Preston’s neighborhood

French professor Lara Lomicka Anderson loves being part of and building communities. As a child she grew up in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. No, really, she was raised in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the same hometown as children’s television icon Fred Rogers. At Grove City College her best memories were living on campus, chatting with faculty and getting to know students in her sorority, as violinist and flutist in the symphony and as a member of Mortar Board and Omicron Delta Kappa. As a professor, her use of social media as a language tool to build a virtual community where her students at Carolina could connect and converse with native French speakers earned her knighthood by the French government.

Lomicka Anderson’s next community experience will be a defining one.

As the newly named principal of Preston Residential College, she, along with her husband Andy, who coordinates the American Comparative Literature Association housed on campus, will move out of their home and into a three-bedroom apartment in Preston with their daughters Maleah, age 9, and Ashlyn, age 7, where they will experience the college journey with undergraduates for the next three years. She’ll do so as Preston’s first female principal since the college was established in 1995.

She says she is grateful to history professor Bobby Donaldson for inviting her to become a faculty associate of Preston when he took the principal position in 2010 and for his support. Similarly, Donaldson and his wife, Elise raised their children Ruby and Joseph in Preston’s vibrant college community.

We caught up with Lomicka Anderson during finals week to chat about her new role at the heart of Preston’s neighborhood.

Q: What inspired you to apply to be Preston’s next principal?

Preston has played a special role in my family’s life and in our relationship with students over the last five years. In our time as Preston associates, Andy and I have been privileged to become close to several groups of Preston residents. Some of those students have now graduated, and we are able to see the impact that they have begun to make on the communities they are now a part of. We see Preston as a community that endures beyond the college years — it is a way of life, and a proving ground in how to be a positive force in society, and a place where someone can safely learn to lead, to serve and to grow as a person. 

In December, I saw the announcement that circulated about the position of faculty principal. When three people from different areas of campus encouraged me to apply all within a week, providence seemed easy to follow. At that point I started to draft a letter. The rest is history.

Q: You’re the first female faculty member to be named a Preston principal. How do you plan to leave your mark?

I am definitely excited to lead Preston over the next few years and will lead with the totality of who I am. I feel privileged to be the first female Preston Faculty Principal. Bobby Donaldson, the current Preston Principal, noted an irony in a recent farewell speech to the Preston students. The person for whom Preston College is named, William Campbell Preston (South Carolina College president from 1845 to 1851 and S.C. congressman/senator), lived in a generation where minorities and women could not have been named as the faculty principal. Being the first female Preston Faculty Principal shows that the ideals Preston stands for — building leaders and transforming the world (through passion, community, knowledge and responsibility) — are being lived out and encouraged by the university community.

Likewise, I am honored to represent the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and to have the opportunity to represent and promote languages and their cultures outside of my department. One of my passions is study abroad — I would love to develop the study abroad aspect of Preston more fully, especially keeping in mind Preston’s mission of serving, leading and engaging the community. I’d also like to continue to raise Preston’s profile on campus –and find ways to engage more faculty in dialogue about the importance of residential colleges in today’s world.

Q: What Preston traditions do you want to keep alive?

There are many traditions at Preston - such as the Gatsby banquet, PrestonPalooza and paint war, Pancakes and PJs, Pumpkin Carving and Gingerbread House Making – that continue to build the character and the continuity of each new student community. I love the dining aspect of Preston — it’s wonderful to share meals together, to engage in conversation that goes beyond the “Hi, how are you?” and to forge friendships that extend beyond the college experience. Preston offers the unique privilege of allowing students time to fellowship with one another while building community with faculty from all walks of life and disciplines. I value the tradition of having Preston Associates and their connection to the residential community – as scholars, mentors and role models. Associates can engage students in discussion of research, push them to think critically and reflect or simply talk about their day. I hope to find new ways to facilitate conversations, mentoring and relationships between students at Preston and faculty associates.

Q: You were knighted by France’s Ministry of Education in 2011 for use of social media as a language learning tool. How will you incorporate your creative teaching style and social media at Preston?

One of the creative practices I share with my undergraduates learning French is connecting them with native speakers their age via various social media tools. Students become engaged with the language because it becomes a very personal experience for them — I provide guidance on the tools they can use to communicate in a more personal and spontaneous way with their peers in France and design tasks for them that allow them to practice, create, and play in the language. At Preston, I hope to be instagramming, snap chatting, what’s apping, tweeting and facebooking along with them, documenting our legacy together as we work alongside each other to further Preston’s mission. In addition to my passion for implementing technology in the classroom, I also strive to be a creative educator. In my early years as a Preston associate, I helped facilitate a “mix and mingle” night (think “speed dating”) between students and associates. During dining hours students circulate from one table to another as they ask faculty about their research interests and personal background, all while enjoying a meal together. I hope to be able to offer more ideas like this one to engage students and associates.

Q: How do you hope being a Preston principal will shape your understanding of the college experience at Carolina?

I hope that during my journey as the Preston principal, I will understand the college experience from a different perspective, one that takes me out of the classroom and into the lives of students, seeing their day-to-day challenges, frustrations and successes through their eyes. I envision mentoring life skills and leadership skills, seeing how the students perceive what’s important to them during college, and the role their environment plays in their journey as a student. I hope they will not only recognize my commitment to them, but that they will also see the importance of faculty as scholars and active researchers.

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