September 2, 2003

Community establishes BASE at Clairmont

Eric Rangus

When Arri Eisen, senior lecturer in biology, decided to move to the Clairmont Campus as part of a program he helped create in which a faculty member would share living space with more than two dozen undergraduates, the reaction from fellow professors was mixed.

“It’s ranged from ‘What are you doing?’ to ‘How do I get to do that?’” said Eisen, who, with wife Lisa and sons Gabriel, 6, and Micah, 7 months, moved into a faculty apartment on the Clairmont Campus last week. “I think it’s perfect for young families. The SAAC [Student Activities and Athletics Center] is right there, and there are a lot of families in graduate housing. It’s also a 10-minute walk through the woods to work, so you can’t beat the commute.”

The program is Bridging Academics, Service and Ethics (BASE), and it is the brainchild of the Center for Ethics, the Program in Science and Society and the Emory Scholars Program.

The idea is for students and faculty to live together, integrating their academic, extracurricular and service activities. Not only do Eisen and his family live in the same building (Building B) with 28 undergraduates and one graduate student—they’ll be living on the same floor (P).

“The purpose is not just to have a cool community, but to see how that community links to classes,” said Eisen, who directs the Program in Science and Society. “We want to tell the wider community who we are and invite faculty members to come over here and talk to us.”

The 28 BASE undergraduates were chosen last spring, and since then the group has communicated through a LearnLink conference. They met last week for the first time as a large group to establish some goals for the year.

It’s still a bit early for big ideas, but the group plans to have two dinners a month—one an informal get-together, like a barbeque, and the other would involve a guest speaker.

They also are looking into opportunities for community outreach. Many of the BASE students already volunteer, Eisen said, so the intent will not be to find any new projects, but simply expand on current interests.

Mealtimes will be the best times for group get-togethers, but the P floor of Building B will have an open-door policy among its members (figuratively, of course; Building B has exterior corridors), all in the name of increasing community.

“They are all super kids,” said Eisen, adding that most of the students got involved because they wanted to create a sense of family on campus. “We could stand on our head and accomplish something.”

In addition to finding ways to promote the program, BASE participants still are looking for academic topics to explore in depth this fall. Once one is chosen, Eisen said, the students will try to take classes related to it in the spring, and he will teach a seminar on it.

Eisen said he is committed to living at Clairmont for one year. After that, he wants to see if other faculty would like to be involved with the hopes of having a new community move in each year.

“I want this year to be a model for how this could work,” Eisen said.