A Shared Meal: Convening and Connecting

Sharing One Meal Activates New Relationships. But What Happens

When Paths Cross Again and Again Over a Decade?

Shared meals and professional relationships are two elements that may appear unrelated at first glance, but their connection holds great significance. The act of sharing a meal goes beyond the mere act of nourishing our bodies; it has the potential to foster meaningful connections and strengthen professional relationships.

Members of our Advanced Learning Partnership Operations Team travel to Chapel Hill a couple of times a year for the chance to recharge, connect, and meet new colleagues. One night during a recent work summit, Katy Fodchuk and I hosted an outdoor gathering, with home-smoked brisket, Carolina pulled pork and turkey breast, some not-too-bad-if-I-say-so-myself baked beans and Southern sides. The weather conspired with us, and we enjoyed a beautiful evening, good conversation and lots of laughs in our backyard.

The next morning, I reflected on how our team has been coming together like this for over a decade, often taking turns hosting in the cities, towns and country sides that are inextricably linked to our families and ourselves. I am amazed at how vivid many shared experiences, explored interests, and nascent aspirations are sparked by this camaraderie and trust.

I’m hopeful that the relaxed and inclusive atmosphere of these events allow for free-flowing discussions, where my colleagues feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and perspectives. These interactions can lead to the discovery of new opportunities, collaborations, and mentorship.

But I’m most excited by those conversations where we don’t discuss work at all. It’s in these moments where I learn more about my colleagues and share sides of myself that a workday in the field or a hundred Zoom meetings never reveal.

I’m sincerely grateful to my colleagues, our partners, and the hundreds of learning organizations that continue to welcome us to their own metaphorical and literal tables. Without the amazing people in our networks who trust and challenge us, the opportunity to serve wouldn’t exist with such richness and purpose.

Congratulations on a near-completion of a hard-earned academic year. Let’s conspire to finish strong and let us know when you’re in the Research Triangle. We’d love to have you!

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