Living in a two-bedroom apartment below college freshman boys with two children is not the ideal residence for most people. But Dr. Suzie Macaluso is thriving in ACU’s Bullock Hall as she embraces the challenge and opportunity to impact students’ lives.
Macaluso serves as an associate professor of sociology and gerontology and the director of the Pruett Gerontology Center for her 11th year at ACU. Like most professors on campus, she enjoys surrounding herself with students. She is the first faculty member to move into a freshman residence hall as part of a new program at ACU.
Before moving on campus, Macaluso and her husband lived in a three-bedroom house with plenty of space for their two children. Yet, she finds that her job sparks a love of mentoring nature for college students.
“Being able to share meals with the students is something I look forward to – being able to grow a strong bond,” she said.
Driven by her love of pouring into students, Macaluso and her family decided to study abroad in Germany this past spring with 14 students. Attending class with the students and living with them in the villa formed a special relationship.
“She really focused on the community among the girls in the house,” Elizabeth Barkus, one of the students on the trip, said. “She genuinely wanted to get to know us while also giving us an experience that was unique to any other trip.”
When Residence Life gave the chance for faculty members to live in the freshman dorm, she was eager for the opportunity.
The opportunity for faculty members to live in a freshman dorm is new at ACU this year. Faculty members have previously lived in dorms in a less-defined role, rather than being a part of the intentional faculty-in-residence program. The university plans to continue adding faculty members to the freshman dorms currently being built due to the positive impact.
Research shows the positive impact programs like this have on students. A study at Taylor University found the program “offers a unique opportunity for universities to redefine learning for students and helps shape a student’s willingness to engage.”
Macaluso said the decision to move into Bullock Hall was easy because of her connection with the students.
Yet the transition from house to apartment was not easy. Raising two kids under the age of 10 holds struggles within itself. The children struggled to adapt to their new environment with less space, she said.
“The transition was a little rough,” Macaluso said. “This is the first time the kids are sharing a room, and they aren’t the biggest fans of that. But letting the kids be able to be around the college students has been a huge help.”
The Macaluso family moved into Bullock Hall on July 1, and the children have already learned their way around campus. Their favorite things to do are ride their bikes around Bullock Hall and talk to the students as they walk to class. Being able to go to the lobby and play games with the ACU students has been a huge blessing, Macaluso said.
Life in the residence hall is really not that different than living in a normal apartment, she said. Having access to their apartment outside of the main lobby of Bullock still gives them their personal space from the students when needed, but that is not often.
“I love working with the students and getting to know them,” Macaluso said. “Being able to provide them with an older outlook than their RAs and someone who is not your parent gives them a different perspective on their beginning college career.”
She says her biggest challenge with moving into Bullock has not been the actual living in a dorm but rather finding opportunities to constantly connect with the students around her on more than just a hi-and-bye occasion.
“There is a lot going on in those students’ lives, so I strive to engage with them and to let them know I am there for them,” Macaluso said.
Even with the challenges, Macaluso said the students make the experience all worth it. If she is feeling down or out of place, she goes to the lobby and knows someone will be there to cheer her up. She is grateful for the opportunity she has been given, and the energy from the students excites her to continue to do more.
“The students have been the best thing,” Macaluso said. “They bring this energy that is exciting, and they have made all the more impact on my life.”