Faculty-in-residence programs puts professors on campus

Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

While Thanksgiving is typically a holiday that is spent with family, sometimes work or travel costs can prevent a trip home for the long weekend. However, for some Baylor students, their dorm’s faculty-in-residence offered them a home away from home and a chance to spend the holiday with family, even if it was not their own.

J. Brian Elliott and his wife, Susan “Sue” Elliott have been a part of Baylor’s faculty-in-residence program for three years, the last two of which were spent in North Village Heritage House. The Elliotts held a Thanksgiving dinner at their house for students that were unable to return home for the holidays and have hosted other events and dinners throughout the semester for students.

“It just so happens that we stay in town during Thanksgiving, and we realize that there are people that aren’t going home for Thanksgiving, so the idea was just to invite people in,” Sue Elliott said. “It’s always a small group of people, but it was great company. I think it makes students feel more at ease and more at home.”

Brian and Sue Elliott both attended Baylor for their undergraduate degrees, but did not know one another during school because Brian was two years ahead of his wife. They met the week after Sue graduated at a job they shared in a Waco sandwich shop.

“I was mad most of the time because I didn’t want to be working there, and she just thought I was shy so she was nice to me,” Brian said. “She would talk to our boss while they were prepping in the morning, and then she would leave and I would talk to him about her. One day I finally went ‘Frank, what do you think?’ and he goes, ‘I’d marry her,’ and I went ‘well that’s what I was thinking.’”

Brian, senior lecturer in the department of communications, has been teaching at Baylor for more than 20 years, and began contemplating the idea of joining the faculty-in-residence program after the second of the Elliott’s two sons left for college.

“I was sitting in my empty house and felt the Lord whisper to me, ‘You can sit here by yourself, or you can go do something,’” Brian Elliot said. “So we talked about it together, and there’s a big process in terms of being selected, but we both are people who expect that our lives will continue to be full of unexpected adventure, and we’re not just looking to settle in.”

The Elliott’s spent their first year in the program in Texana House, and then transferred to Heritage House when the position opened up. They have hosted students for Thanksgiving all three years that they have been in the program, and also organize dinners in their apartment and weekly evening gatherings known as “Lounge in the Lobby.”

“Being welcome to spend Thanksgiving lunch with Brian and Sue was a tremendous experience and something I’m never going to forget,” said Missouri City sophomore James Eduku, a CL in Heritage House. “They welcomed all into their home and made my holiday in Waco feel a lot like a holiday spent back home.”

While the Elliott’s hope that they can be friendly and welcoming to students, Sue Elliott also enjoys being able to spend time getting to know the people that make up the Baylor community. In their third year in the program, the Elliott’s began to keep a list of the students they have met in order to keep track of who’s who and what they are studying.

“I’m a people-person, and these are great people to be around,” Sue Elliott said. “It’s so easy to be around young college kids at Baylor. There’s a lot of positive, friendly, good students that live in our house. It feeds a need for me and gives me and outlet to relate to people and love on them.”

Although there is no set amount of time that faculty-in-residence must stay in the program, Brian Elliott said that most people stay for about five-seven years, and that the Elliott’s do not plan on leaving any time soon.

“Whenever I meet someone and tell them that we’re faculty in residence, I see three reactions instantaneously,” Brian Elliot said. “One is, ‘are you insane?’ Two, ‘are you saving a lot of money?’ And three, ‘What are we doing with our lives?’

“People see this as a big inconvenience, but the truth is, it’s not. We have plenty of privacy if we need it, and what else do I want to do but hang out with awesome people all the time.”

The Elliott’s plan to spend the Christmas holidays with Brian Elliott’s father in Fort Worth, but when they are on-campus, they miss having the students around.

“We ride scooters through the hall and yell and turn on very loud music when everybody’s gone,” Sue said. “No, but there’s a lot of days where it’s very quiet. I have mixed feelings about it, but it’s kind of weird that there’s no one on campus … It’s a little sad and empty.”