When Ellen Siem accepted a job teaching physics at Southern Oregon University last year, she was looking forward to working with students, but never realized just how close she would get.

Siem moved into Diamond Hall this fall, at the end of a hall of freshmen and sophomores.

"It's small, and it's not glamorous," she said.

But it is an affordable place to live in an expensive housing market.

After a year at SOU, Siem knew she liked her job, her co-workers and the city itself, but she wondered how long she could stay with home prices so high. Friends who had accepted teaching jobs in other cities were already buying their first homes.

So she worked out a deal to stay in the dorms while she saved up for a house. Her approximately 640-square-foot apartment has a kitchen, bathroom and living room, all with beige walls and standard beige curtains. She uses the bedroom as a library and stows her fold-up bed in the corner during the day.

"You can't have a huge family and live here," she said. "For me it's a good experience because I'm flexible, but I know some people have particular standards."

Although she was embarrassed at first to be living in the dorms at age 28, she isn't now she said. Still, she has only invited friends over three times since she moved in.

"They all laughed, but in good humor," she said, teasing her by saying, "Ha ha, Ellen are you ever going to leave school?"

Siem is not the first adult to live in the residence halls &

William Smith, associate vice president of residential education and services, lived in the same apartment last year with his wife, after they relocated from Louisiana. Even SOU President Mary Cullinan stayed in Madrone Apartments for about a month when she first arrived in Ashland.

Dorm life

Although there are students right down the hall, Siem's dorm experience the second time around is much different. For one thing, she hasn't had time to get to know her neighbors, and several students were unaware that a professor lived a few doors down.

"I don't even see her," said sophomore Lexine Valenciano, who met her at the beginning of the year. "She told me she was living there, and I was like, cool. I never see her. It would be weird if she was one of my professors, but she's not."

Jenna Nakamatsu said the only time she remembered seeing Siem was when she came to borrow a stapler.

"It's not a big deal," Nakamatsu said. "She doesn't really come through the hall."

For Siem, the perks of living on campus are mainly practical. When she wants coffee, she can get a cup just around the corner in the dining hall, and if there's ever a problem, someone will be there to help.

"It's convenient," she said, "and my commute is really short."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .