writing Place, has been named Faculty-in-Residence at Elder Hall for fall 2019.

Lenaghan is Northwestern's eighth Faculty-in-Residence, joining a list of live-in faculty whose work strengthens connections between students and faculty to heighten the rewarding experiences of campus residential living.

When Lenaghan and her partner, Jason Kelly Roberts of the Office of Fellowships, move in this fall, they’ll be seeking ways to foster student-to-student connections as well.

“When students come to know her, they’ll certainly enjoy her energetic engagement and her interest in their day-to-day experiences at Northwestern.”

“We’re really excited to build long-term relationships, beyond what is typically done in the classroom,” she says. 

Noting that many participants in The Writing Place are upperclassmen and graduate students, she wants to leverage their experience as a resource to underclassmen who rely so much on the advice of their peers.

She has received praise from students for her empathetic approach to advising and problem-solving. One student called her a “rare find,” and another referred to Lenaghan and Roberts as “the type of people you want to stay connected to.”

Acting Vice President of Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, who oversaw the Faculty-in-Residence search process with Miriam Sherin, associate provost for undergraduate education, recalled Lenaghan’s response to a question about what Northwestern could do better. “She had very nuanced thoughts about promoting a culture that rebalances face-to-face and digital interactions,” says Payne-Kirchmeier.

“When students come to know her, they’ll certainly enjoy her energetic engagement and her interest in their day-to-day experiences at Northwestern,” says Robert Gundlach, director of The Cook Family Writing Program and professor of linguistics.

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of Northwestern's Faculty-in-Residence program. The list of active live-ins includes Rifka Cook, Allison Hall; Tali Figueroa, Goodrich House, Bobb Hall and McCulloch Hall; Ben Gorvine, Willard Hall; and Melissa Foster, Shepard Hall and 1838 Chicago. Jacob Smith and Freda Love Smith will be leaving Elder this summer 

During her tenure as vice president of Student Affairs, Patricia Telles-Irvin made a strategic commitment to faculty engagement in the residential experience. She expanded the original pair of Faculty-in-Residence positions to five and convened the Undergraduate Residential Experience Committee, which proposed a single residential model with as many as 10 live-in faculty.

Lenaghan teaches courses in expository writing, communication and practical rhetoric in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the McCormick School of Engineering. Her current first-year seminar explores hoaxes to critically assess the roles that fake news and sensationalism have played throughout history. 

In another expository writing class, she examines how new modes and genres of written communication impact the style, content and frequency of writing practices.

"I'm trying to push back against the idea that everything new is terrible," she says in an optimistic tone. "Everything is changing. The speed with which we write, the venue, the device, the length. But the truth is that this simply is part and parcel of the ongoing evolution of language. The excitement in advancing technology is that a much broader population is contributing to that change. More people are reading and writing, and that's a good thing."

As the founding director of the Graduate Writing Place, she oversees PhD student fellows whose consultations with graduate students, postdocs and faculty members provide assistance on writing in a variety of genres, including course work, dissertation proposals and chapters, fellowship applications, job market materials and manuscripts for publication.

She also facilitates writing workshops, interdisciplinary writing groups and dissertation boot camps aimed at teaching participants concrete strategies and exercises to improve both the quality and productivity of their writing.

Lenaghan and Roberts will settle in this September to an improved Elder Hall that will feature a Kosher kitchen, Halal options, a Pure Eats allergy-free station and a fully renovated space with a variety of seating options.

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