The University launched two initiatives to bring Penn community members into dialogue over shared meals and build a sense of campus connection.
The newly announced programs — Conversations for Community and Dinners Across Differences — will offer meals free of charge for Penn community members, allowing them to discuss issues of interest. Individual faculty members will also be able to host small gatherings over dinner with students, according to the announcement in Penn Today.
Conversations for Community will fund Penn students, faculty, and staff to engage in dialogue over breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Groups of four to eight people can meet with the goal of fostering “community and collegiality,” according to the program website. Dining options include the University Club at the Inn at Penn, Houston Market, and 1920 Commons.
Individuals are eligible to participate as a host or guest in Conversations for Community for a maximum of three meals per semester. To apply, one person should submit a form on behalf of the group explaining the topic they plan to explore during the meal.
The new initiative builds on the preexisting Campaign for Community. Founded in 2015, the campaign funds small-group events that promote understanding, dialogue, and respect on issues that appear difficult or likely to create disagreement.
Chaz Howard, University Chaplain and Vice President for Social Equity and Community, helps oversee the Campaign for Community. He told Penn Today that one of the best parts of Penn’s global community is its ability to bring together people from a wide range of backgrounds, allowing them to “meet one another, learn from one another, and perhaps build friendships and collegiality across difference.”
“This is one of the great gifts of being at Penn. But it is a gift that takes effort. It doesn’t just happen,” Howard added.
Dinner Across Differences will offer a similar opportunity to converse while eating free of charge. However, these dinners will be organized by Penn's schools, focusing on topics of importance within that particular school’s community. More information on this initiative will be released in the future.
“Our Penn community thrives on discussion, debate, conversation, and education,” Penn President Liz Magill and Provost John L. Jackson Jr. said in a message to Penn Today. “We hope that these new spaces for dialogue will inspire all of us to continue the hard work of talking about our similarities and differences while reaffirming our shared values as members of the Penn community.”