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Life Here

November 29, 2018 By Susan Marshall

Have You Been to Random Dining?

It was a nightmare that became a wonderful dream that awakened me two years ago in the middle of the night. I had been struggling the day before, trying to discover a new way residents could meet people on campus in a venue that would help them feel more welcome, especially in the dining room.

My hope was for dinner parties at which guests would change seats after each course. The nightmare was imagining 40 different people trying to find another group to sit with as they carried various plates, glasses, cups and utensils from one table to another.

The idea was enough to inspire a proposal to dining services director David Kalbaugh. Before suggesting it, however, I presented an overview of my idea to the community’s Life Enrichment Committee. I received their encouragement and within the week David asked me to meet with him, too.

I personally give David 75 percent of the credit for the unique getting-to-know-you initiative now called Random Dining. David began our meeting by politely telling me there were several problems with my plan but was quick to offer potential solutions. The dinner could be held in a smaller, more intimate space. Most important, no one would have to move anything — except their own wine glass — as they moved from one table to another.

With David’s event planning insight, I returned again to Life Enrichment for seed money to provide seating, support staffing, and wine for the dinners. One month later, we celebrated our first Random Dining event with a beautiful sea of people talking up a storm while seated at small tables for four.

In the two years that have passed since the first dinner, we’ve hosted about 600 community members at Random Dining. Originally limited to new members of the committee, we’ve often had people slip in for a second and even a third time because it’s such a fun evening. Now we invite repeat diners back provided they bring a person or couple new to the community or who have never attended an event!

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