One Big Happy Family

Faculty-in-Residence connects with Students.

by Marisa Ramirez (’00)

Students line the sidewalks outside the Moody Towers residential facility on a crisp fall morning. They’re watching a little girl struggling with a rite of passage: riding her bicycle without the training wheels. Trial and error; ride and fall, until, finally, she guides the bike successfully along the walkway to the sound of elated student cheers.

Though the little girl isn’t a student, she is a resident of the University of Houston’s Moody Towers residential facility. Her mom is a participant in the Faculty-in- Residence Program, a collaboration between the offices of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. It is a role that acknowledges the critical connection between a student’s academic life and their residential life on the road to academic success.

Catherine Horn and family“Living here takes away the boundaries that the classroom sometimes unintentionally creates,” said Catherine Horn, associate professor of educational psychology in the College of Education. “It reminds everyone that there is an important academic life outside the classroom and that, ultimately, we are here for the same reason — the collective success of all Cougars.”

Horn has made Moody North her home for the last academic year. Together with her husband John Clegg, daughters Ryan and Harper and their two dogs, Horn has become a familiar face to students in the dining hall, laundry room or outside as they walk their dogs or ride their bikes.

“The kids love living on campus,” she said. “They’ve come home to the Cougar Marching Band playing outside our door, learned to salsa, celebrated Black History Month and studied Mars rovers in competition. It’s hard to beat that.”

Horn also is a senior researcher for the National Center for Student Success, a multidisciplinary research institute that investigates student success, particularly minority students, and aims to inform public policy on higher education. Undergraduate residential life may be the first time students are experiencing life as an independent adult, she said, and having a professor readily available to help them navigate this exciting, but stressful, time is valuable in their holistic development.

“Part of the reason I wanted to do this is my ‘day job,’” she said. “My research centers on issues of college student success and to be able to ‘live’ what we know is a tremendous gift.”

As a faculty-in-residence, Horn works with the resident assistants in the Moody Towers to coordinate programs for students in the facility. These conversations with students have included topics such as taking advantage of the learning support systems on campus, informing them of services such as the Counseling and Psychological Services and the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.

“We’ve also discussed what the life of a professor is like, and they’ve happily reminded me of what the life of an undergraduate is like,” Horn said.

Research shows that higher rates of interaction with faculty, as well as being a part of a living and learning community, are associated with academic success.

Two colleagues in the endeavor join Horn, who remembers the faculty-in-residence when she was an undergraduate. Professor Carroll Parrott Blue, research professor at the Texas Learning and Computation Center and the Center for Public History, is the faculty-in-residence at Moody South. Similarly, history professor Raul A. Ramos, his wife, two young sons and two dogs live in the newest residence hall, Cougar Village.

“I’m hopeful that students will see the faculty-in-residence position as an illustration that life in the freshman 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.”