The Class of 2022 arrives at Washington University

New faculty fellows Zacks, Martin welcome new students, create new traditions

move-in day
First-year students arriving at the South 40 on the Danforth Campus on Aug. 23 got plenty of help moving into their residential colleges. The Class of 2022 hails from 49 states and 21 nations. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

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.

Jeff Zacks and student
Jeff Zacks, a faculty fellow in Eliot Residential College, offers cookies to students including Connie Gonzalez-Navarrine, an Arts & Sciences student from St. Louis. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

“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.”

Meet the Class of 2022

The 1,800 members of the Class of 2022 were drawn from a pool of more than 31,300 applicants. This year’s first-year students hail from 49 states and 21 nations; 52 percent are female.

The class also is both economically and racially diverse, a top priority for Washington University. Some 14 percent of students are Pell grant-eligible, and 7 percent are first-generation college students. Twelve percent of students are African-American, 9 percent are Hispanic and 7 percent are from another nation.

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.

Lerone Martin with student Jordan Harris
Faculty fellow Lerone Martin (left) helps first-year student Jordan Harris, of St. Louis, settle in to his new home Aug. 23. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

“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.”

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