All in the family: students, faculty and staff forge close bonds outside the classroom

Posted by Centre News in Campus, News 19 Mar 2014

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With a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a tradition of fostering close connections between all members of its community, Centre is unique in its emphasis on personal education. One of the most ubiquitous and meaningful ways this personal education can be seen in action is through professors and campus leaders inviting students to their homes. It is not uncommon for Centre students to visit at least several of their professors’ homes during their four years here—it is part of the college culture for faculty and staff to want to get to know students as people, and to be invested in their success, both at Centre and beyond.

There is no better example of this than Dessert with the Roushes (above), a tradition President John and First Lady Susie Roush began some 15 years ago, and that continues to be a favorite among students. Each spring the Roushes invite the graduating senior class to their home for a dessert reception to gather feedback about their Centre experience. What follows is an open and honest discussion that almost every student looks forward to participating in as a senior.

“We count it a blessing to hear their stories about all that’s good at Centre—those things that must never change,” says President Roush. “And about those things on which we might improve – making Centre ‘better, stronger, faster,’ if you will.”

Throughout the evening, thorough notes are taken as students weigh in on the topic of improving Centre — suggestions which are later discussed by the College’s administrators — so there’s no question that this input is highly valued. After the discussion, nearly everyone’s favorite part of the night is when the Roushes ask each individual senior about his or her post-graduation plans, and say goodbye personally to them at the door.

“Having the opportunity to sit down over coffee, dessert and conversation with our graduating seniors provides us all with a warm, meaningful and constructive experience,” says Susie Roush. “It’s one of our favorite things to do every year at Centre.”

Another example of Centre’s commitment to personal education is “Weird Pizza with the Westons,” an annual dinner offered by Beau Weston, Van Winkle Professor of Sociology, and his wife Susan, as part of a campus benefit auction for the Heart of Kentucky United Way.

weston_pizzaWith the winning bid of $60, Woody Rini ’15 and three of his friends, Matt Nisbet ’16, Chris Brittain ’16, and Clayton Trette ’16 (right), were invited to the Westons’ home on St. Mildred’s Court for a make-your-own pizza bar with unusual toppings.

During dinner, the Westons told stories about study abroad trips they had led in the past, asked the students about their own interests, and even talked a little sociology and law. Rini believes that, because students look up to professors in many ways, learning about their lives is important.

“The relationship you have with professors at Centre goes outside the classroom. I just enjoy getting a look into professors’ lives because they’re good role models,” says Rini. “Talking to professors in an informal setting like this is really cool—to see what they’ve done with their lives and how you can follow their lead.”

Weston believes these types of informal interactions with students constitute a fundamental part of their education.

“I think we have classes in order to foster conversation out of classes,” he says. “That’s really the best enduring education.”

Ultimately, many students agree that one thing that must never change about Centre is its personal touch, exemplified by opportunities such as Dessert with the Roushes or visits to faculty homes. Martha Grace Burkey ’14 believes this is part of Centre’s tradition and legacy.

“Centre is so personal in a lot of ways, and I think that this heritage and tradition is extremely important to the Centre experience,” says Burkey. “It’s just another example of how Centre cares about its students and what we have to say.”

By Caitlan Cole ’14

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