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Dinner With Strangers

President Valerie Smith sent the following message to the campus community on March 24, 2016:

Dear Friends,

I’d like to tell you about a new opportunity: Dinners with Strangers.  This program is designed to bring together groups of 10-12 faculty, staff, students, and local alumni to share a meal and get to know each other.

Based on a similar program I first encountered when I taught at UCLA in the 1990s, Dinners with Strangers offers members of our community the chance to share a meal with people they might not ordinarily meet.

Since last December, a few groups of 12 individuals have received invitations to attend a dinner at Courtney Smith House.  All they’ve been required to do is show up and enjoy a meal and conversation with people they don’t know.  These evenings have been great fun.  Guests arrive with a sense of curiosity – even nervousness – about who “their strangers” will be.  Conversation is lively and wide-ranging, and the food is simple but delicious.  After about two hours, everyone departs to resume their other activities, but they leave with the knowledge that they have a new set of acquaintances – possibly even friends – in our community.

Dinners with Strangers is designed to remind us that even on the campus of a small residential college like Swarthmore, we don’t often make time to meet and share ideas with people with whom we don’t have an obvious connection. Opportunities like this one are intended to cultivate our curiosity about and respect for other people, other experiences, and unfamiliar ideas.  Indeed, the Aydelotte Foundation, the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the Office of the Dean of Students, and the Title IX Office all sponsor other initiatives designed to achieve the same goal.

Next year we hope to expand the program to offer others the chance to host these dinners and to extend invitations to our neighbors in the borough of Swarthmore.

If you’re interested in attending, or perhaps even hosting one of these dinners, please send your name to Bruce Easop, Presidential Fellow:

I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing break. Enjoy the second half of the semester!

All the best,

Valerie Smith