May 31, 2017 | By Kayla Stoner
Rifka Cook, who has been at the forefront of efforts to expand residence-based instruction at Northwestern University, will take over as Faculty in Residence at Allison Hall this fall.
Since 2009, Cook, an associate professor of instruction in the department of Spanish and Portuguese in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, has been working with students on innovative initiatives inside and outside the classroom as a fellow at Shepard Residential College.
“We are excited to see how she will engage students in her new role at Allison Hall,” said Brad Zakarin, director of residential academic initiatives.
One of the things Cook will do for certain at Allison is teach a residence-based class that explores Latin American culture through film.
The Faculty-in-Residence program aims to blur the line between students’ academic and social lives on campus, and the accessibility of the live-in professors is central to building diverse and tight-knit neighborhoods through the residential experience.
“Students are my family, like my children,” Cook said. “It is my privilege to support not only their academic development, but their emotional development as well. I hope to provide them a home away from home, even if that just means sharing a home-cooked meal.”
The Faculty-in-Residence program is part of an extensive Housing Master Plan that ultimately will transform the Evanston campus with the creation of cohesive residential neighborhoods under the supervision of live-in faculty.
Cook, who will replace Renee Engeln as Faculty in Residence, will move into the Allison Hall faculty apartment in September for a 3-year term. She will teach classes in nearby Shepard Hall, host small events for students in the apartment and even share meals with students in the dining hall.
This year, Cook taught residence-based Spanish classes at Shepard Hall, including one on gastronomy that engaged Latin American chefs to teach students about authentic cuisine in the new demonstration kitchen.
As a faculty fellow at Shepard Residential College, Cook was honored last year with the Heyck Award, given to residential college fellows who excel in promoting community and advancing learning in the residential context. In recognition of the welcoming environment she created, students once presented Cook with a Mother’s Day gift – a charm that reads “una mamá para todos,” a mother for all of us, written in her native Spanish.
As part of the plan to improve the undergraduate experience on campus, Northwestern began implementing a 2-year residency requirement this year, which starts for students in the Fall 2017 quarter. Northwestern also has committed $500 million to housing construction and renovation. Eventually, residential neighborhoods across campus will include common areas where students can cook, exercise, relax and study.
MEET THE FACULTY MEMBERS IN RESIDENCE:
Allison Hall: Rifka Cook
Cook is an associate professor of instruction in the department of Spanish and Portuguese in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. This fall will mark the start of her first year as Faculty in Residence.
Elder Hall: Jacob Smith
Smith is an associate professor in the department of radio/television/film in the School of Communication. He lives in the apartment with his son and his wife, Freda Love Smith, a lecturer and academic advisor in the School of Communication.
Goodrich House, Bobb Hall and McCulloch Hall: Tali Figueroa
Figueroa is an associate professor of physics and astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He will live in the apartment with his 9-year-old son and his wife, Barbara Algarin, a lawyer and visiting scholar for Weinberg.
Shepard Hall and 1838 Chicago: Melissa Foster
Foster is head of musical theatre vocal studies in the School of Communication. She will live in the apartment with her 5-year-old daughter and her husband, Matt Boresi, an opera librettist and faculty member at Carthage College.