Faculty-in-residence adjust to life without students

Faculty-in-residence families explain how their lives have changed and how they stay in touch with students during quarantine. Photo courtesy of Dr. Rishi Sriram

By Jordan Davidson | Reporter

COVID-19 has altered life on campus for faculty, staff and students in many different ways. For those professors who participate in the faculty-in-residence program, life without students has changed not only how do their job, but how they live.

According to the Baylor University website, faculty-in-residence “work collaboratively with CL&L leadership and residence hall staff to create diverse residential environments that support learning and faith development through the cultivation of relationally driven communities.”

Dr. Rishi Sriram, faculty-in-residence for Brooks Residential College for the last seven years and professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, said that the lack of students on campus and social distancing precautions have greatly affected his duties as an FIR.

“I think that the time that we’re in is hard for all faculty. But, for our faculty and residents, it’s especially heartbreaking,” Sriram said. “We have given our lives to build community for students here at Baylor and to see that fall apart so suddenly and so dramatically has been really really hard.”

Dr. McAninch, faculty-in-residence at Kokernot Hall for the last two years and professor in child and family studies, said she agrees that life without students on campus is different.

“With most residents back at home, and with social distancing for those who remain, the events I would have done with residents – like hosting coffee nights and family dinners, or attending cultural events – aren’t feasible any longer,” McAninch said. “I miss the life and energy students bring to campus while they are here. Without residents here, we miss out on impromptu hang-outs and opportunities to connect with residents because of proximity.”

McAninch said that while life has changed a lot in recent weeks, her and her family have been coping together.

“We have been spending a lot of time taking walks around campus and watching movies together as a family,” McAninch said.

Although their duties have shifted to comply with COVID-19 social distancing recommendations, some FIR’s have found ways to stay connected with their residents and keep the mission of their programs alive.

“One of the traditions of Brooks college is something that we call Tuesday Teas where every Tuesday at four o’clock I invite a guest into my home,” Sriram said. “We’ve been doing Tuesday Teas virtually and we’ll have someone speak via video chatting and we’ve been getting 30 students or so coming to them.”

McAninch has also stayed connected through residents by participating in virtual events.

“I have sent a personal message through our hall newsletter and am joining a virtual movie night the hall is hosting this Thursday,” McAninch said.

Despite the fact that this semester was cut short, Sriram says that he is grateful that him and his family will be returning to the FIR position in the fall.

“I cannot wait to embrace students again and to be able to hug on them and see them face to face and up close,” Sriram said. “I want to reestablish the community that we worked so hard to create.”