‘Purdue Pursuits’: University Residences Faculty Fellows program


When Daniel Pierce moved into McCutcheon Hall as a freshman in the fall of 2000, he knew little to nothing about the University Residences Faculty Fellows program. He certainly didn’t envision he would be serving as the senior faculty fellow in the same residence hall 16 years later.

Pierce graduated from Purdue in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in computer information technology, and he’s been working at his alma mater ever since. In his day-to-day role as manager of telecommunications infrastructure design for Purdue IT, Pierce has few opportunities to interact and connect with students on campus.  A colleague recommended the Faculty Fellows program as an avenue for him to reconnect with students.

“Maureen Clayton, who was the McCutcheon senior faculty fellow at the time, said to me, ‘I know you really like to be involved with students and enjoy mentoring them, and I think you should get involved with this program,’” Pierce says. “So I checked it out, and here I am — eight years later.” 

In those eight years, Pierce has made countless memories with the 40 to 50 students he mentors each semester. Floor dinners, trips to Wolf Park, tours of the PRIME Lab, end-of-semester study breaks, and even a meal with Purdue President Mitch Daniels have dotted his calendar. He says connecting with students in these informal settings has been a unique and rewarding experience.

About 'Purdue Pursuits'

A variety of programs, workshops, fellowships and trainings are offered to Purdue faculty and staff each semester. How can Purdue employees use these opportunities as small steps in reaching their personal and professional goals? Purdue Today's "Purdue Pursuits" series will share employees’ stories of growth and development during their experiences as active participants of their campus communities.

Suggestions for the "Purdue Pursuits" series may be emailed to purduetoday@purdue.edu.

“I love watching students light up when they make new connections or have somebody that’s older that values their ideas,” Pierce says. “I’ve heard it said that people gravitate to the oldest person in the room who takes them seriously, and I’ve found that to be true. The students relieve some of their stress because they know somebody cares about them and wants to be involved in their life.”

By facilitating student-faculty interaction, the Faculty Fellows program aims to positively contribute to students’ GPAs, degree attainment, enrollment in graduate or professional school, general cognitive development and future occupational statuses. Program application information submitted by eligible faculty and staff is used to pair individuals with a residence hall or learning community that best fits their interests.

Faculty fellows can devote as much time as they would like to engaging with their students and developing opportunities for intellectual, social, cultural and personal growth. The program provides fellows with a meal plan, making it easier to dine with students and connect with them outside of the classroom.

Pierce dedicates a few hours each week to help plan and participate in his floor’s activities and attend floor dinners. He believes participating in the program is one of the easiest ways to connect with numerous students on campus, and the relationships he has built over the years have been genuine.

“It’s really amazing how in those informal times, students just start opening up,” Pierce says. “One of the coolest things that happened through my connection with the program was when I was on a floor of technology majors, and there was one student who was really excelling and needed a job. I brought him to my group, and we ended up hiring him.”

Pierce weaves his family into his faculty fellow activities by bringing them to weekly floor dinners at the dining courts and other events as opportunities arise. Around Halloween, he shuttled his delighted, costumed kids through his floor for the hall’s trick-or-treating event.

Although the experience is rewarding for both the students and himself, Pierce cannot help but consider how these opportunities and events are shaping his children’s futures.

“One of the fringe benefits of being involved in the program that I wasn’t expecting is how my kids have absolutely loved getting to know the guys on the floor,” Pierce says. “They look forward to the meals and seeing all the guys. I feel like it’s shaping them into future Boilermakers.”

How you can participate

The University Residences Faculty Fellows program is open to all administrative, salary-exempt faculty and staff. Faculty fellow applications are accepting year-round on a rolling basis. For more information about the application process, visit the program’s website or contact Tom Robson, assistant director for faculty engagement, Residential Academic Initiatives, at trobson@purdue.edu or 765-494-5785.

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