The Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 1 - 56

Jordan P. Fullam * Andrew J. Hughes

lifelines, " " a helping hand, " or " that shoulder
of support. " For vulnerable students, therefore,
the FIR program provided a space to form connections and social support systems that are
helpful for academic and personal success.  

DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS
Some researchers have argued that only academic interactions benefit students (Anaya
& Cole, 2001; Cotten & Wilson, 2006; Kuh,
2003; Kuh & Hu, 2001; Umbach & Wawrzynski, 2005), while others have argued that even
social interactions may lead to positive socialemotional and academic outcomes (Aylor &
Oppliger, 2003; Cox & Orehovec, 2007; Healea
et al., 2015). We only found one study that investigated faculty-student interaction specifically
in the context of an FIR program; the authors
argued that it is less important to distinguish
between academic and social interactions, and
instead sustained interactions between faculty
and students are most impactful on the student
experience (Ellett & Schmidt, 2011).
Perhaps not surprisingly, our findings affirmed those of Ellett and Schmidt (2011).
We found that students experienced positive
social-emotional and academic outcomes as
a result of having sustained interactions with
FIRs in formal and informal contexts. We also
found that social interactions led to positive
social-emotional and academic outcomes for
students, and the most impactful interactions
between FIRs and students were both social
and academic in nature and allowed FIRs to
serve as intellectual role models.
These findings are consistent with insights
in prior research on FIR programs that challenge prevailing notions about the impact of
different types of faculty-student interaction.
56

Dolby (2014), for example, suggested that the
overarching philosophy of FIR work should
be to integrate the personal with the academic
(p. 30). Similarly, Healea and colleagues (2015)
suggested that the work of successful FIRs involves " modeling the crossroads of intellectual
and social formation " (p. 474). These insights
problematize our tendency in scholarly discourse to understand relationships between
faculty and students through the binary thinking of academic versus social interactions.
We also found patterns of interaction among
faculty and students like those documented
by Mara and Mara (2011) in which infrequent
and less impactful interactions progressed to
deeper levels of relationship-building and engagement. Such patterns demonstrate that as
FIRs and students build deeper relationships,
the sustained interactions that result open opportunities for FIRs to serve as intellectual role
models and sources of sustained support. In
other words, social and academic interactions
may be mutually reinforcing in the context
of meaningful and productive relationships
among FIRs and students.
The present study builds on insights in prior
research by being the first to extensively examine
the student voice in the context of a recently established FIR program. Through interviewing
students and examining their perspectives of
the FIR experience, we were able to uncover insights about relationships and student engagement. First, students who were attracted to the
FIR program and interacted with FIRs tended
to share similar experiences and challenges.
Second, students in the study provided anecdotal evidence that the FIR experience led them to
feel more connected to the campus community
and more confident in approaching faculty on

THE JOURNAL OF COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY STUDENT HOUSING



Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 1

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