Students at the University of Tennessee College of Law are being encouraged to step out of their comfort zones to get to know their classmates in unique ways.
On the first floor near the college’s lunch area and student commons space, Interim Assistant Dean of Students Brad Morgan and Associate Dean Paula Schaefer have worked together to create a pop-up gathering spot dubbed “Vol Talk.”
The space – offered during special events at the College of Law – is simple, with a few chairs beneath a “Vol Talk” banner, a bright orange rug, and a table bearing small orange boxes that contain conversation-starting prompts.
The Vol Talk space is designed to be an open forum for conversation and can accommodate as few as two people to as many as eight or 10. Those who participate ask each other questions that range from the innocuous “What has been the highlight of your week,” to the more personal “Who is your role model and why?”
Morgan said the idea was inspired by a video with the hope of bringing together students whose conflicting class schedules might not otherwise allow them to interact socially.
“We really wanted to give students a chance to get to know those around them,” Morgan said. “We think it will help foster a stronger sense of community within the college.”
Several students gave the Vol Talk corner a try during its launch at a student dinner earlier this month. Second-year law student Rebecca Plank was among them.
“It was great to chat with students I’ve seen around campus but have never really gotten to know,” Plank said. “It was refreshing to hear about other students’ hometowns, the people they look up to, and other unique aspects of their lives.”
First-year student Nuraldeen Brifkani said he enjoyed the mixture of casual and serious prompts.
“At the very least, you meet new classmates and professors,” he said. “But I think it can serve a greater purpose of bringing friends and colleagues, new and old, closer together.”