Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG), Campus Dining and the Office of the Provost have teamed up to co-sponsor a new program allowing students to take their professors to lunch on campus for free, according to VSG Vice President Lucie Calderon.
Calderon said conversations about the program began in November, and the program was officially launched about a month ago. The program is modeled on those of other schools, such as Duke University and the University of Michigan.
“Duke University, on their tours, will advertise they invite their professors out to lunch and how it’s a really great way to network and have professor accessibility,” Calderon said. “Vanderbilt has always been a school that has been highlighting how easy it is to get to know the professors and how willing they are to meet with students outside the classroom, and I felt like this is a program that we were missing. It was a missing link.”
To participate in fEAsT, students propose getting lunch to a professor, apply for vouchers on Anchorlink, and then pick up the vouchers from their mailboxes. After being signed by the professor, the vouchers can be presented at any sit-down campus dining location (not Munchie Marts) for a free meal for the student and the professor. There is also a mandatory post-lunch survey for VSG to track the program’s helpfulness to students.
Students are limited to two fEAsT lunches per semester. Currently, the lunches must be one-on-one, though Calderon said groups of students eating lunch with a professor is up for discussion in future years.
“The point is we really want this to help build a personal relationship outside the classroom, and so we’re just really worried that if we have more than one student with one faculty member, you aren’t really getting the full benefits of the program,” Calderon explained.
According to Calderon, the program has had somewhat of a “slow start,” with 19 student participants as of April 10. Still, Calderon said the program has received positive feedback and is aiming to increase publicity, both among the student body as well as among the dining workers who have to accept the vouchers.
“I think at this point in time, everything’s established, it just needs to be more well-known among the students, and once the students do it the campus dining workers will know more about it,” Calderon said.
As part of these publicity efforts, Calderon has incorporated the program into tours she gives as a campus tour guide, trying to ingrain the program as a tradition by making incoming students aware of it. She also intends to put up table tents at the start of next year.
Senior student Sid Sapru participated in fEAsT and said he enjoyed the experience and that the dining worker who helped him was familiar with the program.
“I used the program to get lunch with a professor I'm already pretty close with, but it was nice to get a meal with him instead of what I usually do, which is plop down in his office for a few hours,” Sapru said in an email to The Hustler. “I think it was a great idea, though, and should make faculty-student interaction a bit easier to facilitate, which is important since I think faculty-student friendships seem to be lacking here at Vanderbilt relative to where I went to high school.”
Calderon said she hopes the program will both help develop student-faculty relationships outside the classroom and make students more comfortable asking for recommendations down the line.
“I’m really excited about it, this is something that I’ve been wanting to happen for a long time,” Calderon said. “I think that as a student government, it’s our responsibility to really change the campus experience, so I think this, along with the Passport to Nashville program … kind of broadens your perspective on what a Vanderbilt experience is.”