The following story first appeared on the Daily Campus.

FIR Kirk Looks Forward to Creating a Tradition

By: Katy Roden

October 18, 2013

Rita Kirk, a professor of communication studies, author and director of the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility and SMU-in-London, is looking forward to communicating with the students she will move in with next fall.

One of Kirk’s goals is to provide a space for students to simply talk.

“Often people need to hear themselves think out loud and they need somebody to just ask questions and doesn’t try to give answers,” Kirk said. “What they need is somebody who has had more experience asking the right questions to let them think through something.”

Kirk takes SMU students to Great Britain every summer and studied at Cambridge herself where she was able to observe the housing system and engaged faculty. She believes the Residential Commons model will improve campus programming.

“Of all the universities I’ve seen, [SMU] has so much for people to do, but they’re not always well attended,” she said. “There will be a ready-made audience [on campus] that will make it easier to attend events.”
Kirk met SMU alumni Elisabeth and William Armstrong who donated $5 million to the construction of the Residential Commons. Kirk will live in Armstrong RC with her partner and Bichon Frise named Sir Emerson.

Kirk looks forward to creating Armstrong’s identity and traditions.

“[A Residential Commons] gives a niche for people to find each other,” Kirk said. “They’ll always have a place that’s theirs whenever they come back on campus.”

Kirk plans on creating programming based on “teaching something good” where students can showcase their talents such as athletics, cooking, poetry reading or engineering logic.

“Learning doesn’t always happen in the classroom and I think that’s what we’re going to get to see a lot more — people getting to explore some ideas,” she said. “[It will be] something fun to give us a chance to live in each other’s shoes.”

As a founding FiR, Kirk will be a part of the creation of Armstrong’s identity as a Residential Commons.
“I think the first class that moves in will have a tremendous impact on who we are and what it’s about,” Kirk said. “[The traditions they create] will be passed down for hundreds of years. It’s a great time to be thoughtful about our values and our aspirations.”
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