On their way up to their dorms, residents of McCarthy Hall might run into Hugo and André, Professor Elizabeth Grimm’s (GRD ’10) two young sons, playing soccer in the lobby.
The family moved to campus in the spring of 2017. Grimm, the director of teaching at the Center for Security Studies, lives in McCarthy with her husband Jacques (COL ’01, GRD ’07), her children Hugo, André and Lulu and her three-legged dog, Crouton.
“They have said more than once that they’ve won the kid lottery,” Grimm said in an interview with The Hoya. “They think that it is very normal to live in a building with NCAA athletes and individuals who are TikTok celebrities and individuals who one day will be representatives and senators and thought leaders.”
Professor Grimm is one of the six members of the Faculty-in-Residence program, an initiative that works to connect students and faculty in residential spaces. The program works with Residential Living to strengthen relationships with students and faculty, as well as foster extracurricular learning.
Grimm’s children are immersed in campus life. Beyond spending their days cheering for Georgetown’s various sports teams and taking walks around campus, they also frequent campus events such as the Cherry Tree Massacre, an annual a cappella show hosted by the Georgetown Chimes, and Rangilia, a yearly cultural show featuring South Asian song and dance, Grimm said.
Grimm said that students have welcomed her children and continue to be an important part of their lives.
“The way that students have embraced our kids in their lives has been really special,” Grimm said. “The women’s soccer team last year, every single one of them, every time the nets were up outside of our house, they would play with the kids, help them figure out how to be better goalies.”
Grimm said that she has enjoyed seeing campus through her childrens’ eyes.
“They are fully integrated into our community,” Grimm said. “The experience of raising a family in this place is magical. Like truly, truly magical.”
The FIR Experience
Amanda Phillips, a professor in the English department, lives in Arrupe with their partner, Shyama, and two dogs, Daisy and Yakshi. Phillips moved into their Arrupe apartment in December of 2021 and said that they have enjoyed the small moments of living on campus.
“Now that I’m on campus all the time, it’s a lot easier for me to connect with colleagues and with students,” Phillips said. “I think that’s been my sort of favorite thing is just all the chance encounters that happen.”
Phillips said they host monthly Arrupe Arcades, where students can play video games in the multipurpose room, and Walking Wednesdays, an opportunity for students to come on walks with Phillips and their dogs.
“It’s a fun way to connect,” Phillips said. “There’s something tremendously important about that relationship, that I hope that these Faculty-in-Residence positions become something that the students are more curious about.”
FIRs have flexibility when planning events and programming, and can host a variety of events as they see fit.
Guy Spielmann, a professor in the French department, who lives in Reynolds Hall, joined the FIR program at Georgetown around 10 years ago.
Due to his interest in the performing arts, Spielmann encourages students to see a cappella performances, dance shows and theater on campus. In addition to on-campus events, FIRs are encouraged to explore the greater Washington, D.C. region with students.
“A couple of weeks ago, I took a group to Mount Vernon,” Spielmann said in an interview with The Hoya. “Every fall, they do a Colonial Fair, which is a reenactment thing with costumes, and so we do things like that also to get students to discover some of the interesting opportunities in D.C. that you don’t always know about if you tend to stay a little too much on campus.”
Spielmann often takes inspiration from his students when planning excursions to ensure they are engaged in his programming. Recently, Spielmann said he hosted an event at a Vietnamese restaurant in Arlington with a student who had lived in Vietnam.
“She really knew about the food and she was able to give us a real, authentic point of view on what we were eating,” Spielmann said. “So, in many ways, I try to seize opportunities when I see them, like I have certain students with certain skills or expertise or interest, and I say let’s do something around that. Rather than just my own stuff, which is not necessarily what students feel passionate about.”
Spielmann said he always strives for an informative angle to his events to foster personal growth and deeper learning.
“Maybe it’s self-assigned, but I have a mandate to pursue educational goals,” Spielmann said. “So I want to make sure that the activities that I do have some sort of educational aspect to them, it’s not just oh, let’s get together and whatever. Yeah, I mean, that’s going to happen anyways. But as much as possible, I tried to find some angles to learn something.”
Grimm said for many FIRs, the program provides an opportunity to engage with students outside of the classroom.
“The faculty in residence program is one of the best things about Georgetown,” Grimm said. “It has probably been the most rewarding experience of my personal and professional career.”
