Thursday, March 24, 2016

Living Among the Students

I have been taking undergraduate engineering students abroad for a decade.  Together, we have traveled to Kenya, Honduras, and Haiti doing renewable energy projects of various kinds, and I have spent over six months of my life living alongside students on these trips. I love it. We are together 24/7, we eat all our meals together, we work together, we sing and pray together, and we share our lives with each other. Sometimes we have emergencies together - and I take them to hospitals, hold their vomit bags, or remove snakes from the premises!  We talk about global poverty, the meaning of justice, and how to come to grips with our own wealth. These times together help us grow close, and the relationships I form with students on these trips keep me coming back year after year. 

These experiences living alongside students have been rewarding, but now, I am taking it to the next level. I am grateful and humbled to announce that I have been selected to be the next Faculty Master of Teal Residential College at Baylor University! I am beside myself with excitement.  What does this mean?  It means I'm so excited I have split in two.

No, it means that Martha and I are moving into the dorms, baby! Teal Residential College is home to about 350 undergraduates, most of whom are engineering, computer science, or nursing majors. It has a large apartment for the Faculty Master that we will move into this summer. We will be involved in all kinds of student activities and will host students in our apartment frequently.

[Teal Residential College at night]

We're not supposed to use the word "dorm" anymore. Instead, Teal is a Residential College. The Teal FAQ webpage says:
"Residential Colleges are designed to provide a culture that fosters academic excellence, intensive faculty-student interaction and a rich culture steeped in Baylor tradition. Life in a Residential College is led by the Faculty Master, a faculty member who resides on campus, living among the students."

Interestingly, the title "Faculty Master" is a traditional title that goes back to the Oxford-Cambridge models for residential colleges, but has been criticized lately in the United States because of the association of the word "master" with slavery.  In fact, Harvard University recently changed the title of their "House Masters" to "Faculty Deans" because of this association.  I have to say, one thing I am genuinely uncomfortable with is the title.  "Faculty Master" not only has slavery connotations, it has dominance and control connotations that make me cringe a little.  I have been thinking about alternative titles: Faculty Mascot, Redneck-in-Residence, Only A Master of Evil Darth - which is your favorite?

One of my favorite titles for Christ is Emmanuel.  It means "God with us".  To me, it conveys love and compassion and initiative on God's part. The incarnation: God choosing to become like us in order to relate to us, reconcile with us, love us.  That's what I want to do at Teal. Maybe a good title would be Faculty With Us.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the position! Those are some lucky students. I hope it doesn't require any vomit-bag-holding though :)

Anonymous said...

Master also has kung fu and Dr. Frankenstein connotations. You could have a lot of fun with the term, grasshopper.


I had not thought of the kung fu connotations! I like it!