Every year, a few Yale faculty members get the chance to turn back the clock and experience college again.
Yale’s resident fellow program allows undergraduates to interact with faculty on a more intimate basis than they would in the classroom and allows faculty to immerse themselves in the residential college experience. While living in a residential college with college students who are fond of testing the upward limits of their stereo systems may annoy some, resident fellows are a self-selecting group, and some said they embrace the experience.
“We are here because we want to be as involved in the college as the students want us to be,” said Michael Auslin, a Davenport College resident fellow, assistant professor of history, and the director of undergraduate studies for East Asian studies. Last summer Auslin moved into Davenport, where he lives with his wife, Ginko Veyama, and their 16-month-old son, Ben.
“All have welcomed us,” Auslin said. “The students have really taken to Ben.”
As Yale faculty members, resident fellows are able to share unique insights with students about their areas of study and research, and the academic world in general, often advising students about graduate school. Resident fellows also work behind the scenes, helping the master’s office plan college events, like master’s teas and the Mellon Senior Forum.
Partly in exchange for their services, resident fellows receive free meals in the college’s dining hall and are leased specially designated resident fellows’ apartments located within each of the residential colleges. Over the years, rooms previously reserved for resident fellows have been converted to regular student rooms, including Branford’s “God Quad” party suite.
Sean Zuo, a researcher in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biophysics and first-year resident fellow in Branford College, said he enjoys his new role immensely. Being a resident fellow and living in the college and interacting with the students allows one to “experience the ‘real’ Yale College,” Zuo said.
The college system is an incentive to becoming a resident fellow, Auslin said.
“Yale is unique because of the residential college system,” Auslin said. “You are missing out if you don’t experience the residential college system.”
Auslin said he tries to make himself known and accessible to students, getting to know as many as possible without them feeling that he is intruding into their lives. He and his wife considered holding an open house in their resident fellow’s apartment like the ones that college masters and deans often hold, but were worried about “overstepping the line” between students and faculty, and will hold off for now. However, Auslin said that he would be “very happy for any student to come and knock [on his door].”
While they may not attend all the same parties as students, because they live in the residential colleges, resident fellows participate in many college events. Branford Master Steven Smith said he thinks that students enjoy talking to resident fellows when they show up at events.
Undergraduates aware of the existence of resident fellows said interacting with them is rewarding.
Jacque Farber ’03, said she thinks it is “cool” to go to the Branford dining hall and find “one of Yale’s great minds eating with students.”
Still, some students said they were unfamiliar with the resident fellows program. Marianne Montalvo ’02 said despite being a senior she knows very little about resident fellows.
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