The Office of New Student Orientation and Academic Initiatives is rolling out an expanded program for students who wish to take their professors or graduate student teaching assistants to lunch.
The revamped program was announced after the Campus Conversation, which was the same time Penn announced it would hire five new staff at the Counseling and Psychological Center and undergo an extensive operations review of the efficiency and structure of CAPS.
Before this semester, the Take Your Professor to Lunch program had not changed within the last decade, Director of New Student Orientation and Penn lecturer David Fox said. The program began as an initiative of the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education before it became the responsibility of the administration. Recently, it has been expanded as a part of the University's Campaign for Wellness.
While the older version allowed students to book lunch with a teacher once per semester, the new system allows students to initiate up to five lunches or dinners per semester with professors, teaching assistants, or mentors. Each meal, however, must be with a different instructor.
Students can dine with their instructors at a variety of Penn's dining halls, including 1920 Commons and Kings Court English House, and can invite up to two additional students as guests. For lunch, students can dine with their professors or mentors at the University Club.
Fox said the program has also been opened to graduate students. He added that at this point in the semester, three times the usual number of students have signed up for the program.
Some students who have participated in the program praised its effectiveness in helping them to get to know their professors outside of the classroom.
College freshman Ben Dubiner was able to take part in the expanded Take Your Professor to Lunch program this semester. He said that he and three other friends shared a dinner with their Nursing 163 professor Connie Scanga in Falk Dining Commons in Steinhardt Hall, the dining hall in Hillel.
Dubiner said he and his friends chose Hillel because they wanted to introduce Scanga to the friendly and close-knit environment there.
“She’s an amazing person – we already knew that, but [we enjoyed] learning more about her life,” Dubiner said. “It was a really great conversation.”
College senior Kate Panzer said that she and two other friends participated in the program in the fall prior to its expansion. Instead of sharing a meal with one of the professors she had in the past, she said that she and her friends went to lunch with Engineering lecturer Marcia Wilkof to get her help on a team project.
“It was a good connection,” Panzer said. “It was nice to sit down and have a meal with her for a little bit in a more personal, or a more casual, setting.”
Panzer added that she wished she had taken advantage of the program earlier in her time at Penn.
While the NSO and Academic Initiatives' Take Your Professor to Lunch program is the only program available to all students at Penn, similar programs exist across Penn’s different schools.
Wharton’s Lunch and Learn program, which is sponsored by Wharton’s Undergraduate Division, allows students to invite their professors to lunch along with one or two of their classmates at certain local restaurants including City Tap House and Pattaya Thai Cuisine. Professors also have the option to set up a lunch with students through the program.
Wharton sophomore Victoria Sacchetti said she has participated in Wharton’s Lunch and Learn program a few times.
This semester, her corporate finance professor William Diamond scheduled a date for lunch at a restaurant called Perla in Center City. Sacchetti said that she and six other students signed up for the lunch.
“It was a really unique experience because it got us to leave campus and experience new things [in Philadelphia],” Sacchetti said.
She said that during the lunch, they discussed Diamond’s research, which she thought they would never have had the chance to talk about in class.
She added that she believes it is common for Wharton professors, especially those who teach smaller classes, to initiate these lunches.
“It’s not just meeting the professors, but it’s also meeting a lot of the people in the class with you, who you don’t know that well, and being able to get to know them as well,” she said.
All Penn undergraduates were informed of the expanded Take Your Professor to Lunch program through an email sent out by the Office of NSO and Academic Initiatives in late January. Fox said the expansion of the program is funded by the Provost’s Office and that he is actively looking for more student feedback on how the program could be improved.
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