Talk It Out: DePauw Community Shares Meal, Stories At People’s Supper

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The Center for Diversity and Inclusion was alive with conversation the night of Nov. 4 as about 30 DePauw community members gathered to share food and personal experiences to have better conversations and promote deep listening. 

When asked who made Uriah Brown ’18 proud to be a part of the community, he named a DePauw alum, Nigel Bruce, who was a senior when Brown was a first-year. Like Bruce, Brown now works in the Office of Alumni Engagement. 

“He was a big mentor to us,” Brown said. “He grew up on the south side of Chicago. There was a lot of things that we, you know, had some similarities. So he’s kind of like my older brother.”

Before serving dinner, members of Deborah Douglas’s Cross-Cultural Journalism class introduced themselves and the purpose of the dinner. (Photo by Cross-Culture Journalism student)

Students from DePauw’s Cross-Cultural Journalism class hosted the dinner to foster conversation within the campus community. This semester the class has been learning how and why community engagement boosts audience trust in news media.

Americans support the media’s role as watchdog, according to a Pew Research Center study showing about 75% who count on the media to hold political leaders accountable. But which outlets people trust is sharply divided across party lines. Another Pew report shows Americans still want a strong local connection with the news even as they embrace digital information. 

The dinner, The People’s Supper, was modeled off an effort to bring community members together to have meaningful conversation across difference over a warm meal.

In a letter, Micky Scottbey Jones, one of the original organizers, invites attendees to “examine our histories and the present-day effects of those histories in order to find a shared path forward for folks across class, race, faith and generational line.”

After filling their plates with green beans, roast beef, corn lasagna, salad and more, participants sat down around tables in groups of six or seven to begin a conversation facilitated by Cross-Cultural Journalism students. They were prompted with questions like “What’s a belief you hold that’s changed a lot in the last five years?” and “Tell us about a recent experience that gave you hope.”

Students, staff and faculty were invited to attend the dinner. (Photo by Cross-Cultural Journalism students)

DePauw Universisty has roughly 2,000 students, and has several communities of interest who live on fault lines discussed in the Cross-Cultural Journalism class. Those fault lines include race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion and immigration status, and depending on where people stand, how the news media frames an individual’s lived experience can have a positive or negative impact on them personally or their entire community.

Among those who shared intimate stories was Kevin Hamilton, assistant dean of students and director of housing and residence life, who recalled a neighbor who made a difference to him and his community while growing up.

“You mentioned cornerstone: She was like the cornerstone and everything because everybody stopped by her house at some point in time to get a coat, to talk about something that’s going on,” Hamilton said. “So when she died and I came home to be with grandparents, I didn’t see her on the porch, I didn’t see the Coca-Cola machine anymore. There’s something empty in this space.”

Cross-Cultural Journalism students are Anyelin Ayala, Maya Kuwahara, Caroline McLaughlin, Connor Griffin Duy Nguyen, Nathan Stapleton, Serena Rodriguez, Thomas Kemper, Emmanuel Koutsouras, Graysen Collins, Matthew Devens and Katlyn Hunger. The class is led by Deborah Douglas, Pulliam Professor of Journalism.