‘A bit of unrealized potential’: Students, faculty reflect on QuadEx Faculty Fellows’ inaugural semester

Over the past semester, QuadEx’s Faculty Fellows have aimed to integrate themselves into their quad communities. What remains to be seen, though, is just how much of a role the program will play in Duke students’ residential experience. 

Faculty Fellows, a QuadEx initiative, consists of seven faculty members who are each affiliated with a West Campus quad. These faculty members are responsible for “fostering connections between Duke’s academic mission and undergraduate students’ social and residential lives.”

During the earlier stages of development, the main focus of the program was getting faculty out into residential student life.

“Given that we are not living in the space, what role could [faculty] play in trying to enrich the lives of students from the faculty perspective?” said Gregory Samanez-Larkin, Jack H. Neely associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and a lead Levitan Faculty Fellow. 

Faculty Fellows hosted 81 events over the course of the semester, according to Samanez-Larkin. These programs have ranged in both duration — from 25 minutes to over three hours — and format — from informal meals to house course teaching to Duke Real Talk events. 

“Instead of just rushing in like, ‘Oh, we’re going to make up a thing every week to do,’ what we are trying to do is actually slowly build some really useful activities that engage a lot of people,” he continued.   

But students have mixed reactions on how much Faculty Fellows are making a difference in their Duke experience. 

Junior Gigi Dunn said that she is “aggressively indifferent” about QuadEx affiliated programs because she has already found her community on campus. She’s never been to a Faculty Fellows event. 

“I don't know if Faculty Fellows have been doing something in my part of campus. I haven't heard about it,” she said.

Sophomore Will Lieber said he likes QuadEx’s overall concept of making the “housing system more intentional.” But he also highlighted that Duke is currently in a period of transition. 

“People are still trying to figure out what that will look like in the future. And with that will come, I guess, a sense of familiarity. Once that becomes more integrated, I think students will be more aware of this resource,” he said. “I really do think that it will play a role and it does play a role. It just has a bit of unrealized potential right now.”

Meanwhile, sophomore Kasey Park, a member of the Few Quad Council, described Faculty Fellows as a “core piece” part of building quad communities at Duke.

Each quad has one Faculty Fellow, which sophomore Kelly Molthrop, a member of the Keohane Quad Council, said might limit students’ access to networking and mentorship opportunities. 

“[Each quad’s] Faculty Fellow has a specific research or field of study,” she said. “That’s not necessarily going to reach the most people, and I think maybe if you had the fellows in a rotation, that would be better for engagement.”

Samanez-Larkin highlighted that the program has been operating experimentally, testing out the waters on what appeals to students. Each fellow has taken different approaches, and they work together to identify activities that garner response by tracking and reporting on their weekly events. 

Shani B. Daily, professor of electrical and computer engineering and computer science and the other lead Levitan Faculty Fellow, said the fellows have been trying out various methods to reach students on a larger level, including “posters, flyers, reaching out directly to students that we just see somewhere, [and] direct emails.”

Lieber said that while the program is “a resource that students should definitely take advantage of,” he believes better communication could improve the potential of the initiative.

“I don't use the resource as much as I probably should,” he said. “So maybe finding ways to make it more convenient or better marketed to students would be a way to improve it.”

Park highlighted the work of Few’s Faculty Fellow, Yue Jiang. He previously hosted a Nasher dinner event and hosts weekly office hours — advertised in his weekly emails — in the Few Tower’s Common Room every Thursday. At these office hours, students can “ask him questions, advice, or simply talk about anything they would like to talk about.”

This openness is what Samanez-Larkin aims for in the Faculty Fellows role — someone who students can turn to at any time. 

“When I have lunch with [students], I’m like, ‘What’s missing from your Duke experience?’” he said. “We want to help turn that into an opportunity for you. We’re here to help.”  

Andrew Bae profile
Andrew Bae | Editor-at-Large

Andrew Bae is a Trinity junior and an editor-at-large of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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