It is always great to have lunch with students. My wife Jessica and I host a “themed” lunch for students every month at the president’s house, and I try to do “drop by” lunches at Ross, Atwater, or Proctor whenever I can.
During my most recent lunch at Ross, I was able to test the no-tray eating experience, and while it was an adjustment, all the students to whom I made reference about our tray-less eating experience said it was no big deal-they “just put the salad on the meal plate and don’t take the salad bowl.” I found it awkward and uncomfortable, but it was my first try; students insisted it will become old hat after a few more lunches.
My lunch at Ross also reminded me of how good the food is at Middlebury. Of course I don’t recall such choices and quality of food when I was in college, and, to my knowledge, students appreciate the efforts of dining staff. One exception I heard about: the language tables—for those who are not familiar with this part of the language curriculum, these are tables where the language departments host daily lunches at which students and faculty speak in the target language. One of my fellow diners at lunch ate at Ross and then told me he was rushing off to the language tables. Seeing I probably thought he was going to eat two lunches, he quickly said: “one has to eat before eating at the language tables, because the food there is not as good as here.” I am eager to find out from my administrative colleagues why this might be the case. In the meantime, students who attend the language tables: what are your views on this? Is it really true that the food is so different?
During the most recent monthly lunch at 3 South Street, Jessica and I hosted a random subset of seniors who had studied last year at our School in China in Hangzhou. What a fantastic conversation those students sparked. It was refreshing to hear about their diverse experiences, their perspective on their studies, on China as a growing global power, on their Chinese roommates and friends, and on Chinese family life. The opportunities our students have when it comes to study abroad are simply breathtaking, and it is heartening to see how many take advantage of them. It is also rewarding to see the remarkable impact that a Middlebury-quality study abroad experience has on our students not only in terms of one’s education but also personally, something that each of the students spoke to with great passion.
Our last few lunches at 3 South Street—with senior geology majors, the captains of our spring season varsity athletic teams, students who studied abroad in Russia, students elected to Phi Beta Kappa as juniors, members of the Roosevelt Institution, graduating Posse students—as with our recent lunch with students returning from China, have given us the wonderful and incomparable opportunity to engage, through a small group of students, the extraordinary richness and diversity of student talent on this campus.