Current students may be unfamiliar with the program, since it ended several years ago after incurring staff and budget complications. The program was reinstated as of late, when a retired faculty member mentioned it to Thomas Rusert '06, SGA president.
Rusert immediately took interest in Take a Prof to Lunch, and made room for the program in the SGA budget. SGA sponsors and runs the program, which provides students with an occasion to interact with professors outside of the classroom.
Rusert stressed the need for this type of casual communication between students and professors.
"One of the most unique relationships students can develop on campus is with faculty members," Rusert said. "The Prof to Lunch program makes it easier for students to build those relationships."
Participation in the program consists of sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicating which professor the student desires to take to lunch.
Janna Holm '07, the SGA executive assistant, then supplies the student with a ticket, which includes both the student and professors names. When presented at Stav Hall, the ticket ensures a free meal for the professor. Students can request one ticket per semester.
So far this year, 20 students have taken advantage of the program. In light of the SGA budget, designed for 100-150 students to participate, Take a Prof to Lunch has seen good response rates so far.
Rusert anticipates the programs continued success.
"My hope is that the program will expand and that SGA will get continued support from the Deans Office so that expansion is possible," he said.
Bilal Alkatout '07 enjoyed his experience with Take a Prof to Lunch.
"I highly recommend a taking your prof to lunch program," he said. "I have been to dinner with a prof because I hate to limit what they can teach strictly to the classroom. Profs are very insightful and are a resource that needs to be absorbed more at St. Olaf."
Alkatout also recognized the specific challenge of the program: the actual act of asking a professor to lunch.
"If you don't have a hard time approaching your prof, invite them to lunch or dinner, but if you do, its nice to have an organized program," Alkatout said.
However, not all students have responded to Take a Prof to Lunch with positive accolades.
"The program is good in theory, not in practice," said Solveig Voelker '07. "I've done the whole take a prof to lunch thing and it felt like sitting in on another class."
Rusert addressed the challenge of inviting a professor to lunch. "I would encourage students not to be shy in asking their professors to join them for lunch in the Caf," he said. "I think it is clear that students are not the only people who value the student/faculty relationship. All it takes is an e-mail and professors will be there. Who could turn down a free lunch?"a