How to be a father . . . in an SMU residence hall

Prof. David Son, his wife and children are the extended family of 170 students in an SMU residential commons.

David Son, his wife Heidi Son, Kaylee Son and Geoffrey Son

DALLAS (SMU)– For SMU chemistry professor David Son, making the decision to move his wife and two children from their comfortable suburban Plano home to an apartment in a student residential hall on the SMU campus was a family decision.

David Son, his wife Heidi Son, Kaylee Son and Geoffrey Son"We had to consider the consequences of uprooting our children, moving them to new schools and raising them among college students," David says. Son, his wife, Heidi, 10-year-old Kaylee and 13-year-old Geoffrey have lived on the SMU campus in Boaz Commons since 2014, when the David and Heidi Son became Faculty-in Residence there.

SMU introduced the Residential Commons model in August 2014 to 11 residence halls, integrating the academic, residential and social aspects of university life. Faculty members live in the residence halls, in addition to Residence Life staff. Along with student leaders, faculty-in-residence help plan study breaks, holiday celebrations and trips off campus to Dallas sites such as museums or performances. They also serve as on-site mentors. Three of the ll faculty members who live in residence halls have young children.

"Living on the SMU campus has been a positive experience for our family," Son says.

Without a 45-minute commute from SMU to Plano, David enjoys more time with his family, especially their daily walks on campus. And, the kids better understand his work as a professor. The campus is their new back yard and bike trail.

Because David and Heidi are busy during the academic year participating in Boaz activities and supporting Boaz students at performances and athletic events, they set aside Friday date nights for one-on-one times with Kaylee and Geoffrey, a family tradition they have continued during the summer.

Each week, Heidi prepares a home-cooked dinner for six different Boaz residents. Geoffrey and Kaylee take part in dinner conversations with the students on topics ranging from college life to sports, resulting in their expanded social interaction skills. They have become friends with students, particularly the resident assistants.

Although the kids sometimes wonder when Heidi is going to prepare treats just for them, they enjoy the weekly snacks she prepares for "Son-day Night Snacks" for Boaz students. Chocolate cake, a sweet fruit dip and lemon cake are student favorites.

For many of the 170 students who live in Boaz during the academic year, the Sons are a family away from home. David and Heidi attend Boaz residents' dance and music performances as well as home men's soccer games to support team members who live in Boaz. When Boaz student athletes travel to away games, they carry snacks Heidi prepares. Boaz residents studying chemistry also take advantage of a chemistry professor-in-residence for tutoring.

David Son, his wife Heidi Son, Kaylee Son and Geoffrey SonTo thank the Sons, students in 2015 compiled a 40-page book of photos and memories, filled with student comments.

"I feel like I am living in a home, not a dorm," wrote Katie. "It makes me feel very loved and very safe in this sometimes difficult world of young adulthood."

Olivia wrote, " You treated us all as extensions of your own family. David/Dr. Son, you were always willing to stay up late to help us with O Chem. You both have been such sources of comfort along the way."

"Most families wouldn't volunteer to live in the same building as a bunch of college kids, but you are not most families. You guys are a special family, one that welcomes everyone to be a part of it," wrote Daniel.

For Father's Day, Boaz is home to just the four members of the Son family, but in August, once again, the Sons will welcome 170 more kids home.