Be Our Guest brings together students, faculty outside classes

Sandy Abernathy (from left), Josh Smith, senior conservative biology major, and Chalotte Cline, senior applied linguistics major, laugh with Morris Abernathy after dinner at the home of Ben and Nancy Mitchell during the Be Our Guest event. | Photo by Beth Spain

By Felicia Taraczkozy

Be Our Guest connected many Union University students and faculty last week with national and international culture and cuisine that offered students a new perspective on their professors, other countries and different cultures.

Every spring semester, the Student Activities Council connects students with faculty through this special event, which gives faculty the opportunity to host students for dinner for a time of fellowship and fun outside of the classroom.

More than 180 students took advantage of the opportunity to fellowship over a home-cooked meal with faculty on either March 7, 8 or 10. SAC provided dozens of options with professors and other faculty members from nearly every field, offering a variety of international, gourmet, grilled and catered cuisine.

To participate, students stopped at the sign-up table outside of Brewer Dining Hall and selected a faculty host depending on the day, time, meal options and other fun themes or activities faculty offered in their homes.

“The main purpose of Be Our Guest is to allow students to get to know some of the faculty and staff in an informal setting,” said Megan Miller, sophomore social work major and Be Our Guest coordinator. “Students can go to a professor’s house within their major or meet new professors that they do not already know.”

Some returning hosts brought back favorite traditions. Nicole Castles, director of Union Station, and Tamara Popplewell, instructor of biology, served sushi for the second year in a row.

Some hosts offered international cuisine and introduced students to an entirely new culture. Dr. C. Ben Mitchell, Graves professor of Moral Philosophy, and his wife, Nancy, were among those hosts who strived to give their student guests an international taste. The Mitchells served Asian-Indian cuisine.

“We wanted to serve something that students wouldn’t normally find in Jackson and that would remind us that we are members together of a global church,” Mitchell said. “We reflected on that when we offered thanks for our food.”

Mitchell also showed his excitement about getting to know the students he visited with during dinner.
“Our students were amazing and come from such rich and varied backgrounds,” he said. “We had students from Tennessee to Florida to Indiana to Kazakhstan.”

In addition to the Mitchells, Dr. John Netland, professor of English and department chair, and Tina Netland, administrative assistant to the vice president for student services and dean of students, served Japanese food to seven students for Be Our Guest. Netland grew up in Japan and said he likes sharing the food with students, along with great conversation.

“It is terrific that the university encourages this event,” Netland said. “Our daily schedules keep us so busy that it is hard to create time to interact with students outside of classes, but events like these are an important way to foster relationships that go beyond the classroom.”

Amanda Bennett, junior English and philosophy double major, said she enjoyed the time of fellowship with faculty and fellow students.

“Be Our Guest was certainly the highlight of my week,” she said. “The Netlands and the other people at the event were great company.”

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