Earlier on this blog I wrote “Math departments are full of smart people. But with the demands (and joys) of research and teaching (and of our personal lives), most people in math departments do not talk to each other about math nearly enough. Certainly that is true at Williams. We do have a fairly vibrant math community here. There are talks all the time. But like most other departments, at talks there is rarely a sense of mathematical play.”
This is true if you replace “math departments” with “colleges and universities.” For example, Williams consists of many wonderful faculty members, students and staff. But we all have a tendency to just hunker down and work, despite the fact that play is good. This has led Will Dudley (Philosophy and current Gaudino Scholar) and I (as co-director with Lara Shore-Sheppard of the Williams Project for Effective Teaching) to set up a new program: Gaudino Lunches.
Say you and a friend are interested in something. You go to the Gaudino Lunch web site and reserve a room for some noon hour. The date and topic of your lunch is then sent to people who have subscribed. Maybe in addition you have put an announcement on the Williams Daily Messages (an email sent every day to all of the Williams community about the day’s events). On your chosen day, you just show up and have a discussion. In the worst case, you and your friend have a delightful conversation. Even better is if others show up.
By now there have been quite a few of these. One of my favorites was on The Godfather, Parts One and Two. Three of us, all huge fans, had a great time. More importantly, I learned something about two films that I thought I knew inside and out.
One basic rule about the lunches, though, is that there should be no preparation. We do not want this to be either just an additional burden or just one more academic exercise. Will Dudley and I dream that these lunches become a part of the fabric of Williams.