Residencies are an underutilized practice by campus activities professionals. Too often we pay good money to host talent for one main appearance with variable reach and impact on our campuses. The reality is there are a lot of competing priorities for our students, and their schedules don’t always align with our programming calendars. So I say, bring the programming to them! Think strategically when you hire talent about the various ways you can use them while they are with your campus, and STRETCH their potential impact cross-disciplinarily and cross-functionally.
In the last two years, I’ve learned to utilize talent for multiple appearances over a one, two, or three day mini-residency including class visits, day and evening appearances, and various audiences including current students, prospective students, faculty/staff, and community members. Here are a few success stories to illustrate how you might begin to schedule your next residency.
Whenever I hire a poet or spoken word artist, I always ask if they are willing and available to speak in a creative writing class or other English course before or after their performance. Depending on themes in their content I sometimes look for other course matches, for example in the social sciences and humanities. Most recently, I hosted Caroline Rothstein, New York City based freelance journalist and poet. I paired Caroline up with one of our Development Studies reading instructors who asked if he could share a few pieces of Caroline’s writing with his class ahead of her visit. Then during her time with his two classes, she discussed narrative voice in the hopes of encouraging these students to be more excited about reading. Caroline illustrated narrative voice through performing a poem they had read to themselves beforehand. The students were stunned at how the words transformed from the page to an oral art form, and as hoped, they were excited! The classes also discussed genre differences as Caroline described how she selects if a piece of her writing will be an article or a poem. After the two classes, Caroline performed her spoken word to an engaged audience, which by the way included several students from the classes she visited.
Musicians can be used for residencies, too, especially singer/songwriters. Preston Pugmire and Matt Beilis both spent time with music classes before and after their sets discussing digital and audio studio recording, equipment preferences, trends in the industry, and the business side of music management. Our music instructors and music students LOVED this, and many stayed after the performances to talk with these artists one-on-one.
The most comprehensive residency I’ve been a part of coordinating was connected to our institution’s annual MLK and Black History Month program. A colleague from the academic side of the house and I co-chair these efforts, and this year we hosted a three-day residency with Sharon Morgan and Tom DeWolf, co-authors of Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade. Night one was a film screening of the documentary “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” in which Tom DeWolf and other members of his family took a journey on the slave trade route of their ancestors in an effort to confront and grapple with the history they inherited as well as racism today. Following the film, Tom and Sharon were both present to facilitate a question and answer session with the audience. Day two, we took Tom and Sharon and a few student leaders off campus for an intimate lunch and a tour of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, NY, a facility dedicated to commemorating a man whose last Supreme Court vote on the matter of Brown v. Board of Education helped end racial segregation in schools. Night two was Tom and Sharon’s feature presentation based on their co-authored book, and day three was a noon hour abbreviated version of the previous night. The noon event was attended not only by students, faculty/staff, and community members, but also by five high school history classes through our College Connections program, an initiative that gives high school students the opportunity to earn college credits. Following the noon presentation, Tom and Sharon ate lunch with these high school students. Partnering with our College Connections and recruitment staff enabled this event to reach 140 prospective students. All three appearances by Tom and Sharon were free and open to the public, and included book signings.
So friends, remember this – every artist, be they a speaker, author, poet, musician, even comedians, have stories and skills that students are eager to learn from. Residencies enable you to expand a program’s reach on campus, and allow students and other audience members to engage in meaningful small group interactions with talent that have lasting educational value and strengthen the very purpose for which you brought the talent to your school in the first place.