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Lunch is Served

A new Division of Student Life program invites staff to explore local restaurants owned and operated by diverse community members in Knoxville and try new foods all while investing in student development and making new connections with colleagues.

Sponsored and organized by the division’s Inclusive Excellence Committee, Open Menu is an engagement series where staff invite a student to join them for lunch at a local Knoxville restaurant. Along with fostering a relationship with a student and encouraging them, staff get to build new connections with division colleagues they might not otherwise meet. All while engaging their own taste buds and supporting locally-owned and minority-owned businesses.

“The purpose is to provide an opportunity to explore the Knoxville community and local, diverse businesses as well as gather, share, listen, and connect with fellow community members,” says Ciara Gazaway, event organizer and program director for inclusive excellence in the Office of the Dean of Students.

Each semester, Open Menu includes 3–4 lunches at restaurants like Yassin’s Falafel House, Jackie’s Dream, Potchke’s Deli, and more.

“I loved getting to attend Open Menu! I got to make some new friends among other staff and ventured to a restaurant for a delicious meal that I might never have gone to on my own,” said one staff participant. “It’s such a unique program. Food was meant to be enjoyed with others, and cultivating that across staff and students creates a rich experience that naturally builds a deeper connection to each other but also to Knoxville.”

Both transportation and meals are included for staff and student participants, which increases the programs accessibility for all Division of Student Life staff who might want to participate.