On Thursday, December 9, 2010, more than 1,200 Fairfield students took a break from the intensity of their studies to gather at the Barone Campus Center for a midnight snack. Why so many, so late, so hungry? Because Midnight Breakfast is a 9-year old Fairfield tradition that turns the table on faculty-student interaction. Every year, at the end of the fall semester right before final exams, students are encouraged to sit back, relax, and let faculty, administrators, and staff serve them some much-appreciated TLC. This year, more than 60 servers volunteered to lend a hand, including University President Jeffrey von Arx, S.J.
According to Robyn Kaplan, University Activities Program Coordinator, Midnight Breakfast comes at a time when students are feeling stressed, anxious, and exhausted. The intent of the event is to raise their morale by showing them how much their faculty and staff care about their well-being. An articulation of the Jesuit value of “cura personalis,” or “care of the whole person,” the event also marks the beginning of the holiday season; students are encouraged to relax and live in that joyful moment – “a moment,” says Kaplan, “all too frequently overlooked when the stress of exams overshadows it.”
“I first heard about Midnight Breakfast when I worked at the Information Desk at Barone during my freshman year,” says Angela Delmonico ’11, a nursing major. “My dorm floor friends and I were still getting to know each other and looking for fun things to do together. I remember spotting my Hunger Cleanup Advisor behind the counters and then being served pancakes by my calculus professor.” Angela has been to every Midnight Breakfast since. “It personally means a lot to me for important people on campus to give their time to us like that, offering students a stress-free night that builds community.”
Midnight Breakfast began in 2001, initiated by Erin Morrell, Graduate Assistant in Student Activities, and James Fitzpatrick, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs. “Little did we realize what a big hit it would be,” says Fitzpatrick, who has been told by a number of seniors that it is their favorite Fairfield tradition. It is also a favorite among faculty and staff.
Cath Borgman, Director of the Career Planning Center, was working in the Advancement Division the first year she volunteered – when one of the students she served asked her to marry him. “Now that I work in Student Affairs it is that much more special to me because I know these students so well,” she says. “I love our students.”
Fr. Charles Allen has been serving at Fairfield’s Midnight Breakfast for the past five years. “I initially resisted because I hate staying up after 10 p.m.,” he says, acknowledging that now he enjoys becoming “more human” in the eyes of students and working with a wonderful group of Fairfield University faculty and staff. Plus, he adds, “I got to work as the maitre d’ in my section and I loved escorting people to their table and then asking if they’d like to see the menu. Of course, there is no menu since only one course is ever served.”
Midnight Breakfast is a popular event at many college campuses, bringing University communities together for a night of fun, relaxation, and conversation. As an undergraduate at Trinity College in Hartford, Dr. John Miecznikowski, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, was among many who were served breakfast at “midnight” by Trinity’s faculty and administrators. Miecznikowski wanted to give back as soon as he was given the chance; he volunteered the first year he joined Fairfield’s faculty in 2007.
At Fairfield’s annual event, dancing is also thrown into the mix. Two years ago, Kaplan started an epic Congo line to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Since then, students “go crazy” at the first note of that song, jumping on tables and forming a lively and long dancing line. This year, students and staff also cheered on some of the Sodexo workers who surprised students with a dance to the “Dougie Song.” Dr. Philip Lane, Lynch Chair and Associate Professor of Economics who has been serving at Fairfield’s Midnight Breakfast for at least 7 years, notes that half the house were dancing by 10:30 (the event began at 10 p.m.)
Lane, along with his fellow volunteers, appreciates the overall sense of gratitude and good will. “The students who attend are so polite and thankful for the work folks do that evening,” he says. “I find the event a true celebration of the Christmas spirit.” Borgman believes that the evening demonstrates how “all of us really care for one another and are part of one big community.” Adds Kaplan and Fitzpatrick, “It’s a fabulous tradition. There is always a great moment when we see all of these students – from every class year – relating not only to President von Arx, but to some of their favorite professors and administrators as well. The students are so grateful, as are we to have them here on campus.”
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