Xavier Magazine

Professor in Residence

Living in a student residence hall can be a lot like living in New York City. Both are places that never sleep.

That’s kind of exciting when you’re 19 years old. People continuously coming and going. Lots of commotion. Loud noises. But why would a tenured professor who’s been at the University 16 years want to put herself in the middle of all that?

“It’s important to be integrated with students,” says Irene Hodgson, director of Latin American studies and the University’s 2001 teacher of the year. “It is part of the mission of the University and the peace I have within myself in everything I do.”

At the beginning of the academic year, Hodgson moved into an apartment in The Commons, the student apartment building across from the Cintas Center. She is the first faculty member to embark on a new program the University developed that has professors living among the students.

While the University’s Jesuit priests have always lived on campus—including several who live in dorm rooms and serve as residence hall advisors—the idea is new among faculty. Hodgson, though, was a perfect fit for faculty inclusion. The Spanish professor is a self-described 24-hour teacher who has always been a night owl, and living on campus gives her the opportunity to more fully let her personal and professional worlds overlap. She’s simply continuing to be available for her students and establishing concern outside of the classroom, she says.

She lives on the building’s fourth floor, immediately adjacent to University President Michael Graham, S.J., who set the tone for the idea by having his apartment designed into the building when it was constructed two years ago. Hodgson’s apartment has two bedrooms, a washer and dryer and a small living room.

The lease she signed with the University’s office of residence life calls for her to live in the apartment for two years. She participates in various building wing socials as well as all-hall events where the entire dormitory is invited. The participation resembles the idea she had in mind when she first approached the University about having professors live on campus. Her idea was to create service wings or social justice wings in various dormitories. The wings would house students and a faculty member who had a particular interest in a certain academic/social program to begin programming within the residence halls.

This idea is a little different, but the concept is the same. And even though the education of the students was the impetus behind the idea, Hodgson is finding that she’s also receiving an education. For instance, she says she didn’t realize how tranquil the campus becomes on Friday evenings and the weekends. And that students—at least in this building—aren’t that noisy.

“If the noise is not worse than the night of the Crosstown Shootout, its not that bad,” she says.

She’s also amazed at the number of students who go out on Thursday rather than Friday.

There have been some obstacles and annoyances to overcome, though. The prerecorded message that echoes over the outside speakers at the Cintas Center during basketball games was irritating, for instance, but she has learned how to muffle the sound. With the mix of television and music, the repetitive and boisterous voice becomes a soft background noise. And the numerous and random unauthorized fire alarms that were set off the previous year have been extinguished. (Cooking classes for students reduced that problem substantially, she says.)

Overall, she says, the move hasn’t been as bad as she expected.

“I am pleased with the way things are going,” she says, “and depending on the available space, I hope the program can expand to other faculty members.”

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