Associate Professor Charles Dukes isn't just willing to stay after class to help students at Florida Atlantic University. He stays overnight.
Dukes, who teaches future special education teachers within FAU's College of Education, was selected as the university's first faculty-in-residence. In late August, he moved from his home in Miami to a spacious apartment inside FAU's new 614-student dormitory, Parliament Hall.
FAU created the position with the hopes of improving the freshmen experience by having a faculty member who could be a role model and provide mentoring, guidance and programming.
"You really have very few opportunities to get involved in the ground level of things," Dukes said. "I want to be able to make a real difference and impact outside the classroom, and I really enjoy talking to kids here at FAU."
Although new to FAU, faculty-in-residence programs are fairly common around the country. The University of Florida and the University of South Florida in Tampa are among the state schools that offer them.
Charles Brown, FAU's vice president for student affairs, said research supports this concept.
"Students who have contact with faculty outside the classroom have higher retention rates leading to graduation, are more content with their college experience, demonstrate higher levels of achievement and build a stronger, lasting affinity toward their institution," Brown said, quoting research conducted in the 1970s and early 1980s.
A more recent study, conducted in 2009 by a University of Oregon researcher, was less supportive, saying students are more likely to interact with faculty members they know from their courses, rather than one who lives in their residence hall but has no connection to their field of study.
So far, Dukes says, his impact has been small in the seven weeks he's been on campus.
"As far as mentoring and guiding, I would like to," he said. "I don't think there are concrete examples of that yet, but that will be the goal."
He just had business cards printed with his contact information and plans to create a social media presence soon. He said he also plans to organize tours of various places in South Florida and create programs for events such as Black History Month or Women's History Month. His contract for the residential position lasts for two school years.
Tara Levy, 20, a resident assistant at Parliament Hall, said she has encouraged some students to talk with Dukes but so far no one has.
"I think this is a great program, but it's going to take some time to get moving," she said. "firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6637 or 954-425-1421