Uni See, Uni Do

Universities across the country have imitated UCLA's alumni program where alumni invite students over for dinner.


By Sandy Siegel '72

Published Jan 13, 2009 3:36 PM

UCLA students enjoy pasta from an LA restaurant at a recent Dinner for 12 Strangers in the home of a UCLA alumnus.

As the UCLA Alumni Association prepares for the 41st annual Dinners for 12 Strangers — about 200 alumni will welcome packs of students to their homes for dinner on Feb. 28, March 1 and March 7 — the Nashville Chapter of the University of Georgia Alumni Association is planning a Bulldog version inspired by the popular Bruin get-togethers: Dinner with a Dozen Dawgs.

UGA is just one of several universities across the country — others include Ohio State University, the University of Texas and Emory University — that have replicated the successful UCLA program, which seeks to make the university a smaller, more close-knit community by bringing people together.

"We felt it would be a very portable program. We felt like our chapters could do them," says Deborah Dietzler, executive director of the UGA Alumni Association. "It could be moved off campus and done around the country, under the heading of the University of Georgia."

Host your own

Be a part of the program that started it all: UCLA alumni can sign up online to host their own Dinner for 12 Strangers (or fewer, if you prefer), for a chance to meet current students, staff and faculty. Host at your home, a restaurant, or be a co-host with a friend. (Deadline to sign up is Friday, Jan. 16.)

While UGA serves up about a dozen dinners a year near campus, as well, whenever hosts are willing and able, Northwestern University prefers the UCLA model of setting specific dates. Last fall, 25 dinners were held on three consecutive nights in October.

"The reason we do them in October is we want new students to have a good first-year experience," says Aspasia Apostolakis Miller of the Northwestern Alumni Association. "Although it's open to any student, we want to set a tone for incoming freshmen and transfer students."

The State University of New York at Buffalo originally aimed for a two-weekend event, but a major storm knocked out their plans. Now, they offer hosts flexibility in scheduling and even location, providing space on campus for those living in cramped quarters.

"It's very well received at our university," says Patty Starr, of Buffalo's alumni association, who recalls one particularly appreciative guest: a Bruin transfer student.

"He said he attended a couple of dinners like this at UCLA, and he liked the program."



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