New faculty lunch program created

Credit: Eunice Oh/Art Editor Credit: Eunice Oh/Art Editor

Over the summer, Student Senate’s Academic Affairs Committee, the Office of Student Affairs, and Dining Services came together to forge bonds between the students and professors of Carnegie Mellon with a new initiative.

The program, called Faculty Student Lunch, will be piloted throughout the fall semester.

Proposed by senior information systems major Evan Wineland and sophomore computer science major Eric Zhu, the program aims to strengthen relationships between the faculty and student body.

Zhu serves as the chair of the Academic Affairs Committee for Senate, and from that post, he and Wineland have coordinated with Dean of Student Affairs Gina Casalegno and Vice Provost Amy Burkert to make the program a reality.

Through the program, 825 students will have the opportunity to get a free lunch at the Schatz Dining Room between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. with a faculty member of their choice.

“This program will provide a structured entry point to help students make a connection with a faculty member who has opted in to the program,” Casalegno wrote in an email to The Tartan.

“Developing relationships with faculty outside the classroom can further students’ educational goals through opportunities like undergraduate research, doing community outreach and service, or developing one’s plans for graduate study or career after CMU.”

Similar programs exist at many of Carnegie Mellon’s peer institutions, including Princeton University, Dartmouth University, and the University of Pennsylvania, according to Zhu.

He said that compared to the students at these universities and colleges, students at Carnegie Mellon tend to be less connected to the professors, often notable researchers in their respective fields.
“These relationships aren’t built during office hours, which are used at CMU for getting extra learning and problem sets in. Students are missing out until junior and senior year, when they finally talk to professors outside of class,” Zhu said.

One of the goals of the program is to engage first-year students in an effort to give students and the faculty more time to benefit from these relationships. The program will be run primarily through a website on which students can register, which Zhu said will make it easier for more shy students to get involved. Zhu said another goal of the program is to lower stress. The first part of a longer plan, this program hits at the heart of what Zhu and the Academic Affairs committee work to accomplish.

“[The Academic Affairs Committee] works to support the academic welfare of Carnegie Mellon undergrads,” Zhu said. “We want to make sure that academically, the Carnegie Mellon experience is as good as possible.” The seven person Committee has ongoing projects to promote awareness of how academics tie into the conversations about the stress culture on campus. According to Zhu, one such project focuses on standardizing syllabi to make professor’s expectations and course work easier to access and understand for students.

“CMU has a reputation for stress culture,” Zhu said. “And even though it might not be as bad as other universities, we still need to check up on it often and having a dedicated body in student government working on it is crucial.”

The program will be publicized by Senate and funded by a special allocation from Senate, as well as gifts from Casalegno and Burkert’s offices.

“Great things happen when talented, bright, and committed individuals get together. We have an extraordinary community of individuals who comprise our university,” Casalegno wrote.