In summer 2014, a small group of faculty and staff joined forces to develop the Dinner Table, a conversation and prompt-based dinner program meant to help students talk constructively across their social and cultural differences, spark friendships and alliances, and build conversation and team skills imperative to their future success in the world beyond Bates.
The program is predicated on the following format: For three months, students and student facilitators meet around the Sunday supper table (8 students per table) and share personal stories based on a prompt we provide. They then identify and discuss common themes and ideas, and in the process, learn about ways in which they are connected to their peers that may not seem obvious at first glance. The semester culminates in a public storytelling event featuring selected participants.
We implemented a pilot of the program during winter 2015, and students have embraced the Dinner Table with great enthusiasm. Watching students, their bodies leaned forward in acute attention, share stories reflecting the first prompt, “Fish Out of Water,” and later hearing from them how wonderful, surprising, and affirming the stories of their peers were, suggests that this program taps into one of Bates’ enduring treasures: our value of community. This fall, 100 students will participate in the Dinner Table. We’ll host a new cadre of participants in each successive semester so that reflective, community-based storytelling across differences becomes a signature of the Bates education.
Please direct all inquires and suggestions to Julisa De Los Santos at email@example.com.
Updated: July 2017