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The Daily Tar Heel

Pigging Out With Professors

The discussion of life and career plans over chicken Caesar salads and Diet Cokes is a sharp contrast to topics such as plans for the weekend and love life dilemmas.

But the two people eating dinner weren't exactly typical dinner companions.

They were actually a student and a professor taking part in the "Take a Professor to Lunch" program.

The program was started this year by the College of Arts and Sciences after a professor suggested the idea. As part of the program, students in the College of Arts and Sciences are invited to go to South Building and sign up for a voucher to treat a professor to a free meal at Lenoir.

Despite limited advertising involving only several fliers on the tables at Lenoir, 30 students and their professors took part in the program.

"The idea was to give students and professors the opportunity to get to know each other outside the classroom in a comfortable setting," said Dee Reid, director of communications for the College of Arts and Sciences.

One of the students who participated in the program was Alicia Jolla, a sophomore economics major. Jolla asked Carolina Minority Postdoctoral Scholar and economics Professor Rhonda Sharpe to accompany her to Lenoir.

Jolla and Sharpe first met two months ago when another professor in the Department of Economics recommended that Jolla talk to Sharpe for major and career advice. Since that time, Sharpe has been serving as a mentor to the sophomore.

The dinnertime conversation at Lenoir between the two ranged from discussing favorite television shows to economic development.

"I think it was a great experience," Jolla said. "It allows you to get to know about a professor's career and school experiences and to get their perspective outside the strict classroom setting."

During the meal, Sharpe encouraged Jolla to apply for grants and to participate in internships. Not only did she offer advice to Jolla, but Sharpe also had words of wisdom to offer Jolla's friends who came by the table to visit.

Sharpe said she thinks it is important for students to get to know their professors outside of class.

"I think it's a wonderful program, and I don't think enough students take advantage of it," Sharpe said. "Students need to know we're regular folk. Some folks have families, and some have bad days just like everyone else."

While the conversation and the setting might not have been typical, Jolla said she found the experience rewarding and believes more students should utilize the program.

Jolla said, "It has added to my academic career at Carolina because (Sharpe) shared with me opportunities I wouldn't normally have known about and opened my eyes to a lot of new things."

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