Stepping off the syllabus:

For many faculty, the professor role runs deep - and wide

faculty and student playing basketball

Theology professor Steve Bridge dribbles by a defender at the Tuesday pick-up game for students, staff and faculty.

Nursing professor Martha DeCesere '85 helps first-year students move into their dorm rooms. Gail Marchigiano brings pizza into the nursing lab on a Sunday night when she comes in to offer a review session. Steve Bridge plays basketball with students every Tuesday. Last winter, sociology professor Dale Brooker slept overnight in a cardboard box outside Alfond Hall to promote the student Habitat for Humanity chapter.

In other words, the culture of engagement at Saint Joseph's often goes way beyond classroom instruction.

Kathleen Clements shares a laugh with students

Kathleen Clements jokes with an education student.

Kathleen Clements and Beth Richardson have invited students to their homes for dinner. Janice Rey traveled to the Passamaquoddy reservation to volunteer alongside students for a week during the annual Spring Break Workfest, while Michael Connolly traveled to New Orleans to work with a student crew help-ing with post-Katrina cleanup.

Professors handwrite notes to students who have done well, sponsor reading groups on special topics, or confer with a coach if an athlete's grade is sliding downward. They also show up to support the performance of their students at a varsity game or concert or play. And some faculty members help their students find jobs or stay in touch with them long after graduation.

Jonathan Malmude, chair of the history department, says that in addition to running extra review sessions on a Sunday afternoon or having office hours all day every day, engaging students can also be about keeping an open attitude. "I spend a lot of time talking to students," he says. "I don't cut conversations short, especially if they initiate it."

Reginals Hannaford talks with a student

Hanging out with classics professor Reg Hannaford in his office or the cafeteria is common practice. He is always eager to dialogue.

Neither does Reg Hannaford, who teaches classics. In fact, he believes listening to students and creating dialogue with them is more important than telling them what he thinks. As a result, students are consistently in his office or gathered around him at lunch in the cafeteria to talk about the meaning of Greek and Latin texts.

Josh Bell '08 of Lunenberg, Vt., didn't plan on majoring in classics, but says he got caught up in Hannaford's passion for the subject matter. Now double majoring in political science and classics, he says Hannaford reaches out to first- and second-year students to get them involved with classics and is "very open to discussion and questions."

Malmude says informal tutoring and advising goes on in all departments, in addition to the formal advising process. "I remember getting lost in the shuffle," he says of his undergraduate days at Queens University in New York. These days, he considers it a "sacred duty" to coach history students on how to get in to good grad schools.

Hellenbeck in class

Business professor Ed Hellenbeck insists on a high level of engagement with students.

Ed Hellenbeck is another professor with a reach-out attitude. No one would ever say his marketing classes are dry - he can turn toothpaste into riveting subject matter.

"I use humor to make it fun for the students," he says. "I want to know them, so I know how to motivate them." Hellenbeck, who is the adviser to the Business Club, knows his students by name shortly after the semester begins and calls on them routinely. "I don't know" is not an acceptable answer when they do get called upon.

"Every interaction with a student is an opportunity to raise their sights," Hellenbeck states. "If someone doesn't engage with me, I consider it a personal failure."

Small classes, which Saint Joseph's has plenty of, beg for engagement, according to history professor Andrea Vianello. "Sometimes we talk about the notion of "educainment" - not just dispensing knowledge, but making it interesting," he says.

While some professors concentrate on engaging students in the classroom, math professor Scott Balcomb and his wife run a dairy farm and are always on the lookout for students who can help them out. In the process, they get to know students, offer them meals and talk about a lot of things besides bringing in the hay or the cows for the winter. "It helps me see them as human beings, not just students," he says of the students he hires. "They learn the value of hard work and they learn that people can do more than one thing in life," he adds.

According to philosophy professor Sr. Patricia Flynn, a very special aspect of the Saint Joseph's faculty is the concern for the individual student. "We're attuned to student needs and willing to go the extra mile," she says.

Not long after school started this fall, history professor Michael Connolly noticed a student sitting alone in the cafeteria. He mentioned his concern to the Campus Ministry director seated at a nearby lunch table. She went over to the student, introduced herself and sat down to chat.

It's that extra effort and care that makes Saint Joseph's what it is.

Note: This story is a sample of what goes on at Saint Joseph's and could not possibly cover what every professor or department does for students. There is so much more.

 by Charmaine Daniels