Faculty in Residence program has helped shape Moore’s Clemson Experience
Rachel Moore vividly recalls her first visit to the state of South Carolina.
“I was interviewing for a teaching position in the history department,” she said. “I touched down at Greenville-Spartanburg about 9:30 at night and rented a car. As I was driving toward Clemson on the interstate, on the right side near one of the first exits was a restaurant called California Dreaming.
“I started crying and asking myself, ‘What have I done?’”
Although she was originally from the East Coast, Moore was terrified at the thought of transplanting from San Francisco. She had lived in California for eight years after earning a master’s and later a Ph.D. in Latin American Studies from the University of California at Berkeley.
Despite some misgivings, Moore arrived in Clemson and went through the interview process. She was offered the job and accepted on the spot.
Twelve years later, she hasn’t looked back.
“You have to appreciate a place for what it is, not what it isn’t,” she said. “And once I saw what a good place Clemson is, it completely changed my perspective.”
After an exhaustive interview process that included teaching a sample class under the direction of Dr. Paul Anderson, Clemson moved to the top of Moore’s wish-list of prospective employers. She packed her belongings, bought her first car and moved across the country in 2006.
While she had never lived in the South, she relished the idea of being closer to her parents. Born and raised on Long Island, the family moved to Maryland when she was 5 years old.
Moore had done her undergraduate work at Princeton, so in one way, she was comfortable from the outset.
“This past summer I went to my college reunion and bought my boys Princeton t-shirts,” she said. “My 8-year old first commented, ‘The Princeton Tiger is a lot skinnier!’ I joked with him Princeton didn’t have quite the athletic budget Clemson enjoys, but it’s neat to think I came full circle from when I was first a Tiger!”
Now a student-turned-teacher, Moore assumed new stripes. With it came a whirlwind of responsibility, from world history to specific courses focusing on Mexico, Central America and South America. She’s taught a class on the African experience from a global perspective, a course on immigration and most recently a course on the human revolution in film.
Moore has enjoyed an up-close perspective on the evolving student body — a perspective transformed through the Faculty in Residence program.
MAKING THE ADJUSTMENT
Conceptualized in 2011, the Faculty in Residence program offers Clemson professors an opportunity to make engagements outside of the classroom while living amongst the on-campus student population, all while receiving benefits including free rent, a meal plan, monthly stipend and optional membership to Swann Fitness Center at Fike.
“We had learned from survey data our residents were engaging less and less with faculty outside of the classroom,” said Dr. Suzanne Price, director of residential learning and founder of Clemson’s Faculty in Residence program. “It was trending downward, so we knew we needed to be more intentional with our faculty.”
The program launched with Holmes Hall in 2012 and today includes eight faculty members living on all parts of campus.
Moore first applied in 2014, because she had always felt a great rapport with students. The program had an opening in Calhoun Courts, but Price was hesitant.
“I loved Rachel from the beginning, but didn’t feel she was the best fit for that community,” Price said. “We are intentional with looking at the makeup of a residential community. Sometimes if we have great applicants and we don’t find the right fit initially, they spend a year with us in transition.”
That’s exactly what happened.
Moore partnered with Student Affairs for a year as a program developer, identifying collaborative opportunities for the benefit of underserved student communities. Then, in 2015, she got the call and was approved for faculty residency in Stadium Suites. Her days of commuting from Belton were done.
“My two boys, Elijah and Marcos, were 5 and 4 at the time,” she said. “We went from a four-bedroom house with a back yard to a two-bedroom apartment. And on top of that, we have two dogs, Alice and Maggie.
“It was a big adjustment.”
A LISTENING EAR
Price made efforts to ease the adjustment for Moore’s family. The apartment — situated on the ground floor of the residence hall with an interior and exterior entrance — received a facelift. The walls were freshly painted, ceiling fans installed and furniture rearranged.
Moore jumped right in with two feet, sitting in the lobby with Alice and Maggie to greet students and families as they moved into Stadium.
“One mother came in with her child and said, ‘That must be the bomb-sniffing dog,’” Moore recalled. “I laughed and assured her it was not the bomb-sniffing dog. But in general, parents are happy to see an adult here.”
Students are happy, too. Though it took some time initially to figure out what worked in her residential community, Moore has settled into a proven routine.
She opens her doors for students to come play video games with Elijah and Marcos, or to play with Alice and Maggie. She’ll bring board games into the hallway outside her door. She’ll have an “open door” policy two or three times a month to lend a listening ear. She circles the halls a couple of times a month delivering snacks. She engages students through events related to her discipline, such as themed holidays or specific cuisine nights.
All of it allows for true community interaction, while allowing students to feel comfortable with an adult presence.
“That’s where my approach has been most successful,” she said. “The faculty work through the residential experience model, and I take my cues from that, but what I’ve found students in my building need most are opportunities to alleviate anxiety. That’s when meaningful conversations take place.”
Because she is a faculty member living on campus, Moore is up front about it when presenting a course syllabus. She wants students to understand why they may see her walking dogs on Fort Hill Street, working out at Fike or eating a late dinner with her young children in the dining hall.
Moore believes the Faculty in Residence program not only fosters engagement, but also creates a symbiotic relationship between teacher and student.
“It humanizes professors, which is healthy,” she said. “Students are engaging with their education like an adult, which gives them a healthy perspective as well.”
And it’s completely changed her perceptions about the college experience.
“I think sometimes people expect it to be like me living in National Lampoon’s Animal House,” she laughed. “But it’s not … at all. It’s a really neat setup. The vision Suzanne and her team have for the program has been central to making me feel like I’m doing a good job. It’s shaped my experience in a positive way.”