Gaudino lunches foster community discussion

On Oct. 7, the Gaudino Lunch initiative was announced in an all-campus e-mail from current Gaudino Scholar Will Dudley, professor of philosophy.

According to the e-mail, the lunches will serve as “opportunities for Williams students, faculty and staff to enjoy informal conversation on topics of mutual interest.”

The first lunch was held last Wednesday in Mission to discuss the “hotly contested Gubernatorial race in Massachusetts,” according to the College’s Daily Messages.

Gaudino lunches can be created by any member of the College community to discuss any subject of personal interest.
To create a Gaudino Lunch, faculty, staff or students can log on to the College website and fill out a form to list the topic, date, time and place.

Subscribers to the website will receive updates of new postings, and anyone can then attend one of these lunches, with no confirmation required. As the meal is “bring your own” and website upkeep is minimal, the Gaudino Lunch initiative involves practically no cost.

Dudley attributed the proposal of the lunches to Tom Garrity, professor of mathematics and co-director of the Program for Effective Teaching (PET). Garrity said that the idea came from the perceived lack of time to hold meaningful conversations on campus. “Faculty hunker down and just work, and a lot of students are working, too. Maybe there’s not enough talk,” Garrity said.

Both Garrity and Dudley hope the Gaudino Lunch initiative will not create extra obligations for community members beyond bringing their lunches to a place of common dialogue.
Dudley hopes the program will become self-sustaining and part of day-to-day life at the College.

“We think students, faculty and staff would benefit from the opportunity to have lunch together, and one of the obstacles was not knowing who had a common interest. We brainstormed on how to change that and came up with this,” Dudley said.
Stephen Webster ’11, the first student to create a Gaudino lunch, used the program as a way to have a conversation about Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Initially, Webster had brought up the lunch to several mutually interested friends but “was a little nervous when they all turned out to have [schedule] conflicts. Luckily, three fellow students whom I’d never met showed up,” Webster said, “and the four of us had a great discussion.

“We all spoke, and no one was in control … It was liberating to have a conversation about a book where there was no authority whom we were trying to please with our comments,” said Webster. “We were able to chat about the book without a pressure to show off, which I think is what David Foster Wallace would have wanted.”

The Gaudino Fund was created to keep alive the spirit of former professor Robert Gaudino.

Faculty members are nominated to two-year terms as Gaudino Scholars in order to encourage “experiential education and uncomfortable learning” while engaging in dialogue with students. Dudley began his term in 2010.

“This really fits in with Gaudino, who was known for how much he talked with students, really off the charts,” Dudley said. “There’s a responsibility to enhance student, faculty and staff interactions.”

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