Leveraging Faculty Relationships Beyond the Classroom
Living at UCLA gives you unprecedented access to our world class faculty. Get to know your faculty-in-residence on a personal level, outside the classroom, and learn more about the amazing work being done by UCLA professors.
To tell us more about the Faculty in Residence Program (FIR), we spoke to Professor Gena Carpio, Ph.D. and Lori Vogelgesang, Ph.D.
Dr. Gena Carpio
Gena is a second year professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UCLA, teaching courses in Mexican American history, Latino suburbs, and the digital humanities. She learned about the FIR Program from a colleague and was drawn to the program based on previously experiencing the benefits of merging residential and academic life.
Dr. Lori Vogelgesang
Lori came to UCLA over 25 years ago, and with the exception for a brief time as a Peace Corps volunteer, has been around. In the interview she noted that over her time here all three of her children came into this world while she and her partner lived on the hill. Dr. Vogelgesang has been directing the Faculty in Residence program for about 7 years after UCLA administration recognized her passion and skillsets and tapped her to take on the new role.
As a Californian and first-generation college student, Gena enjoys introducing students to the fascinating histories of the Southern California region and encouraging students to see themselves as researchers in the making. Teaching as postdoctoral fellow Dr. Carpio had been impressed by faculty who participated as live-in faculty within the residential college model at Yale University. In current role she enjoys bridging the classroom with the “hill,” and offering programming based on her research specialties.
Earning her Ph.D. at UCLA Lori spent about 12 years doing research and consulting in assessing educational programs and studying how young adults develop civic attitudes and behaviors, before returning to Student Affairs. She and her partner are starting a new chapter as their daughter is now a first-year Bruin. Now identifying as a Bruin alum, parent, staff, and holding a faculty appointment teaching in the graduate program each summer, Lori offers a unique and comprehensive lens of UCLA and all that it offers its students.
The FIR program has been in existence since the first 4 residence halls were built on the hill in the 1960s; each of those had a small faculty apartment included. The program really began to grow as we built more housing for students in the early 1990’s. As we built to deliver on the chancellor’s commitment to creating a residential program (incoming undergraduates being guaranteed a spot living on campus), we sustained our commitment to having a faculty presence in the residential area. Now, we have 20 faculty families (and approximately 30 staff) who live on the hill. They represent the breadth of academic disciplines and a wide array of interests. – Lori
Withing the program faculty are affiliated with a residential community (a residence hall) and work closely with that staff to develop ideas and see them to fruition. Each of the 10 Living Learning Communities has an FIR assigned to support it. Faculty also work with each other to consider ways in which the FIR group can inform and shape relevant institutional policies on campus. Many UCLA faculty members have to commute a fair distance to get to campus, and it’s quite challenging to create the kind of faculty-student community one might find in a smaller community. The faculty members that live on the hill find themselves invited to bring their unique perspective and understanding to many groups – prospective students, other faculty, administrators, etc.
What is the mission or goals of the FIR Program?
The official mission of the FIR program is “to provide both formal and informal resident-faculty interactions through educational programming, classes, individual and small-group advising, and casual association. These interactions provide students in the opportunity to approach and relate to faculty members on a more personal level.”
For Gena she says, “it is about closing the gap between the sage and the student. It provides these really unique opportunities for faculty and students to meet outside of the classroom: eating in the dining hall, walking to campus from the residence halls, writing in the courtyard, etc. It also allows faculty to integrate their expertise into residential life. We each work closely with the RAs to plan engagement opportunities with students in the residence halls, provide “hill-wide” expertise on pressing current events through panels and Fiat-Lux seminars, and participate in Living Learning Communities that serve the diverse needs of our student body, from the Afrikan Diaspora to the Visual and Performing Arts Collective.”
