Lutheran Center series aims to connect campus colleagues through conversation
“What nourishes you?”
That’s the question that St. Olaf College faculty and staff are reflecting on this semester as part of a new program from the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community.
Through monthly meals, groups of 10 faculty and staff members gather to listen to one another and reflect on what matters to them. After more than a year’s worth of time in social isolation, the event aims to rebuild community among colleagues through conversation.
Each event has one main speaker. Lutheran Center Director and Martin E. Marty Regents Chair in Religion and the Academy Deanna Thompson kicked off the first lunch, sharing how family, faith, and church nourish her personally and in her professional identity as a theologian. During a breakfast gathering in October, Assistant Professor of Music and Conductor of Chapel Choir and Viking Chorus Tesfa Wondemagegnehu shared about his To Repair Project, a 60-day journey around the country to highlight narratives and music from the Black experience. The November speaker is St. Olaf Vice President for Equity and Inclusion María Pabón Gautier.
“I think that for a lot of people who work at St. Olaf, what they do is much more than a job,” Thompson says. “It’s a calling, some see it as a vocation — something that has a lot of meaning to them — so this conversation kind of invites that reflection. What matters in your work life? What matters beyond your work?”
I think that for a lot of people who work at St. Olaf, what they do is much more than a job. It’s a calling, some see it as a vocation — something that has a lot of meaning to them — so this conversation kind of invites that reflection. What matters in your work life? What matters beyond your work?Lutheran Center Director Deanna Thompson
Thompson says that staff and faculty are feeling disconnected from their colleagues. As schedules continue to fill, many resort to lunch in their office over meeting with a colleague or friend. The “What Nourishes You?” series was created in response, meeting on different days of the week every month in order to gather people of all backgrounds who may not know each other.
Associate Professor of Computer Science Olaf Hall-Holt participated in the inaugural event, and appreciated the opportunity to hear from — and connect with — colleagues.
“It’s a chance to understand somebody who I respect more deeply,” he says.
Thompson says that’s precisely the point.
“I think a lot of us kind of crave those connections but with a culture that has gotten a lot busier, I think it doesn’t happen as much as it used to, so we’re trying to bring that back,” Thompson says. “We think that coming together over a meal to build community is part of the mission of the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community. I hope we can continue the series for a good long time.”