Tandon School of Engineering students have been taking their professors out to lunch, free of charge, courtesy of the school’s student council.
The Tandon Student Council restarted the “Take My Professors To Lunch” initiative on Sept. 27. The council pays for a group of three to five students and a faculty member to go out to lunch, for up to $15 per meal, according to Tandon senior Orion Doscher. Doscher, formerly the Student-Faculty Resource Commissioner, first spearheaded the initiative last spring.
“The students would pay for the lunch, and then the one student who paid for the lunch would come to the office and get a reimbursement for the money they had spent $15 a head,” Doscher said. “They would cover any excess cost themselves.”
Doscher said that the program was implemented to provide students with an opportunity to connect with their professors outside an academic setting.
“Once you have a conversation with your professor, it will be easier to have another one,” Doscher said. “A lot of our professors are kind of intimidating, not because you don’t think that they’re going to want to talk to you — it’s just that they are so smart.”
According to Doscher, students may find their professors unapproachable to talk about things that don’t concern their grades due to Tandon classes’ difficulty.
“It’s hard to start a conversation with that basis,” Doscher said. “It’s easier to just go out to lunch and be like, ‘Yeah this food’s good, by the way what did you do with your life?’”
Graduate Assistant in the Office of Student Activities and Resource Center at Tandon Tim Zhang said that by the end of the first week, all the slots in the program were filled.
“Last year when we launched it in the spring we had overall, the entire semester, we had six groups participating in the program which included 34 students and the faculty members,” Zhang said. “We currently have 12 groups … which included 65 students and the faculty members.”
Zhang said that the council hopes to reach a target of 100 students by the end of the semester.
Tandon junior Maya Rowell went to lunch with professor James Lewis, who teaches her Humor and Modern Media Class. Rowell said that she went to an Italian restaurant, Luciano’s, after a friend in her class applied to the program.
“I never really thought of going to the lunch but my professor is really cool and so I was like it will be fun to get to know him, so we all went,” Rowell said. “After, I had a better connection. [I’m] more relaxed in the classroom.
Doscher said that the program could also be a launchpad for a student’s future career and professional plans.
“Sometimes when you apply for a job or anything, you need a reference, you need someone who knows you, and a lot of our lectures until you become really specialized, they have large classes,” Doscher said. “If you take them out to lunch and have that conversation then they know you when you submit your work … you are building your network in a way … Your professors want you to succeed, your success is their success, so building that relationship is really important.”
Vice President of Tandon Student Council and Tandon senior Divya Deverakonda said that she has gotten positive feedback from faculty members about the program.
“They appreciate it when students reach out to them and they definitely want to get to know their students,” Deverakonda said. “They are really happy that their students are feeling engaged and that they like them enough to take them out to lunch.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 27 print edition. Email Jendayi Omowale at [email protected]