Gaudino lunches spark new conversations

Plans are being made to extend the Gaudino Lunch Initiative through Winter Study and possibly make the lunches an ongoing part of student life on campus, according to Will Dudley, current Gaudino Scholar and professor of philosophy.

The lunches provide both students and faculty with the opportunity to organize a time during which members of the community can come together and discuss a topic of the organizers’ choosing.
Dudley and Tom Garrity, professor of mathematics, started the program with the goal of “bringing people together,” Dudley said. “A lot of people who show up don’t know each other, so they realize, ‘Oh, these people share my interests,’ and that can then lead to additional conversations and friendships.”

Thirteen Gaudino lunches have taken place since the program was implemented on Oct. 7, and two more lunches are currently on the calendar. The first, which is centered on the film The Godfather takes place today, and another lunch will be held on Jan. 13 to discuss Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man in conjunction with this year’s Williams Reads program.

“[The lunches have been] relatively steady, [and] there’s no limit to the number there could be because they don’t cost anything,” Dudley said. “So it’s really just about how many people want to create something.”
Dudley said he could see the program continuing indefinitely, with little involvement from the Gaudino Scholar after the foundation of the program has been established.

“The goal for this thing is that it would become self-sustaining and that it’s a grassroots initiative,” he said. “If it really works, it’s just supposed to put this system in place that makes it easy for people to hear about conversations that are going to happen that they might want to take part in, or to create conversations on topics that they’d like to talk about and hope other people will join.”

One of the most popular lunches, titled “How to Choose a Knife,” took place in October. Organized by Lee Park, professor of chemistry, and Ward Lopes, assistant professor of physics, the lunch entailed “a lot of show and tell,” according to Dudley. Park and Lopes, both of whom cook extensively in their free time, brought in their personal knife collections in order to help attendees of the lunch determine how best to choose a knife.

“It was fun to do,” Park said. “It was very informal, didn’t require a lot of preparation on our part and was a chance for us to talk about something that we’re both interested in outside of our normal ‘day jobs.’ We also got to meet some other people who might share those interests.”

Park said he sees the initiative as a valuable one, especially in terms of community building.

“I think these lunches are a great idea, and I hope that they’ll build up a bit of momentum,” he said. “I love the idea of getting to know what other kinds of things other people are interested in.”

Outside of the Gaudino Lunch Initiative, Dudley is also moving forward with the Gaudino Neighborhood Initiative, which allows Neighborhood leaders to submit proposals for student-faculty events that would then be funded using Dudley’s Gaudino Scholar budget.

“I invited all of the neighborhood leaders to submit proposals for ideas to get faculty joining students in doing things that both groups would find fun … and that would have the possibility of establishing connections outside the classroom, with the idea that if they work, they will become traditions going into the future,” Dudley said.

Ten thousand dollars has been allocated for nine projects, most of which will begin during Winter Study.
Some of Dudley’s funding has also been allocated to the Gaudino Winter Study Fellowships, an ongoing project that allows additional funding for students who have prepared Winter Study 99 projects that emphasize experiential and uncomfortable learning.

The lunches, however, have been Dudley’s focus, and he said he hopes that they will succeed long after his term as Gaudino Scholar has expired.

“Our hope is that it becomes just part of what happens at Williams, [especially] because there aren’t any costs,” he said.

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