Heidi and Jason Long walk across campus with their children, Lucy, in stroller, and Maya. Photo by Brian Speer
In Dana dining hall during midterms last semester, students huddled over meals, notes, and textbooks. At one table, a more relaxed diner had no books at all and was pretending his French fries were high divers plunging into a pool of ketchup.
Said Abby Crocker ’13 of her dinner companion, Anton Behuniak, 4, “Dinner is so much more interesting with little kids at the table.”
Last year seven Colby professors lived in apartments in various dorms as part of the College’s faculty resident program. The idea, said Vice President for Student Affairs James Terhune, is to give students and faculty more opportunities to interact outside the classroom. And if some of those professors have young families? “I think it’s a nice byproduct of it,” Terhune said.
Nice for all concerned, say faculty members—including Assistant Professor of Philosophy Jim Behuniak and his wife, Connie Zhu, (with children Anton, and Anna, 6) and Assistant Professor of Economics Jason Long and his wife, Heidi, (with Maya, 3, and Lucy, 1)—who have decided that Mayflower Hill, while occasionally inconvenient, is the perfect place to raise a family.
“It’s like having a four-hundred-acre backyard with a thousand playmates,” Jason Long said. “What more could a kid want?”
For faculty living on campus, Mayflower Hill gives their children the opportunity to eat in the dining halls, play kickball on the quad with students, attend student music and drama productions, and enjoy an endless supply of babysitters. Campus kids, like Colby students, are exposed to a diverse student body and find friends from all over the world.
Assistant Professor Jim Behuniak and his son, Anton, participate in a Harry Potter-themed dinner in Foss dining hall last October. Photo by Elizabeth Hathaway '11
“If I’m on campus, even if I don’t see them, I hear, ‘Jean Jacques! Jean Jacques! What are you doing?’” said Jean Jacques Ndayisenga ’13 of Rwanda. In the dining halls, Ndayisenga said, Anton and Anna Behuniak come running. “Sometimes they escape from their parents and come to sit with me,” he said, chuckling.
Said Jim Behuniak, “Anna and Anton seem to know more students than I do.”
Anna, who attended the George J. Mitchell School in Waterville, became close friends with some of the Colby Cares About Kids mentors who volunteered at her school. Seeing those volunteers back on campus bridged the gap between learning at school and learning at home, her parents said.
And when your home is a college, there is a lot of learning going on.
As the Behuniaks were taking up residence on campus, Associate Professor of Biology and Department Chair Russell Johnson, his wife, Michele Hébert, and their daughter, Ursula, 13, were leaving campus quarters after five years as faculty residents.
For the Johnsons the biggest challenge even early on was keeping a regular bedtime for Ursula. “With so many activities and campus running on a typical college night-owl schedule, it was always difficult to get Ursula to bed on time,” Johnson said. Ursula frequently attended on-campus events in the theater or music departments or other department lectures, many of which were scheduled in the evening. But the range and quality of offerings just a short walk away presented opportunities too good to pass up.
“We wouldn’t have driven to campus for an event before, but, because we were on campus, Ursula grew up with plays, lectures, and all the other events just across campus,” Johnson said.
A lot of learning was going on right at home, too.
Faculty who live on campus are required to be hosts for dorm events. From apple picking to backyard barbecues to hot cocoa and game nights, chances to take a break from studying and to socialize with professors and their families are embraced by students.
The Long family had students over every week to watch the television drama Lost. The Johnsons opened their apartment in Mary Low every Thursday for what they called Politics and Pie. Students from Coburn and Mary Low could enjoy an evening snack while watching The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, discussing politics, or playing cards and other games with Ursula.
“I got to know the college students really well, especially when they were over every week,” Ursula said of the Thursday tradition. “It was like having tons of big brothers and sisters all around.”
And the benefit isn’t just one way.