The Professor Is In:
Creating New Space for Academic Inquiry
Professor in Collegia Celeste Leander, Professor of Teaching, Department of Botany, Faculty of Science
From my own experience at community college, I had a mandatory class my first semester on how to be a successful student. On the first day, our professor came in with a black trash bag and made us throw away our highlighters. We were all aghast! But he taught us how to study smarter. The impact of someone teaching me how to be a successful student was huge in my own life. I hope I can bring some of that to UBC students. It’s important for them to know that there’s someone who’s just there for them, and watching out for them.
This year, I’ll be in Collegia once or twice per week. It’s an amazing place for our commuter students to bond with one another and experience what residence is like. Sometimes I drop in and bake with the students, or I’ll hold short sessions on study skills or writing term papers. I’ll also be teaching a for-credit Biology course in Vanier residence in the evenings in Term One; I’m calling it The Pajama Sections!
Professor in Residence Michael Griffin, Associate Professor, Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies and the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts
As a grad student at Oxford, I was used to a college setting that had graduates, undergraduates and faculty all living together in one complex. You’d go to dinner together and maybe sit beside someone from a different faculty. I wanted to bring that feeling to UBC so that first-year students don’t just see their profs as a tiny face at the bottom of a lecture theatre. I wanted to create that human contact, and give students a chance to know what the life of an academic researcher is really like. The programming around Professor in Residence sparks conversations between first-year students of different backgrounds, their senior peers and faculty, and engages a respectful, genuine mutual quest for knowledge that characterizes good academic inquiry.
It’s working. Students tell me that I and other faculty seem approachable and welcoming. It’s made me a better teacher, too: I’ve learned how to listen and communicate better with first-year students. As a philosophy instructor, it informs my teaching around perspective-taking and critical inquiry.
Creating accessible, academically supportive spaces for faculty members and students, such as the Professor in Residence initiative, helps to form an important bridge between the classroom and co-curricular worlds of a student. This flexible, modern approach to education gives students at UBC a better chance at succeeding — especially in the early years of an academic career.
After four years, it’s clear: baking brownies with a mutual quest for new thinking is a recipe UBC students are lining up for.