Everything has come full circle for associate professor of sociology Gina Aalgaard Kelly, who started her North Dakota State career as an undergraduate, graduated in 1999 and earned her master’s degree in 2000. Ten years later she returned as a faculty member, and after 18 years is now back to living on campus in the Matthew Living Learning Centers.
Aalgaard Kelly has always enjoyed living on campus from an undergrad in Thompson Hall to being a residence assistant in Sevrinson Hall. Four years ago, she wanted to become more involved with service work on campus, which is when she got involved with the faculty in residence program where she served two years at Burgum Hall and two years at Thompson Hall.
On Aug. 8, Aalgaard Kelly became the faculty in residence at the Matthew Living Learning Centers where she can promote on-campus living, instead of visiting the different halls.
“As an alumni of NDSU, I just feel like it’s really important for students to engage in the university and where they live,” Aalgaard Kelly explained.
Many may think this sounds like an awkward situation, having an associate professor as a neighbor or having their students next door, but she explained it as an opportunity that allows her to interact with students that she may not normally meet in her classroom.
“I am able to continue to outreach students so that they can feel like they can come and talk to a faculty member because that is what we are here for; we are a land-grant university and we are here to serve students, so students come first and our teaching is a part of that and our research is a part of that as well,” Aalgaard Kelly said.
In her opinion, the most important factor of being the faculty in residence is to welcome the student and their family and make them feel comfortable, so it can be a “shared learning and shared living space.”
Aalgaard Kelly said she feels a commitment to promoting the importance of integrating students within the NDSU community. She explained how it was important to her as an undergraduate to live on campus throughout her years at NDSU.
She explained her understanding of the options to live off campus and the factors that could play a role into choosing to do that, but she said that it all depends on the person.
“When you’re on campus, you can be more engaged with the university — there’s so many different things that are going on in different buildings,” Aalgaard Kelly explained. “Looking back at my own undergrad experience, I think it’s really important that students integrate within their community that they’re living in and studying academically.”
Through her experience as an undergraduate, she was able to see more than what meets the eye by becoming a residence assistant. “I gained a much larger picture of the world when I was here as an undergrad at NDSU, so that’s why I feel really privileged that I can be the faculty in residence to serve NDSU because I gained so much knowledge as an 18, 19, 20-year-old living here on campus,” Aalgaard Kelly said.
There are many positive factors that add to the opportunity of being the faculty in residence. “The ability to be here on campus and have that option to stay here late in the evening and stay overnight and not have to constantly commute. But also – serve the university and be a real human being, to try and engage students and get them wanting to aspire beyond their four years here because, for me, I was so fortunate that I had that experience as a residence assistant as an undergrad that I was able to see the bigger picture that it’s not just a four-year degree,” Aalgaard Kelly shared.
Aalgaard Kelly quoted Erving Goffman, a sociological theorist, about having a front stage and a back stage. The front stage being the performing and the professional side, and the back stage is being comfortable and relaxed. As the faculty in residence, Kelly can go back and forth between these stages where she can be professional, but also be relaxed with her students so they are not as intimidated.
She wanted her fellow neighbors and students to know that, “Coffee is always on. My ears are always open. I can switch from front stage to back stage very quickly if I need to between the classroom and my office and Matthew Living Learning Centers.”