October 23, 2013

How "Dessert and Discussion" Works

Photo credit: Indiana Memorial Union
As Marie Antoinette never actually said, "Let them eat cake!"

Dessert and Discussion is exactly what it sounds like. Students meet in the Tudor Room to enjoy as many desserts as their conscience will allow and to discuss Themester's topic with one of IU's distinguished faculty members. Already this semester students have had the opportunity to discuss the film And the Band Played On with Professor Rega Wood (Philosophy), cognitive networks with Professor Colin Allen (History and Philosophy of Science), and empathy in networks with Professor Fritz Lieber (Education).

The events present a unique academic setting for students. It's an atypical experience to listen as a professor explains something between bites of lemon meringue pie rather than between PowerPoint slides in Times New Roman. There's something different about learning as you slowly enjoy a slice of German chocolate cake rather than hastily scribble notes in a crowded notebook. The result is a conversation that is more comfortable and complicated than anything you'll get in the standard lecture hall.

At these discussions, ideas aren't just passed from professor to student. They are passed back as well, then picked up by another student, then passed around the whole table (along with a cookie or two). Soon everyone has given and gained some perspective on the topic.

At one discussion, for example, Professor Allen got the ball rolling by discussing how a network by itself can be useless, but what we do to the network--in terms of finding patterns, applying algorithms, and looking at movement--can tell us a lot. As students jumped into the conversation, they took this one idea and related it to networks in language learning, spying with metadata, and a spectrum of other subjects.

This is how a typical Dessert and Discussion goes. When we run out of time, everyone heads out with food for thought and thoughts of food.

Click here to register for the remaining discussions.

Ryan Myers
Themester 2013 Intern

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