Tuesday Lunch Bunch
Description of the exemplary element
the spring and fall 2004 semesters, the USC Department of Mathematics
introduced several new activities into its graduate program.
The Mentoring Triplets program triples up a faculty member, senior
graduate student, and new graduate student and has them meet on an
informal basis approximately once a month to discuss mathematics, their
degree progress, teaching, or whatever else might come up. The idea is
for the faculty member to mentor both students and for the senior
graduate student to mentor the new graduate student and to help them to
integrate into the department.
Tuesday Lunch Bunch for all Weapons of Math Instruction works this way.
Every Tuesday, all interested faculty, graduate students, and staff
have a bring-or-buy-your-own-lunch in one of the University's
cafeterias. We use it as an informal opportunity to discuss
mathematics, teaching, students, departmental business and politics,
national politics (at least this fall), sports (this fall it was the
Red Sox; our Chairman is from Boston), etc..
the department has devoted a portion of its Departmental Colloquium
funds to sponsor two or three graduate students at our regular
colloquium dinner on Wednesday evening with that week's Colloquium
Details of the exemplary element
At the beginning of the academic year, the Graduate Vice-Chair uses his
knowledge of the personalities and interests of his faculty colleagues
and graduate students to make the triple assignments. It is the faculty
member's responsibility to call the approximately monthly meetings. The
meetings can take place in the faculty member's office or, preferably,
in a more comfortable setting such as a lounge, university dining
facility, snack bar or coffeeshop.
Tuesday Lunch Bunch:
At 11:30 every Tuesday, all those interested gather in the lobby of the
Department of Mathematics and head over to the University's Cafe 84 for
a 60 to 90 minute lunch. A department-wide email is sent out Monday
afternoon and Tuesday morning to remind people. We go early enough so
as to be able to secure enough large tables so that we can all sit
together as a group. Some people are unable to meet in the lobby at
11:30 (teaching responsibilities, etc.) so they join us at Cafe 84 as
soon as they are able.
Based on the subject matter of the week's Colloquium and the identity
of the speaker, the graduate Vice-Chair, together with the relevant
faculty and the department's Colloquium Chair, invite two or three
graduate students to attend as the department's guests at the
Colloquium dinner on Wednesday evening at a local restaurant.
Educational purpose of this element
primary purpose of all of these activities is to foster intellectual
community. They are intended to provide an opportunity for informal
discussion between faculty and students, and they are probably the only
opportunities we as faculty have to pass on to our students the culture of our discipline,
rather than just the substance. It is an opportunity for us to make the
students feel that they are a part of something larger than simply
attending class, taking exams, and doing research; in particular, it is
an opportunity to share in and belong to a departmental "family" and
the mathematics community as a whole. These activities give faculty,
students, and staff a chance to get know each other and to engage in
intellectual exchange in a setting other than the classroom and office.
Evidence of the element's efficacy
have no quantitative measures of how well this is working, but
anecdotally all faculty and students who participate regularly appear
to be enjoying these activities and return week after week.
Reflection from a faculty member
by Gary Rosen, Professor and Graduate Vice-Chair
These "non-academic" activities have filled a long standing gap in the way in which we interact as a department.
a large urban university where come 6 o'clock faculty and students
scatter to the four winds, there is very little opportunity for
informal gathering of faculty and students. Like any department, we
have periodic social gatherings for faculty at the chairman's home or
at dinners with speakers and job candidates. Other than the annual
Christmas Party, however, there has never been an opportunity for
faculty and students to get together somewhere other than the classroom
and office. These activities have met this need. It has been good for
the students, the faculty, and the department as a whole.
Reflections from a student
by Nathan Glatt-Holtz
many graduate students like myself, it can be hard to approach
professors. Finding advisors and mentors can be similar to establishing
a professional relationship, so it has been nice to have the
opportunity to get to know and interact with the faculty in an informal
setting. Being treated to dinner has made many of us feel like valued
members of the department (rather than peons, which can happen in some
departments c.f. my unnamed undergraduate institution). It has also
been a valued opportunity to meet leaders in research from other