Sharing space with the more than 1,100 first-time freshmen in the new Cougar Village residence hall will be Associate Professor Raúl A. Ramos, his wife and two small children. Ramos is the first faculty-in-residence at the facility.
"We are right there with the rest of the students," Ramos said. "We get up to our apartment on the same elevators. We eat at the same dining hall. We walk along the same sidewalk to get to the building. We are right in the middle of student life."
Ramos and his family are leaving their Heights-area bungalow for the seventh-floor student residence for what he considers to be an opportunity-a chance to gain perspective on student life, to offer insight on college life and build student success.
"One of the things that make this residence hall unique is that it is for first-year students. That first year is the most critical for students," he said. "One of the things I've seen as a history professor is that first-year students often make a mistake that can take a while to fix. Working this closely to students this first year will keep them on track, and if they're on track their first year, they are more likely to stay on track and finish college."
Research shows that higher rates of interaction with faculty are associated with success. Additionally, living and learning communities are especially valuable to student success.
"Ensuring this kind of interaction on a campus this large where so many students commute can be difficult, so Professor Ramos is indeed providing a tremendous opportunity for students," said Libby Barlow, executive director of academic and institutional information.
There are two faculty-in-residence at Moody Towers. Associate Professor Catherine Horn and her family will live in an apartment in the North Tower, while Research Professor Carroll Parrott Blue will live in the South Tower.
"I'm hopeful that students will see the faculty-in-resident position as an illustration that life in the residence hall is not separate from academic life. They're actually one in the same," Ramos said. "Living on campus means that your entire life is about academics, about being a student. It's a unique and special time, and we don't want to squander that opportunity to learn and grow."
Cougar Village's most unique feature is that it offers students the opportunity to bond with peers who share similar academic interests. Some floors are themed according to specific disciplines such as business, engineering, communication and art. Honors College students will occupy an entire floor. Plans are to have a faculty member in each residence hall in the future.
Ramos hopes his experience as the faculty-in-residence encourages other faculty to do the same, and to be an active part of students' life on campus through things like eating in the dining hall and hosting "teach-ins," or colloquia in the common areas.
Ramos won't be roughing it in the new faculty apartment. There is a large living space surrounded by the kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a laundry area and a balcony. His wife grew up on college campuses (her father is a professor in California), so the idea of returning to college was appealing. He thought he'd have to save his best convincing for his 4-year-old son, but Ramos says his concerns were unfounded.
"I told him we'd be living near the campus leisure pool, and that's all it took," he said.
For more on Faculty-in-Residence Raul Ramos, listen to UH Moment: http://app1.kuhf.org/houston_public_radio-news-display.php?articles_id=1282684324