Dinner & Dialogue: Creating community through healthy conversation

by Kathryn Willgus
Staff Writer

Dinner & Dialogues is a student-run event on campus that brings together students, faculty and staff, and community members to encourage meaningful conversation over great food. The event coordinators Hannah Clevenger (C’16), Paul Naumann (C’16) and Brooke Irvine (C’16), along with the new Cornerstone Initiative which funded the event, put the dinner together to try to foster more careful and significant interactions within the community.

The event took place on Friday, February 7, in Convocation Hall; a place with great ambiance and plenty of space for a house-full of participants. Dinner was provided by Sewanee Catering, a meal comprised of many traditional Native American dishes, such as Fried Flat Bread and Squash Succotash. The theme of this year’s first dinner posed the main question, “What is America to you?” The students organizing the event made this question specifically narrow, as to inspire thorough and honest responses from participants. Facilitators were put in place to assure that the conversation continued in a productive manner, but for the most part these interactions came naturally.

Conversation varied, from the impact of America on other countries, including commentary on America’s perpetual state of war for the last several decades, contrasted with the lack of knowledge and apparent apathy shown by some citizens on the home front. The attitude toward America from other countries was discussed, as Beatriz Perez Reyes (C’14) and Gabriela Ruiz-Blake (C’16) were able to give their perspectives from living in the Spanish Islands. Participants discussed media, marketing and consumerism with Parker Oliver, a member of our own Marketing & Communications department at Sewanee and how American consumerism affected business in other parts of the world with Chip Manning, Director of the Babson Center for Global Commerce.

Dinner & Dialogues serves as an outlet for people within the Sewanee community to come together in ways that they don’t usually have opportunity for and to share their opinions openly and safely. Through this event, students can connect with faculty and community members on a deeper level and have insight on perspectives they would not have been exposed to otherwise.