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  November 13, 2000

Scholars-in-Residence Forge Closer Ties
Between Academic and Residential Life

Living among the spirited 20-year-old college students of the South Campus residence halls are two residents who are a bit older and a bit wiser.

The two, Joanna Kaiser and Bob Vieth, are this year's University Scholars-in-Residence. As participants in this program, now in its second year, they serve as academic role models and mentors to students in an environment outside the classroom.

"The scholars-in-residence program allows students to make connections with faculty outside the classroom and gives participating faculty an idea of what it's like to live in residence halls at UConn," says John Sears, coordinator for academic programs in the Department of Residential Life, which sponsors the program. "Ultimately, the program is about giving faculty and students a better understanding of one another outside the classroom."

Kaiser and Vieth have a number of responsibilities as scholars-in-residence. These include: mentoring students about academic and career concerns, teaching courses in South Campus residence hall classrooms and facilitating educational programs during the semester that complement Residential Life programming. The Scholars also attend other events and programs with students. To allow for greater interaction with students, each scholar-in-residence lives in a two-bedroom apartment in South.

Sitting poised on the coach in her living room, the walls of which are decorated with a poster of Krakow, one of Michelangelo's drawings, and pictures her husband painted, artist Joanna Kaiser seems quite at home. But Kaiser, a native of Poland, is far from her place of origin.

Born and raised in the historic city of Krakow, Kaiser received her diploma in drawing and printmaking from the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts in 1991. She brings to the University community not only her artistic talent but an eyewitness account of the social, political and economic metamorphosis Poland has undergone - one that has transformed the country from communism to democracy.

Kaiser shared her experiences in a recent lecture to a group of fine arts students. In the lecture she discussed her knowledge of the cultural and historical background of Poland as well as modern Polish art. "The lecture concerned my personal experience about things that are close to me," she explains.

Kaiser, who is also a Fulbright Scholar, is investigating various aspects of visual arts curricula in programs in the United States for her project. She says the experience of living on a college campus is new to her. "In Krakow, there are lots of students, but they don't live on a campus," she explains "instead they are all around the city."

She also noted the contrast between the education of art students in the two countries. "In Poland, art schools are separate from universities and art students form a very closed society," she says. "In America art students can take a range of different courses and live together with students studying other subjects."

Kaiser, who teaches a figure drawing class in the art department, says she enjoys the contact it has given her with students. She says that whereas American professors spend lots of time with their students, in Poland the professor appears in class only once every two or three weeks. "There is a lot of distance between the professor and the student," she says.

Although Kaiser is a newcomer to UConn, her counterpart scholar-in-resi dence, Vieth, is no stranger to the campus. He has been actively involved with the University for over 22 years.

"I really love UConn and have a strong commitment to the University," he says.

After earning his bachelor's degree from the University in 1977 he served as a research associate in microbiology at the UConn Health Center for 10 years. He is now director of the Fermentation and Bioprocessing Facility, a research center on campus that offers technical consultation in bioprocessing and provides equipment and resources to develop new processes and products for the biotechnology industry.

Vieth enjoys working with young people in his spare time. He has been a cub scout leader for many years and brings high school students to his laboratory to show them what "real science" is about. He decided to become a Scholar-in-Residence because of the opportunities to interact with students. "I enjoy working with students, it keeps me young," says Vieth. "It keeps me sharp, too."

Vieth, who will teach a seminar course on undergraduate research next semester, gave a lecture on organ donation earlier this fall.

Vieth says because the scholars-in-residence program is still new, some students are shy. When he takes the initiative to speak with them, however, he finds them responsive.

The Department of Residential Life is seeking faculty members to become scholars-in-residence next year. Applications for a one-year (nine-month) appointment are preferred but semester-long appointments (four months) may be considered. The application deadline for one-year appointments beginning next fall will be May 2001.

To learn more about the program or to obtain an application, e-mail John Sears in the Department of Residential Life.

Rebecca Stygar