Meals with Faculty

January 17, 2008

L.M., 1L

A few weeks ago, one of the student organizations I joined sent out an e-mail inviting six students to go out to dinner with a professor. I jumped at the chance. As an undergraduate, I didn’t have a networking plan with professors. I built relationships out of classes as interests converged. More often than not, a professor would drop me an e-mail first before I stopped by for office hours. Instead, here at Yale, food is the great equalizer. It’s a chance to be in an informal setting with a professor and to have a mix of students to stir on conversations.

The dinner was with Professor Meares who teaches Criminal Law. I loved the conversation from start to finish. We covered everything from her career path to the quirky New Haven traffic patterns. I picked up tips and hints about her “cold-calling” method and teaching philosophy. Before that evening, I didn’t have much interest in criminal law, but she was such an engaging personality that I knew that I would take her class in the spring.

On the flip side, I found common interest with my Torts professor completely by accident. Our professor has been holding small group lunches with three or four students once a week. As we chatted about our professional goals and our research interests, I mentioned my undergraduate research in religion and gender expression. He began to rattle off questions and share some insights from a practical perspective on how religious expressions have shaped American values in the legal sphere. He shared that he had devoted a chapter of an upcoming book to the subject.

That isn’t to say that all of the faculty interaction is spontaneous. I’ve invited a dean over to my apartment through another student organization next week for dinner. I’m not sure what to expect, but I know the experience will be fun and low pressure.