Grimm has hosted several events for students, ranging from events surrounding her studies of torture and counterterrorism to cooking lessons.
“We’ve had cookie-decorating competitions, we’ve had cupcakes, we’ve had gingerbread house parties, we had an event where I taught students how to make mousse,” Grimm said. “We do a lot of events around healthy eating and inexpensive eating.”
History of FIR
Founded over 20 years ago, the Georgetown FIR program provides an opportunity for faculty members and students to interact and learn from one another in an informal environment while promoting the academic and Jesuit mission of Georgetown.
The program is popular among faculty and students alike, as FIR conducted 366 events throughout the last academic school year, with 4,808 students attending various programs.
“FIRs work in close partnership with the Residential Living team to enhance the intellectual environment, support academic excellence and existing Living Learning Communities, provide opportunities for other faculty to interact with students, and engage in the day-to-day life of the residential community,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Hoya.
Every year, seven faculty members live on campus with their families to connect with students. The position can be held for three years, with the chance to remain for an additional two years. Faculty members can submit an application in the spring which is read by a selection committee before interviews are conducted.
The relationships constructed through this program benefit faculty members as well as the students they serve, according to the spokesperson.
“Faculty members also gain a deeper understanding of what the college experience is like for on-campus residents, which in turn provides a new perspective on how to approach teaching and learning within, and outside, the classroom environment,” the spokesperson wrote.
The FIR program is similar to programs at other universities, including the residential college system at Rice University, where each college also houses a faculty family, Phillips said.
“That was a huge part of my experience as a college student,” Phillips said. “And when I found out that there was a faculty-in-residence program here at Georgetown, I really wanted to be involved.”
Spielmann said he became involved in similar residential programs before he joined the Georgetown community in 1994. At Oberlin College, he served as an RA in the French House, a dorm dedicated to the sharing of French culture and language.
“The key term here is interaction outside of the classroom setting, no matter if you’re actually in the same building, or if you’re just there to share meals,” Spielmann said in an interview with The Hoya. “I’ve been in this type of situation for a very long time, at different institutions.”
Like Spielmann, Grimm’s previous academic experiences drew her to become involved in the FIR program. She said that her undergraduate years studying in the small-town environment of William and Mary University in Colonial Williamsburg, Va., allowed her to form lasting bonds with her professors.
“It changes the classroom dynamic because you see your professors more as individuals, and you continue to carry on those conversations that you had started at two in the afternoon, you continue at 6 p.m. over dinner,” Grimm said. “I wanted to replicate that experience that I had as an undergrad.”
Impact of FIR on Professors and Students
The FIR program has profound impacts on the way professors approach teaching students. Grimm said that her experience as an FIR has broadened her perspective as an educator.
“You really see their full personhood when you see them sitting around your dining room table,” Grimm said. “I think it has helped me in such a significant way to become a better professor by seeing the lives of our students, seeing the demands that are put on them.”
Joan Riley (NUR ’76, GRD ’97), a professor in the nursing and health sciences departments who lives in Copley Hall with her husband Steve (SFS ’76), also said living alongside students improved has given herher insight into students’ personal lives.
“I have witnessed students’ level of involvement in activities, their commitment to academics, the hours they spend discussing what they are learning, their meaningful conversations about current events, their genuine care for each other, and the challenges they face. It was a privilege to be able to join in these learning moments,” Riley wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The FIR program has also allowed students to see faculty in a more personal light, Phillips said.
“There’s just something really transformative about looking at folks that you think are authority figures, and then realizing that they’re real people,” Phillips said. “It helps you be comfortable talking to people like that in the future.”
Engaging with students outside of the classroom allows deeper relationships to flourish, Spielmann said.
“One of the frustrations of teaching college is precisely that you see people in your classroom and you see only one dimension of them and you also see one dimension of your impact on them. I think most people who teach do so because they want to, and enjoy it and are interested in education. It’s important to them to know that they have an impact,” Spielmann said.
Grimm said that the interpersonal impact an FIR can have on students is essential to the experience and facilitates a welcoming living environment.
“If our family can provide any sort of support, whether that’s just listening, whether that’s food, whether that’s having my son cheat at UNO when they’re around, I mean that is what we can give back,” Grimm said. “That is truly the embodiment of ‘cura personalis’ for me.”
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