Forging a fellowship
Tim Bono could pass for an undergraduate. Not only does he look young and sound young for an ’05 Wash. U. graduate and a Ph.D. student, but he also lives on the South 40 as the only graduate student in Shepley Hall.
Bono is among the first wave of graduate students in a revived program called the Graduate Fellows Program. A fellow works with one residential college; Bono is the graduate fellow with Danforth, Shepley and Wheeler dorms.
Officially, the program allows recent alumni to live with undergraduate students and act as liaisons between students, the Residential College Director (RCD), Cornerstone and Residential Life. In reality, the fellows’ real responsibilities are outlined on the job.
Bono spent a lot of time last year looking into similar arrangements at other universities and came up with some ideas, including proposals that graduate fellows live in residential dorms. However, he still understands that what he and his peers do this year will influence what happens to the program in the future.
“I volunteered to be the guinea pig,” Bono said.
One of Bono’s early ideas was to concentrate his efforts on a single freshman floor. At a meeting with RAs early this year, he met Dani Porter and Mike White, the RAs for Danforth 4. Together, they worked out a plan for Bono to join the floor in certain activities, including weekly floor brunches. As a result, Bono has become a sort of floor VIP.
“I missed floor brunch once, and I really heard about it,” he said.
Resident Amanda Freedman could not be happier with her graduate fellow.
“He helped us get second place in WUTube,” she said, referring to the annual video-making competition among freshman floors. “He was very serious about learning how to snap right.”
More importantly to Bono, however, he has been able to use his experience to help students. As an alumnus, he has been able to provide advice about research and graduate opportunities to interested freshmen. As a psychology student and teacher of the class “Psychology of Young Adulthood,” he has contributed his knowledge. For instance, the RAs of Danforth 3 asked him to organize a presentation on conflict resolution.
“I kind of like having a grad student here, just so I know what life is like after graduation,” said resident Greg Gerold. “You have RAs on the floor, but they’re just a year or two older than you.”
In addition, Bono is learning a lot himself. Part of his motivation for taking this position was to experience his area of study more immediately than he had in the past. Vice Chancellor for Students Jill Carnaghi told him prior to graduation and the proposal of the program that he should look for something like it.
“You learn so much from students that you gain invaluable perspective,” Bono remembered Carnaghi saying.
Despite these measures of success, there are some disappointing effects. While Danforth 4 residents like Bono, they do not completely understand what his role is on the floor.
“I don’t really know what he does, but he’s a nice guy,” resident Joe Greer said. “There are so many elder figures already.”
The future of the program is already in doubt. While there are no reasons to think that it will be canceled, in an experiment such as this one, anything can happen.
The live-in aspect may disappear in future years. According to Bono, there has been talk of building efficiency apartments for graduate students above the eatery of the new Wohl Center. In that case, graduate fellows, whatever their role, would likely move into those apartments.
As for Bono, his future is also uncertain. He had sworn to himself that he would leave St. Louis after graduation, but keeps finding new reasons to stay. Finally, he may have a chance, but is no longer sure that he wants to go.
“I do have a pretty fierce allegiance to Washington University,” he said.