Otterburne, MB – At the start of the fall semester, Associate Professor of Communications & Media and Registrar, Dr. Nicholas Greco, and his family made the brave step to move into Muriel Taylor Hall and live on-campus with 115 university residence students. He lives there with his wife Antonella and daughter Serafina (age 11).
Dr. Greco explained, that in the early stages of the development of the new residence building (Muriel Taylor Hall), there were discussions about the student experience at Providence. A new ‘living and learning’ philosophy sprang out of these conversations that recognized student learning takes place throughout the day, inside and outside of the classroom. It takes place in our living spaces, among neighbours, colleagues and friends. That’s where the idea of a ‘Faculty in Residence’ family was birthed.
Below is a Q & A style interview with the Greco family.
Q: Explain what led your family to pursue this opportunity in the first place?
Nicholas: We realized that we could be a very good fit for the Faculty in Residence family. First, we are completely committed to Providence’s mission and vision. Second, we homeschool our daughter Serafina, which lends itself well to spending most of our time on campus with students. If Antonella worked off-campus, and if Serafina spent her weekdays at school, it would be more difficult to spend time with students! Here, our life organically blends with campus life. Third, Antonella also comes from an academic background. As a family, we know what it’s like to be students, and we feel we are able to guide and support them in their academic pursuits. We are deeply committed to Providence, and to serving our students, the Church and the world.
Q: Is it what you expected? What has surprised you along the way?
Nicholas: Before I began this position, I assumed that first-year students would be the majority of those who chose to interact with me and attend the Faculty in Residence events. Instead, we have students from all years spending time with us as a family, which is great. It shows that there really is a need for this type of position at Providence.
Q: What’s it like to live in a neighborhood of only university-age students?
Antonella: We enjoy hearing the ubiquitous “ping pong ping pong” from the Hub. Especially with provincial public health restrictions due to the pandemic, the Hub is a wonderful place where students can gather to chat, to study, to hang around and have fun. In some ways, being around students isn’t new; we’ve always tried to participate in campus activities. Though, it’s much easier now! Serafina and I participated in the student leaders’ late night hunt around the campus grounds and we really enjoyed it. We now get to participate in things that we wouldn’t have been able to when we lived off campus.
Q: Is there a story that you think exemplifies your family in residence experience so far?
Nicholas: The students are unpredictable. For instance, I have found myself having a long, unplanned discussion about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and needing to change my plans for programming because I was invited to play video games with students in the Hub!
Q: What kinds of activities have you started in this fall semester with students?
Nicholas: We invite all Providence students to join with us, including joining us in prayer three times a day (we have commuters that join in person or by Zoom, as well as those living on campus). We have Tolkien and Shakespeare Reading Groups, and we watch movies together. I also run intermittent “Culture Tea Times” when I put on a pot of water to boil and give them a 10-minute presentation about something I think they should know, without any tests or assignments at the end! This week, I’ll be telling them about how the Irish rock band U2 maps out the story of sin and Christ’s redemption during a concert in 1993.
We also hold more informal events for students. We often invite those on campus to join us at the fire pit, or to come for a walk through the Bridle Path, or a walk into town, or to join us in the Hub for snacks and a chat. We’ve done the first “Ask Me Anything” where students came and, well, asked me anything. We invited students to watch a political debate with us on the television and we had a good chat about politics. With all of the things happening in the world, I’m probably going to start watching the news with students regularly; I’m a media professor after all.
Q: What are the benefits of raising a family in this unique environment?
Nicholas: There is the potential of others coming along side us in raising our daughter. We are excited to see how students take Fina under their wing and mentor her as she gets older.
Antonella: While the Faculty in Residence position is different from being a dorm mother or father, perhaps we can be that “parent” and “younger sibling” for students who are missing their families.
Serafina: And dad’s commute is even shorter than before!
Q: As Serafina grows and becomes an adult, what do you hope she will take away from this experience?
Antonella: Our hope coming into this position was that Serafina would have many opportunities to spend time with university students and to participate in campus life. I feel that, for a pre-teen, it’s a wonderful environment. She enjoys chatting with students who attend our bonfires. She started the PhD group (Prov Handicrafts Drop-In) and has enjoyed having a dedicated craft time with students, some who are experienced crafters and others who have come to learn how to crochet or knit with us. My hope is that she will learn how to be a more caring person, to be more giving and to serve those around her.
Q: How do you like living on-campus?
Serafina: I like walking and playing in the forest. We get to see lots of deer behind our apartment and that is fun. I really like sitting around the fire pit with students and getting to know a bit about the things they like to do. Lots of students like to paint and draw and make crafts, and many of them like to read books and skate and build things. I like to do all those things, too! I can’t wait to go skating on the outdoor ice rink and skiing around campus. I also like hanging out in the Hub with students. They are friendly. They often say ‘hello’ to me and they will come and sit and ask me what I’m doing. I also had my own garden in Providence’s community gardens, where I was able to grow a tiny watermelon!
Q: How does it feel to have an extended family that now includes 115 university students?
Serafina: For Thanksgiving, a few students who were on campus came and joined us in the Hub for some desserts in the afternoon. That was fun. One student even brought her crochet project and both of us did some crochet during the dessert time. She just learned to crochet the week before at our PhD group. She’s already making a scarf and I was really impressed.