Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez

Home Sweet Home

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez
Residential faculty member Leslie Knecht reflects on her recent move to Stanford Residential College.

At the University of Miami, it isn’t just the class of 2022 that is going through the first semester jitters. Leslie Knecht, lecturer in the Department of Chemistry shared her move-in experience and advice as one of the newest residential faculty members. 

“These are all of the states where we have lived and worked together,” said Knecht as she pointed to a wall in the entryway of her new home. “It’s different than what we were used to, but it does feel like home,” she said as she gave a warm welcome into her living room in Stanford Residential College.   

Over the last five years, Knecht has spent a great deal of her time on the “other” side of the Coral Gables campus. Rightfully so. When she’s not leading a discussion in the classroom or guiding an experiment in the lab, she typically has a line of students outside of her office. While some students are seeking assistance with an assignment, many others wait patiently because they simply want to talk.  

So this summer, when the opportunity to become a residential faculty member arose, Knecht, her husband Marc, who is also a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry, and their two sons moved sight-unseen into their new home. 

Building a Community Through Chemistry

When speaking with Knecht, there’s a certain level of optimism in the air that is difficult to pinpoint. “Anyone can learn chemistry,” she said with complete confidence. “It just needs to be relatable and friendly, and that’s my job,” she added.  

In fact, Knecht isn’t shy to admit that many of her students are wary of chemistry. “My challenge is helping students fall in love with chemistry in the same way I did,” she added. “In general, I aim to create a community of learning and I never want students to a feel divide simply because chemistry isn’t their favorite or best subject. I want my students to see me as a real person, someone who is here to helpsometimes that includes chemistry and sometimes it doesn’t.”  

 

Just Ask

Although she was thrilled to start a new adventure with her family and welcomed the changes, there were times throughout the move-in process when Knecht had flashbacks of being a newbie on a college campus.  

“Where do I get my mail? Who do I call if get locked out?” Knecht jokingly shared some of the common questions that she had when moving into Stanford Residential College.  

“I am experiencing a lot of the same things that our new students encounter and I want them to know that it’s okay and everyone will have moments of uncertainty or confusion,” she added.  

Knecht shared that she often encourages her students to “just ask,” and reminds them that there is someone else who wants to ask the same question. 

“In life and in class, I’ve found that there is always someone willing to help, but you have to ask first,” she added.   

Personal Connections

While Knecht clearly has a gift for connecting with and helping students, she is not the first faculty member to excel in her role. In fact, the program was designed to "introduce students to faculty from diverse academic disciplines, especially in a residential setting, allowing students to explore their own ideas in new and creative ways," according to Jim Smart, executive director of Housing and Residential Life.

For Knecht, the program couldn't be a better fit. "I always want my students to see me as a person and not just a faculty member, just as I see them," she said. "I think the world would be a much smaller place if we each took a similar approach to life. We're all human."

"Having a faculty member just downstairs personalizes a student’s college experience in ways that just talking to a faculty member in the classroom or their office simply does not achieve. Overall, this partnership makes the statement that we are all in this together to create a supportive and positive learning environment.  After all, that is what the University of Miami is about," added Smart.

Knecht is among a group of colleagues who reside on campus as residential faculty members. You can meet them all here.