When chefs at the USC Village dining hall see Maxwell Leaks coming in the morning, they know just what he wants for breakfast.
“I like crepes, and they know how I like them,” he said.
At 9 years old, he’s the youngest student at USC Village. He’s a third-grader at a school off campus and the son of faculty member in residence Broderick Leaks, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences in the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
“We were the first to move into the Village, back in June of last year,” Leaks said. “It was a smooth transition. It just took a while to convince my wife.”
Cynthia Leaks, a nurse anesthetist, admits she was hesitant about living on campus.
“I wasn’t sure how it would be living around students full-time,” she said. “Then I reconsidered, and thought it would be good for Broderick and Maxwell. It’s worked out pretty well.”
USC Village benefits go beyond convenience
The perks of USC Village life helped the reluctant wife and mom ease into campus life. Stores, groceries and services are just downstairs, and she has younger cousins living at McCarthy Honors College who sometimes cross the Central Piazza to visit and do laundry.
Living at Bohnett Residential College brings other benefit to her husband, assistant director of training programs at the Engemann Student Health Center.
My son is growing up surrounded by superstar students who are ready to take on the world. It’s great for him just to see all that.
“I get to engage with my students on a deeper, more meaningful level,” Broderick Leaks said. “I get to walk alongside them and build community with them. My son is growing up surrounded by superstar students who are ready to take on the world. It’s great for him just to see all that. He’s taking piano lessons from one of the students.”
Hosting students at home
Like the other five faculty members in residence at USC Village, the family enjoys a spacious three-bedroom living space with a view and where they sometimes host evening programs for students. Much of the interior is painted in Cynthia Leaks’ favorite color, purple, while Maxwell’s room is aviary blue.
“The students come in and notice the colors right away,” Broderick Leaks said. “But for some reason, our couch catches more of their attention. They say it reminds them of home.”
The Leaks, who met as students at Baylor University, have been married 14 years. They haven’t ruled out a second child, which could mean turning the third room into a nursery and bumping Maxwell out of his spot as the youngest kid at USC Village.
Maxwell, a soccer, basketball and football player, plans to study geology or zoology when he gets to college.
For now, though, he is happy to run or relax at USC Village and invite friends to visit.
“We go to the Baked Bear or we go down for a burger,” he said. “They think it’s pretty cool.”