Latin’s New Lunch and Learn Program Encourages Dialogue and Diverse Perspectives


Intro Slide of Lunch and Learn Meeting.

“Lunch and Learn” is a new series of opportunities for Upper School students to participate in conversations about difficult topics with other students and faculty during their lunch periods. These dialogues cover a wide array of topics, from the complexities of politics, pressing world issues, and the challenge of combating misinformation. The program was first introduced last month by Latin’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Board.

Upper School history teacher and Difficult Dialogues Coordinator Dr. Matthew June said, “The goal of difficult dialogues is not to win a debate but to create spaces where we can share diverse opinions and perspectives while still recognizing each other’s humanity.”

Since the program was first introduced, there have been two lunches. The first took place on November 16, and the second on December 6. Dr. June said, “Our plan was to have two foundational lunches this fall that focused on building a culture of listening and practicing how we learn from other’s experiences.”

Students were encouraged to attend Lunch and Learn during either lunch period, and as an added bonus, pizza and soda were offered in lieu of the normal lunch. Providing lunch eliminated the time needed to get through the hectic lunch lines and allowed for more discussion time amongst the attendees.

The Lunch and Learns thus far have begun with short prompts to get students and faculty to consider their reactions to differing perspectives in the past. They then open it up to a full group discussion. However, in their first two meetings, the conversations were more foundational and didn’t hone in on specific topics. The DEI team has put effort into ensuring that the conversation is fairly casual in order to create a safe space where students can feel comfortable sharing their opinions.

Students enjoyed the inclusive and lighthearted environment of the Lunch and Learns. Freshman Ani Mehta-Shah said, “I loved the welcoming community in the Lunch and Learn space. It was my first time attending, and everyone was very kind and respectful.” She added, “It was undeniable that all opinions were accepted, which is not the case in many other spaces, so I appreciated that.”

Additionally, sophomore Ralu Nzelibe said, “I enjoyed the Lunch and Learns due to the truly diverse set of people in the meetings, as well as being in an actual space inside the school to discuss controversial topics.”

As the program is new, students also found room for improvement in the Lunch and Learns. Junior Sammy Rubinov said, “I thought it was fine but would’ve liked more direction or a topic for us to talk about. I wasn’t a fan of going around one by one and saying something for a minute. But I really like the idea.”

Ani also found that the conversation topics were somewhat limiting and broad. She said, “A cool idea I think would be worth trying is allowing members to write questions or topics they want to discuss and being able to talk about them at the next meeting.”

Similarly, Ralu said, “I think the discussion could be a little more fast-paced, as sometimes there can be a little too much ‘thinking time’ instead of actually listening to others’ thoughts.”

However, Dr. June said, “Moving forward into spring, we plan to shift towards more specific topics, collaborating with affinity groups who are interested in participating.”

And even though the topics were a bit generic and the Lunch and Learns are still in their early phases, Ani, alongside others, enjoyed them. “I didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t talked to anyone who attended the previous meetings, but it exceeded my expectations,” Ani said. “Everyone was extremely confident and had amazing things to say. I was able to interpret new ideas and learn more about the people surrounding me.”

The Lunch and Learns are promising as an open space for students to discuss a breadth of topics. Dr. June said, “We hope these sessions help us practice the skills necessary to build a community that values understanding and diverse perspectives.”