Residence Masters provide at-home mentorship

The job of Resident Masters – faculty who live in the University of Miami’s Residential Colleges – includes working closely with students and serving as academic and intellectual role models for them.

The masters’ role is critical to incoming students to help ease the transition from leaving home to becoming a college student.

“We try to do things to help the student bond – become a member of the community,” said Dr. Robert Moore, master for Mahoney Residential College. “This is important within the first four to six weeks because that’s when they are missing home,”

The Residential Colleges on campus were modeled after Cambridge and Oxford universities, and were designed to provide a family atmosphere for students.

To become a resident master, a faculty member must first be invited by the University’s president. The decision to accept the invitation is personal for each faculty member.

“About eight and a half years ago I was invited to live on campus,” said Moore, a professor in the School of Education.

“I had just finished 27 years here… I decided I wanted to see a different piece of it. I thought it would be a nice challenge,” he explained.

Sanjeev Chatterjee, who became the master for Eaton Residential College last June, said he likes the fact that his life is organized around the campus, and that makes him feel like he is a part of the University of Miami.

Chatterjee, who also co-directs the School of Communication’s Documentary Unit, said providing leadership and programming in the Residential College is his main responsibility.

“The second is to be available to the students, and to be present as role models in your professional and family life,” he said.

Moore says there are many advantages to living on campus. Getting a chance to meet students on a more personal basis, the comfortable accommodations the University provides and meetings with students over food all contribute to a home-like atmosphere, he said.

Students are able to visit the masters at home, use their kitchens and do other things such as watch movies with their families. Chatterjee and Moore agree much of their time is devoted to student activities, but that they still have as much privacy as they want and the students are respectful of their space.

“I have a lot [of privacy],” Moore said. “The students know that I typically go to bed around 10, and they don’t bother you. That has never been an issue,”

Moore is single, but Chatterjee has a family that, he said, is very well adjusted to the students and the activities that have now become a part of their lives.

“I am a first generation immigrant in this country,” said Chatterjee, who was born in India. “We come from a culture where there’s a lot of interaction with human beings.”

A master’s responsibilities are tremendous, said Moore, “Because you are speaking to students as a mentor.”

Chatterjee said he’s available around the clock because he chooses to make himself accessible. “They can call on me at any point, and they do. I’m available 24 hours, but I’m not working 24 hours.”