As Levitan Faculty Fellows and special assistants to the vice provosts for undergraduate education and student affairs, Daily and Samanez-Larkin will foster student-faculty engagement and opportunities for student intellectual exploration.
Their initial work will include developing the QuadEx Faculty Fellows program, which will honor a select group of faculty members from a range of disciplines with appointments as faculty fellows affiliated with Duke’s residential quads on West Campus. Faculty in residence will continue to lead faculty-student interaction within first-year residence halls on East Campus, and will partner with QuadEx faculty fellows to build intellectual and residential life connections spanning both campuses.
Daily is a professor of the practice in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science, co-principal investigator of the Alliance for Identity-Inclusive Computing Education, and faculty director of the Duke Technology Scholars program. Her research involves the design, implementation, and evaluation of technologies, programs, and curricula to promote justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM fields.
Samanez-Larkin, the Jack H. Neely Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, is the faculty in residence for Alspaugh residence hall and previously served as a residential college fellow while on faculty at Yale University. His scholarship examines how motivation affects learning, decision making, and health behavior across the lifespan.
“Our goal is to provide all undergraduate students a sustained sense of community that will support their intellectual and personal development throughout their time at Duke, and beyond,” said Vice Provost and Vice President for Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon. “Shani’s and Greg’s enthusiasm for community building and vision for the role of residential education in supporting student success are inspiring, and I look forward to working with them to integrate faculty and intellectual life within our residential system in new and powerful ways.”
Daily and Samanez-Larkin will also contribute to “Sophomore Spark,” a new program designed to support the specific needs of second-year students. Sophomore Spark will provide support for academic and career exploration, including opportunities for students to examine questions of purpose, values and intellectual curiosity.
“We know that Duke students are passionate, curious, and wildly creative,” said Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Gary Bennett. “Having dedicated faculty to support students as they dream up ways to explore their intellectual interests outside the classroom - in ways that are as spirited and creative as they are - has been a central goal of QuadEx from the beginning. We are thrilled that Shani and Greg will lead these efforts.”
Daily and Samanez-Larkin both say their own experiences as students shaped their ongoing commitment to undergraduate residential education and intellectual exploration.
As a graduate student at MIT, Daily lived in an undergraduate residence hall while serving as a graduate resident tutor. Her undergraduate participation in the National Achievement Scholars program at Florida State University offered enduring connections with fellow students and a faculty mentor, and ultimately inspired her future professional path.
“We were required to interview a faculty member, and I met with a civil engineering professor because I thought that was what I wanted to study,” said Daily. “He told me he studied ‘big things that don’t move, like buildings and bridges and roads,’ and I realized I did not have a passion for that. So I did more research and ended up choosing electrical and computer engineering because it was much aligned with my interests.”
Daily credits the community building and required faculty interview with helping her navigate her studies and career. “I’m so grateful for that one conversation, and to this day we remain in touch and he has been a great mentor to me,” she said.
Samanez-Larkin didn’t have a traditional undergraduate residential experience. Instead, he lived in a co-op after transferring to the University of Michigan as a sophomore, and notes that he likely would have benefited from being part of a more diverse residential setting. “I was a punk/hiphop skater kid who lived with a bunch of other fairly counterculture students like me,” he said. “I liked it at the time, but in many ways I self-selected a very homogeneous community. There are so many skills and opportunities that come from being embedded in a diverse environment in every way; not having that exposure probably made it harder for me to effectively navigate the next few career moves when I left college.”
“With the QuadEx faculty fellows program, we have the opportunity to create a new tradition of intellectual engagement at Duke, and strengthen the connections between students and faculty in very intentional and authentic ways,” said Provost Sally Kornbluth. “Not only do Greg and Shani have a clear commitment to connecting faculty with the residential experience, their areas of scholarly expertise are also closely related to our vision for creating a more vibrant, inclusive and intellectually engaging setting for our students.”
Daily’s research on how technology can support interpersonal skill development to improve interactions amongst diverse groups of people working together to solve problems is closely related to the goal of fostering campus community and intellectual engagement through QuadEx. “I’m excited about creating new opportunities for faculty and student connections that are valuable to everyone,” said Daily.
Samanez-Larkin, whose research identifies how motivation and learning interact when people make decisions, notes that part of the vision for faculty engagement via QuadEx is “to make space for the students to come up with really cool ideas. The most gratifying part of being a faculty member is promoting student success by leveraging all of our social, intellectual, and other resources to help every student realize whatever they're trying to realize during their Duke experience.”