INSIDE Chico State
0 December 7, 2000
Volume 31 Number 8
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico




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Professor in the House

Students Enjoy Faculty - in - Residence Program

Dirk Vanderloop, Mechanical Engineering and Manufacturing, poses with Christophe Leikine, a French exchange student.
Dirk Vanderloop, Mechanical Engineering and Manufacturing, poses with Christophe Leikine, a French exchange student.

(Photo by Barbara Alderson)

The student had noticed Dirk Vanderloop hanging around, watching television, chatting with students, and now he was doing his laundry. "So are you the security guy or the maintenance guy?" the student asked. Actually, neither. Vanderloop, Mechanical Engineering and Manufacturing, not only visits informally with students but encourages them to drop by his home for evening office hours. It's all part of CSU, Chico's Faculty - in - Residence Program at University Village, where Vanderloop lives with about 500 students.

This is the second year for the program, which seeks to integrate student living and learning. "A residence hall is not just a place to eat, sleep, and study," said Jen Roy, coordinator of programming and leadership development at University Housing and Food Service. "Learning doesn't stop when you leave the classroom." Vanderloop agrees and defines the program as a way "to connect students to the university even while they're home, on a more casual basis, with a faculty member as an advisor and resource."

To participate in the program, faculty live in the student residence facility, offer a variety of programs, meet with residence hall staff, and talk with students. Roy anticipates an expanded program in the future. She credits much of the success this year to Vanderloop's "genuine interest in students" and his ability to be a valuable resource to both students and faculty.

Offering office hours two nights a week at his apartment is only one of the formal aspects of his connection to students in University Village. Recently, Vanderloop and the resident advisors, known as village advisors in University Village, offered a program for undeclared students. The program explained academic options for students. Vanderloop offered individual help, like connecting a student who was unsure how to proceed, because her interests didn't fall into a specific major, with the resources she needed.

The majority of Vanderloop's contacts with students are informal. He greets students daily as they do laundry, watch television, check e-mail in the computer room, or walk to school. These greetings have turned into conversations, friendships, and, sometimes, dinner invitations. One evening a group of students put together an impromptu dinner and invited Vanderloop. The group included students from France, Germany, India, and America. Out of that dinner came another invitation when one of the French students prepared a meal for the rest of the group. While Vanderloop enjoys the informal contact and the invitations, he's typically the first one to leave. "I feel good that they invite me to things, and I hang around for a while. At a certain point I need to go and let them be young people together."

He likens his role to that of the "adult that's not your parents, that you can talk to, like a Dutch uncle -- someone you can bounce ideas off of." And bounce they do. He had anticipated that students might talk to him about academics and some personal issues, but he has found that students are interested in getting his advice primarily on interpersonal questions. Sometimes they are looking for an older person's perspective on friendships or romantic relationships, and sometimes on academic relationships. One student, in a conflict with an instructor, asked Vanderloop how he dealt with similar issues in his classes. Another student, distressed over a classroom event, wanted to know who would be best to approach, the instructor or the department chair.

Vanderloop welcomes all inquiries, happy to help students understand how to deal with an academic environment. As a first-generation college graduate in his family, Vanderloop recalls the difficulty of navigating the unknown territory of academia on his own. "There were so many ropes I had to learn on my own. I didn't have an uncle, I didn't have a mother or father who knew anything about college. I had to find this all out on my own. And I thought I could be a good resource for people here."

Students ask him about Chico as a community, wondering if "real people" live here. Vanderloop points out the elementary schools and the families, explaining that there is a larger community than the college. He is a "window into life in Chico" for some of the residents, much as they are his window into student life at college.

Although the purpose of the job was to be a resource and connection for students, Vanderloop finds that the connections work both ways. It is heartening to know a variety of young people and to get past the appearance of "guys with their unnatural hair colors and their facial hardware, to see them as people. They're very conservative in their morals, and you get fooled by how they look and how they talk, and it really is just a faŤade. You know, they're scared, they're sensitive, and they're covering it." Watching the MTV awards with students, Vanderloop was reminded that "they're just young people, and they're no more bizarre than we were."

When talking with students informally, Vanderloop almost forgets the gap in age and experience, because students seem much more sophisticated than he was at their age. "I forget that they haven't had much life experience. I realize that when they tell stories and give examples and it's all based on their family."

Vanderloop's residence and role afford him a blend of privacy and accessibility. The central location of his small three-room apartment makes it easy for students to find him. The separation of the apartment from the other buildings in the complex gives Vanderloop the measure of privacy that he needs. The separation of roles between faculty and village advisors means Vanderloop has nights to himself. Students turn to the village advisors when they get locked out or have other problems at night.

For Vanderloop, this has been a rare and exciting opportunity to get to know students and to offer them a valuable service. He advises faculty to get involved in the program: "This is really quite an opportunity, quite an experience. When it rolls around, take advantage of it."

Barbara Alderson


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