Joel, Rush Plan to Bring Students and Faculty Together at the Dinner Table With the Kitchen Table Project

Later this term, students and faculty will be able to bond over spaghetti and meatballs with the Kitchen Table Project. Alana Rush, Assistant Director of Community Service, and Lisa Joel, Abbot Cluster Dean, created the project to allow small group of students to share dinner with a faculty member of their choice. The Kitchen Table Project aims to enhance communication between students and faculty in a personal setting. Rush said, “[A dinner] just provides an intentional opportunity for students to go in faculty homes, to maybe meet someone they haven’t met before and eat a homemade meal.” “There are kids out there who say ‘I think that this person might be really interesting but I can’t figure out how I can get to know her,’ so we think it’s a good opportunity for students to get to know an adult who is not their house counselor,” said Joel. These dinners will be held at the homes of faculty members and will include six to eight students with one or two faculty. According to Rush, an online system may be implemented to allow students to select their top three choices of faculty members with which they would like to dine. Students will also be able to request to be placed with a friend. Inspired by the dinners they are used to having with their students or teams, Joel and Rush hope “to create in a big community a sense of small spaces.” Joel said that the dinners would occur on Fridays and Sundays because “we want people to have time to sit back and relax.” This project is funded by a $4000 grant from the Abbot Academy Association, awarded last fall. Participants can tailor the dinner to personal taste and are invited to cook together or order food. The idea of a dinner between the faculty and the students is not a new one. In the past, Student Council held a faculty dinner in Commons, but when dining room moved to Uncommons, the atmosphere was less appropriate. Malin Adams ’09, School President, said that similar dinners held in Uncommons last spring had very low turnout. Instead, the Student Council offers students the opportunity to join the school congress, mandatory for all faculty members. “We want to make sure that there are larger events that students can attend,” said Adams. Rush and Joel encourage any students interested in such a project to contact them. They envisioned a larger scope of this project for the future. Many faculty members are already enthusiastic and excited about organizing special dinners. Peter and Eva Cirelli, Instructor in Music and House Counselor, respectively, said that they are eager to cook a Brazilian dinner for their guests, and Chad Green, Cluster Dean of West Quad North, said that he hopes to enjoy and cook local food with students. The relationship between students and faculty is well supported at PA. Kira Wyckoff ’11, a frequent attendee of the Head of School’s Table, said that these kinds of relationships should be encouraged.