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Lunch’ promotes discussion

Nicole Michels | Sunday, February 26, 2012

Students and faculty gathered Friday to engage in feeding their minds and their stomachs.

“The Professors for Lunch Series” kicked off last week to discuss “The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society” — the latest book of Brad Gegory, professor of Early Modern European History.

The event was the first in the Series, an initiative inspired by Political Science Professor Vincent Munoz’s desire to build the intellectual life for students on campus. 

“Notre Dame students are fantastically smart, but it seemed to me that we should offer them more to encourage their intellectual life beyond the classroom,” Munoz said. “We do a fantastic job of providing athletic activity beyond the classroom, and ND students are known for their athletic prowess, but I don’t think they’re known for their intellectual curiosity. I think it’s there, but the culture hasn’t developed.”

Munoz said that this was an immensely student-driven event, reflecting on feedback that he collected from students in classes and in conversation.

Morgan Pino, senior and undergraduate assistant to Munoz, said she met with Munoz to help coordinate the event.

“His basic idea was that he wanted to bring the professors to the students,” Pino said.  “He sees how busy we are and felt like the students don’t necessarily get intimidated, but find the professors a little inaccessible.”

Since students eat meals in the dining halls three times per day, Pino said they decided to host the event during a meal to help Notre Dame students find time for intellectual life in their busy schedules. 

The talks, Pino said, feature a group meal before a question-and-answer session and general conversation.

Senior Laura Taylor, a participant in the talk hosted by Gregory, said the convenience of the talks gave the already-attractive event extra allure.

“I was very excited about the event because it offered a ton of students from all majors the opportunity to witness a lecture from one of Notre Dame’s most renowned professors,” Taylor said. “Even better, it was offered at lunch ­ a much more convenient time of day for most students … and it was held at an easily accessible location.”

Student government’s Neal Ravindra, director of academic affairs, helped to coordinate further logistics of the event and helped attract students.

“Originally [Pino] and Professor Munoz reached out to us and asked if we wanted to help promote the event and get students to come,” Ravindra said. “We mainly helped to hammer out details and to direct logistical things like advertising.”

Ravindra said student government representatives are excited about the series, and would love to see it continue in the future.

“We are very glad for the opportunity to provide students with this cross-disciplinary experience and to see them pursue learning outside of the classroom that’s not necessarily going to be for anything other than their intellectual development,” he said.

Ravindra said the events were planned around three specific goals outlined by Munoz  to nurture, help and create. 

“Our goals are to nurture undergraduate intellectual life beyond the classroom, to help create an interdisciplinary intellectual community among the faculty and between faculty and students and to create a forum for learning for the entire Notre Dame community, while recognizing and celebrating outstanding faculty achievements,” Ravindra said.

Taylor said she plans to attend more lunches because she appreciated the opportunity to engage intellectually with faculty and students from diverse disciplines. Also, she is excited by its potential to have a positive impact on the Notre Dame community.

“The atmosphere at Notre Dame is definitely one centered on academic performance; this is wonderful, but it allows students to get too wrapped up in their specialized courses of study,” Taylor said. “These opportunities for discussion are an excellent chance to broaden our minds and expose ourselves to the incredible breadth of knowledge that is being shared by our professors.”

Freshmen Matt Hing of Dillon Hall and Kendra Reiser of Pangborn Hall also attended the event, and said that they enjoyed the chance to hear one of Notre Dame’s prominent professors discuss his work.

“Professor Gregory is an engaging professor in class, so I wanted to hear him outside [of class],” Hing said.

Resier echoed Hing’s thoughts.

“I wanted to attend the event because I wanted to learn more about how religion can play a stronger role in the institution that we have,” Reiser said.

Munoz said judging from the feedback of the first event, he envisions holding this event more frequently.

“I think we’ve hit upon a good idea,” Munoz said. “We’re doing it to make life at Notre Dame more interesting for the students. The focus is on creating an event that would resonate with the students, what would be intellectually engaging for them. We want to not only cater to their interests, but elevate them.”