JACKSON BORMAN | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Butler University offers a unique opportunity to faculty members — a chance to live with their students.
Both parties learn from one another, and the faculty in residence, called FIRs, host events to connect and build community.
Junior resident assistant Josh Toly said he sees Butler’s Faculty in Residence program as the difference maker.
“It gives so many opportunities to the residents,” Toly said. “They can meet new people, have fun, and have a fantastic college experience.”
He said he values the FIR program for the connections between students and faculty it creates as well as the help that it provides him and his fellow RAs.
“I look at the FIR as a part of my team. I work closely with my FIR, Mark Rademacher, as well as his family, Dusty, Reed and Arlo, to create that community,” Toly said.
A FIR is a Butler University faculty member who lives full-time in the residence halls. Some live alone and some with their families. This school year, there are two FIR members in Fairview House, four in Residential College and one in Ross Hall.
FIR participants are faculty members who are interested in what goes on outside of the classroom. They connect with students by planning events for them to attend. The focus of these events are educational as well as social. In the past, FIR activities have included cultural and sporting events, festivals, day trips and meetings inside of the residence halls.
The longest standing FIR is math professor Duane Leatherman who has been participating in the program since 1990. Leatherman helped develop the program in its early stages and said he has loved it ever since.
“I enjoy having interactions with the students in the residence hall, and get to meet a lot of the students that I wouldn’t meet regularly teaching math,” he said.
Over the course of the fall semester, Leatherman hosts over 20 events, including a Thanksgiving ‘Pie Night,’ pizza parties and chili and apple cider events in the winter in his apartment in ResCo. For example, on his birthday, he hosted an ice cream social for the students in his unit.
Outside of his apartment events, Leatherman takes students out on the town for local activities, such as events at Clowes Hall and trips to ethnic restaurants.
“I like the times I take students out to have dinner or other meals together because I get to sit and chat and talk,” he said. “When I have my open houses in my apartment, I can get anywhere from 50 to 70 students coming through at a time and it is a lot harder to interact. The more fun times are when we go to have dinner and a show.”
One educational event that Leatherman hosts is a trip to Conner Prairie in the late fall for a program called Follow the North Star. The program prompts participants to role play as if they were slaves traveling the underground railroad North to Canada.
“It is a very, very good educational program and a really nice historical settlement,” Leatherman said.
Besides having fun and attending educational events, the FIR program has led to lasting connections between students and faculty members. Leatherman said he has multiple students he visits annually in Indianapolis and outside of the city.
As students get older, he said he is invited to their parties, weddings and baby showers.He was the FIR for one student whose father died and made such a close bond that he still goes to visit her in New York every year.
“She is like my daughter now,” Leatherman said.
Leatherman is not the only FIR to make these connections — his colleagues host many events and have kept in touch with a lot of their former students too.
The FIR program has been an important part in creating the community that Butler is today.
“The program is wonderful, it has forged relationships that might never have been formed otherwise,” Leatherman said.