The 1,800 members of the Washington University in St. Louis Class of 2022 arrived on the South 40 on the Danforth Campus with mini-fridges, duvet covers and big hopes for their new home.
They are not alone. Faculty fellows Jeff Zacks, professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, and Lerone Martin, associate professor in religion and politics at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, also are newcomers to the South 40. They are among 11 faculty members who live side-by-side with students in the university’s residential colleges, where the fellows host meals, plan outings, organize academic programming and serve as mentors.
“I absolutely feel the same nervous excitement that these students are experiencing,” said Zacks, who moved into his Thomas H. Eliot Residential College apartment last month with his wife, Leslie; children Jonah and Delia; and their beagle named “42.” “Everything is new for us too,” Zacks said. “I think it will be fun for us to learn together.”
On his first move-in day, Zacks baked new students chocolate-oatmeal cookies using his great aunt Mae’s recipe, on a new stove installed so his family can cook with the students. He plans on starting a running group, too, and would like to take residents to symphony concerts.
Across the South 40 Swamp, Martin carried suitcases and greeted parents at William Greenleaf Eliot Residential College. He said he became a faculty fellow to better educate the whole student.
“As a faculty member, I get students for a couple of hours in class,” Martin said. “But I want to know what their lives are like — to know their names and their story, as we say here.
“Being a faculty fellow will make me a better professor,” he said. “And it will provide me an opportunity to help these students not only prepare for careers, but become engaged citizens and people who are in touch with their humanity.”
But can Martin make waffles?
Every residential college has its own traditions whether it’s “Crow Cakes” pancake feasts at Wayman Crow, or “Scorch on the Porch” parties at Robert S. Brookings. For the residents of William Greenleaf Eliot, it’s “WGE Waffles.”
“I have no culinary skills, but we will keep WGE Waffles,” Martin promised. “My predecessor Jeffrey Matthews (professor of practice in the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences) liked to bake and had a cute dog, but he told me I have to carve out my own space. So I may get a dog. And I want to buy a grill. That I can do.”
Run by Jill Stratton, associate dean of residential learning, the faculty fellows program is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Last year, the program expanded to include The Village on the northwest corner of the Danforth Campus, and this year, The Lofts in the Delmar Loop got its first faculty fellow.
First-year student and Ervin Scholar Jordan Harris of St. Louis had not heard of faculty fellows until Martin showed up at his door carrying his mini-fridge. Martin introduced himself, offered to take Harris to lunch soon, and told him about the basketball courts at the Sumers Recreation Center. Harris immediately challenged Martin to a game.
“Wow, that’s really cool to have him right here in building,” Harris said after Martin left. “I am very excited to live on my own and to be independent. But it’s also great to know that there is someone here who knows the ins-and-outs and can be a resource. I’m definitely going to take him up on that lunch.”