As Director of the program, Lori articulates that the goal of the program is to “strengthen faculty interaction with students outside the classroom.” To do this, faculty provide formal and informal opportunities to students to connect with them and one another through classes, activities and workshops. FIR teach Fiat Lux classes on the hill (1 credit seminars aimed at giving first year students an intimate class opportunity), organize activities such as trips around Los Angeles to hike, explore neighborhoods, visit art and cultural venues, and facilitate workshops covering a wide variety of topics from getting involved in community service to thinking about and applying to graduate school. FIR also coordinate movie screenings, invite special guest speakers, and more.
How can students hear more about FIR and their events?
Students learn about FIR events, activities and resources through a variety of venues. There is personal outreach via residential life staff and student liaisons – the RAs and the Residence Government Council (RGC), who serve as campus representatives and initiate important programming opportunities. High-tech means like social media is another tool utilized, including Facebook groups and biographical videos, and ‘old school’ techniques in the form of paper outreach, through flyers and table tents. Depending on the activity, FIRs might be inviting their undergraduate classes as well.
“The faculty plan the events with students, so students tend to be the ones spreading the invitation. FIRs have also devised creative ways to raise awareness – whether that is attending the resident association meetings to get to know students, going door-to-door with ‘blue books’ or cookies around exam time, doing some ‘rounds’ with on-duty RA staff, or setting up a table in the lobby and just hanging out. Faculty (and staff) can be seen walking their dogs, playing with their children or getting dinner with residents. The pets and children are the best ice-breakers. Students stop in their tracks and share that they miss their younger sibling, or their dog, or and the conversation begins.” -L.V.
Are there any takeaways for family members about the FIR program?
The best source of what is happening is the communications RAs have via their Facebook or other channels. For parents, the reslife.ucla.edu website posts the ‘all-hill’ events. The ‘Academics on the Hill’ Facebook page has proven to be very popular too. Our website also lists the FIRs and their academic disciplines as well as a little biography about their interests. Students can email an FIR if they want to make a connection. Some activities that are more intimate might not be as widely advertised, but any resident is welcome to join an activity in another community, and frankly, I believe faculty are flattered when a student expresses a shared interest. They could then make sure your Bruin knows about upcoming activities. I would also share that our Residential Life professional staff continue to be on point for any student issues – RAs and Resident Directors are your best points of contact – or of course, the Parent and Family Programs office can help direct you as well! -L.V.
Do you have any tips for student engagement with faculty and TA’s outside of the classroom?
Whether it be in the courtyard or the dining hall, the type of interaction the FIR program provides students is the opportunity to meet professors who are approachable and invested in their holistic experience here at UCLA. “This is an important catalyst for encouraging further interaction with professors on-campus, connecting students to research opportunities, providing feedback on social-academic programming, and mentoring student leaders.” -G.C.
It can be difficult for students to engage their professors outside of the classroom, particularly if enrolled in larger lecture classes. But, the professors I know are genuinely invested in their students’ success and find much joy in mentoring and teaching. Some tangible steps students can take to facilitate these interactions include speaking in class, attending office hours, participating in departmental events, and sharing their future plans with faculty. -G.C.
What I hear time and again from faculty is how they are eager for students to engage in classroom conversations, visit them during office hours, and to be engaged learners. Yet so many students are reluctant, or perhaps give up after one not-so-great faculty encounter. The FIR group is selected precisely because they have a disposition to be approachable, and are willing to commit to helping students integrate all aspects of their learning. They can help students with a plan. My recommendation is to support your student taking the first step to just show up at a FIR event and have a conversation with that faculty member. If they can just say to the FIR “hey I’m nervous about what to say during office hours”, I’m pretty confident a good conversation can follow. Or, tell your RA and ask their help to connect. Finally, students can post questions and get quick responses on the “Academics on the Hill” FB page I mentioned earlier. The team of students and staff engaged in that FB community is a fun way to get questions answered, and stay engaged, not just with faculty programs, but all kinds of academic support and information. -L.V.
Rather than a “sage on the stage,” the FIR program facilitates student-professor interaction in everyday life.