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Mark Reisinger, associate professor and undergraduate director of geography, said being faculty master of the Apartment Communities has made him a stronger student-centered teacher.
Meet the faculty masters: Mark Reisinger
September 29, 2011Tweet
Mark Reisinger, associate professor and undergraduate director of geography, has served as faculty master at the Apartment Communities (Hillside/Susquehanna) since 2010. He is one of six faculty masters at the University. For more on the history of the University’s faculty masters, go to http://www2.binghamton.edu/academics/provost/undergrad/faculty-masters/history.html.
Question: How long have you been at Binghamton and how long have you been a faculty master?
Answer: I’ve been a member of Binghamton’s Geography Department since 2001, and I became faculty master in spring 2010.
Q: Can you explain what a faculty master does?
A:As faculty master, I’m here to provide students with academic advice, helping them negotiate the different offices on campus, making connections between faculty and students, overseeing and promoting academic programs, and acting as a bridge between Academic Affairs and Residential Life. Most importantly, though, I’m here to listen to students.
Q: How do you think faculty masters help students academically and why is that important?
A: Faculty masters help students academically in a variety of ways. We provide general academic advising for our residents, we assist the RAs in developing academic events for the community and we assist students in finding the appropriate offices to answer specific academic questions. Faculty masters also provide advice on good study habits and time management. I think this is important because it provides students a person to talk to if they find themselves in academic difficulty. We try to get students to understand that learning does not end when they leave the lecture hall or classroom, but that it is a lifelong process that occurs in a variety of settings, including the residential community.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being faculty master?
A: I enjoy challenging students to think about issues in new and different ways, as well as encouraging them to do their best. I like interacting with students, and hopefully, making a difference in their lives.
Q: What is the difference between the relationships you have with students as a faculty master vs. those you have in the classroom?
A: I am able to form closer relationships with the students I have as a faculty master relative to those I have in the classroom. … The typical course meets twice a week for about 15 weeks, and while I try to get to know all my students, it is often difficult, especially in a large class. As a faculty master, I see some of the same students, especially the RAs and the government leaders, several times a week. In some cases, I work with these students for several years. I believe my residents see me more as a mentor/advisor than a teacher.
Q: How has your involvement as a faculty master been meaningful to you in ways that wouldn’t have happened if you’d remained solely in the classroom?
A: Being a faculty master has provided me with the opportunity to interact with a greater number of students and to develop some meaningful relationships. It has also provided me with the opportunity to identify and encourage some really great students to achieve more than maybe they thought they could. One of my faculty master colleagues says it best: Part of the faculty master job is like being a talent scout in that you look for talented students and help them to achieve.
Q: Has being a faculty master changed you?
A: I have always been a student-centered faculty member, but being a faculty master has strengthened that. Coming into contact with a greater number of students—and understanding some of the issues that many of them face—has really made me more empathetic to students’ needs.
Q: When you became a faculty master what did you learn about Binghamton’s residential communities that surprised you?
A: The thing that surprised me the most is the dedication and hard work of the Residential Life professional staff. This is one area of the University that most faculty are totally unaware of. Another area that really surprised me was the importance the residents place on the community’s traditions. Also, the number of great students we have here at Binghamton; it is incredible the number of volunteer activities that some of our students are involved in and they still maintain an excellent academic record.
Q: There is no job description for a faculty master, so how did you define the role for yourself?
A: Each faculty master has had to define his own role. For me, I want to be the interface between the students’ academic life and their residential life. I think it is really important to have someone in the residential communities that a student can feel comfortable speaking to about academic problems or even personal issues. I think it helps a large University feel like a smaller and friendlier place. I also think it is important for the faculty master to provide learning opportunities outside the classroom. Another significant part of the job is working with RAs to plan social, but most importantly, academic or life skills events. I think we do a fairly good job at this with our Transitioning Out Of College series and the courses that are taught in the community, but of course, there is always room for improvement!
Q: So, if you could mold your learning community any way you wish, what would it look like?
A: Hillside and Susquehanna are different than the other residential communities in that we have no freshmen. So, we don’t really have learning communities in the traditional sense. What I have tried to do is to develop and teach some courses that I think are particularly relevant for our residents. For example, I teach a course during the fall semester titled “Hot Topics, Hot Issues and Hot Spots.” It is very much like a current events course, but I am trying to get the students to develop their critical thinking skills. I bring in guest speakers— other faculty who are experts on the topic we are discussing that week. During the spring semester, I teach a course for our international students titled “Discovering North America.” In the course, I introduce the students to the geography, political economy and culture of the United States and Canada. Both courses are taught in Hillside Commons in a very relaxed atmosphere. My dream would be to have other faculty from across the campus develop some courses to be taught in the community.
Q: You mentioned the community traditions and how important they are to residents. Do you have a favorite Hillside or Susquehanna tradition?
A: I don’t know that I have one favorite. I really like some of the events we do during Welcome Back Weekend, especially the Transfer Student Social. It is a great way for our new transfer students to get to know other students and to start to feel like a part of the community. Another favorite is the Turkish Student Dinner. We have quite a few Turkish students in Hillside and Susquehanna. The evening begins with the Turkish students talking about their country and then we have Turkish food. Hillfest, Hillside Havoc and the Susquehanna Hot Tub Party are great fun as well because they get the residents out for a day of fun and relaxation.
Q: Would you recommend being a faculty master to a colleague?
A: The position is not for every faculty member, but I would definitely recommend it to those with the appropriate temperament and those who are student centered. Those with a heavy research agenda probably would not be a good fit because of the time commitment required.
Q: But you enjoy the position?
A: While I interact with many more students than the average faculty member, I only impact a few. However, reaching those few makes the “job” worthwhile. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.