Fall student

By Stephanie Reid, Contributing Writer, Campus Life

Emory is piloting a new initiative this fall that uses mealtimes to foster increased engagement between faculty members and undergraduate students.

Let’s Do Lunch @ the DUCling! – an initiative of the Emory Undergraduate Project (EmoryUP) and Campus Life – began in October and will continue through the semester under the auspices of the provost’s Office of Undergraduate Affairs. 

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The program encourages students to invite faculty members – and faculty members to invite students – to share breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the DUCling. Meals for faculty will be complimentary, and students not on the Emory Meal Plan can also eat at no charge. Faculty from Emory College, Goizueta, and Nursing are encouraged to take their students to lunch. From 8 to 10 p.m. is a great time for faculty who are advising labs, study groups, or student organizations to go to dinner.

For Chad Sunstein, director of Campus Dining, the program is a natural fit for the sense of community that Emory nurtures. “This is really a simple way of encouraging students and faculty to get together outside the classroom,” he said. 

The project, which operates on the university’s main campus, was conceived by Pamela Scully, vice provost for Undergraduate Affairs, and David Clark, associate vice president for Campus Life. Heather Mugg, associate vice provost for Undergraduate Affairs, worked on implementation with David Furhman, senior director of Finance, Administration, and Operations.

Emory College is encouraging faculty to invite students in their first-year seminars to dine. “We know that having a meaningful relationship with a faculty member is an important component of a student’s successful undergraduate experience,” said Scully. “We hope this initiative will contribute to enhancing an ongoing sense of community around intellectual engagement for our faculty and our undergraduates.”

Scully and Mugg are pleased that their concept has come to fruition so quickly. “It’s been really a nice experience working with Campus Life and having a dining partner that’s been so supportive of what we’re trying to do,” said Mugg. 

When Scully took the idea to David Clark, associate vice president of Campus Life, she said he got on board immediately. 

Innovative ideas, according to Clark, don’t always have to gather dust before reaching implementation.

“We can try them in as close to real time as possible without spending years tied up in conversations around small details that may not be very important anyway,” he explained. “We can act quickly to do things that make a difference.”

The success of this test run could determine whether Let’s Do Lunch will continue into the spring and beyond. Campus Dining is collecting participation data, which program officials will analyze. 

“We expect to see substantial interest as the fall progresses,” said Brandy Noelle Hughes, who is helping to market the program in her role as communications and training manager for the Emory Undergraduate Project. “So, we are encouraging all members of the community to help us raise awareness of the program.”

Scully described Let's Do Lunch as “an example of the kind of collaboration that the strategic framework of One Emory envisions.”

Such impact-focused partnerships also are what senior leadership has in mind for how programs and departments within the university should work together, explained Clark. 

“It’s about the outcome of bringing faculty and students together in authentic, meaningful, and genuine ways to further galvanize great work that’s already happening,” he said. “The beauty of this is that it’s focused on the outcome of bringing folks together and not on the individual office leading it.”

From his perspective, Sunstein considers Let’s Do Lunch an important stepping stone in expanding opportunities for undergraduate and faculty interaction. 

“It’s a pilot,” he said. “But it really does get us to thinking about next steps and long-term opportunities to build community.”