Just imagine... life in a stately 32,000-square-foot residence, a veritable mansion with more than 60 rooms. Classic Georgian architecture, red-brick and white columns, with a billiard room, large-screen television, fully equipped exercise room. A fine-arts library right across the street, with full loan privileges for books and videos. Restaurants and shopping only blocks away. A small theater, a popular venue for plays and concerts, right at your doorstep. A bus stop nearby, just a short ride from work.
And it’s all free. No rent. No mortgage payment. Even the bus ride is on the house.
You have to share the place with 119 college students. It’s a dormitory for first-year students on the all-freshman East Campus at Duke University. And the offer is available only to Duke faculty.
For many people, that first condition alone would be a deal-breaker. But for Stephen Chapman, assistant professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School, it’s no problem at all. Indeed, for Chapman, life with college students is the primary draw of Duke’s Faculty-in-Residence program. Well, maybe that and the pool table. He does enjoy an occasional game of pool.
Now finishing his second three-year stint living in Brown Dormitory on East Campus—and considering a third—Chapman says that serving as faculty in residence is an intensely rewarding experience. It’s also, others say, a role he performs very well. Last year, he was named Duke’s “Faculty in Residence of the Year” by the Department of Residence Life and Housing Services and was similarly honored by the American College Personnel Association.
“It is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done in my life,” says Chapman. “Being in this role brings together a lot of things I care about and a lot of traits in my personality.”
For Chapman, serving as faculty in residence is about education and life in community. He wants to help students—especially those just starting their academic journeys—bridge what has become a gap between the two. In many ways, he says, Duke is attempting to recover an era when faculty were more involved in student lives.
Over time, says Chapman, increased pressure to teach, conduct research and publish have forced faculty to pull back from student life, with those duties being taken up by professional “residential life” offices. As a result, there’s often little or no interaction between faculty and students outside the classroom.