Pitzer Professors Living on Campus Provide a Personal Touch to Academics
Meet two professors who have (literally) made their home at Pitzer College. Assistant Professor of Psychology Steffanie Guillermo and Assistant Professor of Sociology Jessica Kizer live in residence halls as this year’s faculty-in-residence to build community and engage students in an immersive living/learning environment.
Guillermo was excited “to enrich students’ experiences in a way that can’t be replicated as well in a classroom.”
Guillermo has encouraged students to reach out to a professor who works in a field they are interested in, but she said that students would hesitate if that professor wasn’t their adviser. So, Guillermo is hosting events at her campus residence for students on November 4 and 9 about mentorship so that faculty members can share how they mentor without students feeling the pressure of reaching out first.
“It’s important that students and faculty get to know one another in a space that isn’t a classroom,” said Guillermo. “A pizza lunch is lower stakes. An event in a residential setting is a way to level the playing field.”
Building Student-Faculty Connections
Pitzer is part of a unique trend along with UCLA, USC, Pomona College, and other universities to encourage interaction between students and faculty through a faculty-in-residence program. For over ten years, Pitzer’s faculty-in-residence program has sponsored two professors to live in on-campus apartments for an academic year—one in the first-year student residence halls and one in the upper-class student residence halls.
The faculty-in-residence host activities to enhance the intellectual, social, and civic development of students while also serving as role models and mentors. Kizer believes the program demonstrates the importance of Pitzer’s core value of student engagement.
“When students feel like they belong and their professors care about them, they learn more and are more likely to graduate,” said Kizer. “Those are ‘soft’ things we don’t think about as important to success, but they’re crucial and not soft at all.”
Besides the short commute to work, Kizer and Guillermo have enjoyed connecting with students. Guillermo is frequently stopped by students asking to pet her French bulldog, Solo, when they walk around campus. Meanwhile, Kizer has met many Pitzer staff and now knows who is behind the name when she refers students to them.
Kizer lives in North Sanborn Hall and focuses on programming for the first-year students, while Guillermo lives in West Hall and supports sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They co-hosted a welcome event to launch the semester and often consult with each other to ensure their events don’t overlap and are geared toward their student groups.
Enriching the Student Experience
Guillermo is inviting faculty from multiple disciplines to discuss what is in a major—not the subjects of the classes themselves but rather the lifelong skills and tools that students will gain from them. She also hopes to host events about student-faculty collaborations and a sense of belonging at the institution, especially those from marginalized backgrounds who deal with stereotypes and imposter syndrome.
Kizer invited Assistant Professor of Sociology Denise Ambriz, who joined Pitzer this year as a tenure-track faculty, to her residence to discuss how to navigate the first-generation college experience. Kizer is also planning an event about office hours on November 9 and a forum for Assistant Professor of English and World Literature Amanda Lagji to share about her upcoming book.
“We do programming where students can connect with faculty and deepen and enrich their educational experience,” said Kizer. “These are events that I wouldn’t have done otherwise or done less of them. It’s easier to do them in my apartment than book a room and order catering.”
Guillermo and Kizer both started at Pitzer in 2017, and they have bonded over similar academic interests. Kizer researches the intersection of race/ethnicity, inequality, and family within sociology, while Guillermo studies racial/ethnic stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination through psychology. With their deep involvement as faculty-in-residence, they have found something else in common: passion for student engagement.
“I recognize more people,” said Kizer. “I feel like I’m more part of the Pitzer community.”
“This year, there’s such good energy,” said Guillermo. “Reading and discussing is something we do in our classrooms, but here are ways we can talk about issues that aren’t necessarily captured in a syllabus.”
Read Kizer’s and Guillermo’s bios and learn more about our faculty-in-residence here.
Kizer’s Upcoming Events at Her Residence:
Wednesday, November 9 at 2 p.m.: “What Are Office Hours?”
Guillermo’s Upcoming Events at Her Residence:
Wednesday, November 9 at 10 a.m.: “Finding Faculty Mentors” with Professor Jessica Kizer (Sociology)
Friday, November 18 at Noon: “Finding Faculty Mentors” with Professor Amanda Lagji (English and World Literature)