Sociology professor living in dorm helps new CSUF students find their way – Orange County Register
LaTosha Traylor is ready to meet her new group of undergraduates.
She’ll be around both move-in days, Wednesday and Thursday, as about 2,000 new students mill around the quad at Cal State Fullerton’s housing complex, waiting to see their new dorms and meet their roommates for the first time.
The freshmen are often nervous and the parents a bit worried, said Traylor, a sociology professor who is serving as faculty in residence for the second year, living among the students.
“I walk up to the parents and say, ‘How are you doing?’” she said. “I try to reassure them that the staff here cares about the students’ well being and getting them acclimated.”
And for the new students, she’s there to let them know that CSUF is home.
“This is a sanctuary for you,” she said she tells them. “You have support here.”
Support is what Traylor is all about. She provides programs tailored for each stage in the students’ college career.
For one thing, her presence in the housing community gives new students the opportunity to interact with a faculty member in a casual setting. She lives in a one-bedroom apartment in one of the buildings.
“At the beginning we focus more on things that would assist them in getting off on the right foot in the semester,” Traylor said. “I ask, ‘What would you like to ask your professor but might be afraid to?’ I go over the idea of a syllabus, tell them to make sure they go to a professor’s office hours and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
If a student is anxious about that first meeting with a professor, Traylor has a tip: look up a profile of the professor and find something they wrote and read it.
“Comment on it, ask questions,” she said. “That is how a conversation starts.”
Toward the end of the semester, she helps students get prepared for finals by relaxing and getting themselves in the proper frame of mind.
Last year she brought in therapy dogs and offered art therapy. One of the faculty members taught the students massage techniques with a lacrosse ball and another professor worked with them on improv.
For students moving off campus, she talks about building new relationships and planning a budget.
Traylor plans to reprise her monthly “Tuesdays with Tosha” event where faculty members from around campus come and talk about their research.
As a professor, Traylor specializes in issues related to female incarceration and how it affects their families.
“I’m interested in peeling that curtain back and helping folks understand a little more the issues that women face when they go to prison,” said Traylor, who has a doctorate and master’s in Criminology, Law, and Justice from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a bachelor’s in Women’s Studies from UC Santa Barbara.
This semester she’ll be teaching an online course on criminology and a course on mass incarceration and punishment.
Traylor said she has always enjoyed working with students — particularly undergrads. She likes to be present at the moment they learn something, pick up a concept and realize they can think for themselves, she said.
“That aha moment is something I love the most,” she said, “being part of watching that process happen.”
Last year, when she heard about the call for a faculty member to live in the dorms with the students — and Sociology Department Chair Eileen Walsh suggested she apply — she did, and got the position.
People ask her all the time what it’s like to live with the students, Traylor said.
“It’s quiet at first, the students are a little nervous,” she said. “As they become more comfortable, the volume goes up. That is something that makes me laugh. It’s cool for me to see they are building community, which is what this experience is all about.”