New Dining Initiative Brings Students, Faculty and Staff Together for Meals

By PORTER BOWMAN

Dining halls are hubs for students to take breaks, catch up with friends and talk about their days. They serve as classic forums for both impromptu get-togethers and planned meetings. 

Sophomore Student Government Association (SGA) Senator Eun Ho Lee ’21 saw an opportunity in these gatherings as the perfect places to foster conversations between Middlebury students and the faculty and staff that serve as essential parts of the college community. After several months of work last fall, he created a new program: The Faculty/Staff Student Tables.

The inspiration for the program came from Lee’s high school experience.

“When I first came to the U.S for the first time as an international student five years ago, I was socially awkward,” he said. “My daily conversations with my English lit teacher, music teacher, and many others gave me the courage to reach out to American students and to really get out of comfort zone.” 

When Lee came to Middlebury, he wanted to form similarly-close relationships with his professors. He admitted that he has struggled balancing getting good grades with getting to know faculty and staff on a personal level.

Lee then began to think about how he could facilitate such relationships.

“If we wanted to socialize with students and not with faculty, we could have easily gone to one of the big state schools,” Lee said. “But we didn’t.” 

Lee’s idea for the Faculty/Staff Student Tables program is to match students and faculty/staff for meals on Thursdays. The groups can then learn about one another and connect through conversation.

Lee said that he will have two separate Google forms: one for students and one for faculty and staff.  Interested participants can fill out their respective forms by Sunday night and Lee will then match up students and faculty/staff members. 

Lee is still facing some funding challenges, but he hopes to get the program into operation in the next few weeks. He will be looking to the SGA Finance committee as well as specific departments to fund the meals for faculty and staff who do not have a meal plan in the campus dining halls.

Feb Senator Bobbi Finkelstein ’21.5 showed support for the program as a way to improve relationships between students and faculty and staff.

“Our dining and facilities staff work consistently throughout campus, in our dorms and dining halls, and are rarely appreciated and thanked,” she said.

John Schurer ’21, who serves as sophomore senator and the SGA speaker, thinks the program will have a significant impact on the campus. 

“Even in a small community like Middlebury, it is understandable that students, staff and faculty associate in separate circles,” he said. He believes the program will help people meet individuals who they might not have interacted with otherwise. 

After The Campus’ staff issue over Winter Term, SGA has made a concerted effort to find new ways to support faculty and staff. 

“I hope that Eun Ho’s faculty/staff-student tables can improve the relationship between students and staff members by encouraging respect and recognition for all the work they do,” Finkelstein said.

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