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It's not every day that you can walk into the Sharpe Refectory, eat with professors, and talk to them about whatever you want. But as the University continues to expand and improve its advising efforts, events such as these dinners provide students and faculty with a chance to interact in a more casual way than the typical advising appointment allows. Advising Central, which opened in September and is located on the second floor of J. Walter Wilson, is the central clearinghouse for these and other advising events.

According to Yolanda Rome, director of co-curricular advising and tutoring programs, Advising Central is a place where students can get to know faculty, talk about future plans, connect with academic advisors and receive general advice.

"Advising is an essential component in supporting students as they seek to make the very most of their experience at Brown," Rome wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. 

Rome wrote that the Office of the Dean of the College and the Office of Student Life aim to provide a range of entry points and opportunities so that students can seek advising in ways that are most supportive, relevant and convenient. The Faculty Advising Fellows program, which began putting on the lunches and dinners at the Ratty in September, is "one example of this," she added.

The Faculty Advising Fellows program invites participating professors to focus lunches and dinners on the topics that are relevant to their field and interests — making for a wide range of offerings for students. Rome wrote that the program also allows for guest speakers, along with the Faculty Advising Fellows, to have a meal with students. 

Last year, the program included study breaks and some dinners with the Faculty Advising Fellows. However, this year Advising Central is expanding the program even more, Rome wrote. The program coordinated about 30 events last term, and has about 40 planned for this term.

"We decided to expand by offering more dinners this year and adding in lunches," Rome wrote. She explained that almost all events have been full, with a capacity of twenty students. 

Gregory Elliott, professor of sociology, participated in an event held Feb. 9 at the President's Dining Room at the Ratty about sophomore concentration declarations. Elliott said the fact that faculty members speak about topics related to their field makes for a good discussion. 

"Faculty members are present from all different fields. We try to encourage a mix for everyone's interests," he said. He said that many students who came to the event had important concerns about their concentrations, asking questions such as "Should I double concentrate?" and "Am I making the right move?"

"It's a social occasion to see faculty and a chance to get quick advice," he said.

Kayla Urquidi '11 participated in a faculty fellows event over dinner at the Ratty for students who had just returned from studying abroad. She said it was a nice transition back to Brown and she had the opportunity to speak with faculty from all fields. 

"I heard about people's experiences abroad," she said. "There was no set agenda. It was really informal."

Urquidi said she thinks Advising Central is doing a better job this year of encouraging faculty and student communication.

"I think it's important to have as many opportunities as possible to get to know faculty at a more personal level, and I think faculty should get to know students on a more personal level too," she said.

Spots at faculty fellow events are available on a first-come, first-serve basis through the Dean of the College Web site. The events' topics include all aspects of academic life.


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