Dinner for 12 Comets — a casual event that gives Naveen Jindal School of Management alumni the opportunity to host 12 JSOM students for dinner — offers all its participants a chance to do more than just get food. As the professional chef, gourmand and TV star Anthony Bourdain has said, “You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.”
“This idea is really simple. It just gives our hosts the opportunity to be neighborly,” says Jasmine Carter, JSOM’s director of alumni relations. “Local alumni or Jindal School faculty host dinners for 12 JSOM students somewhere off campus — it can be at their home, their workplace or at a restaurant. The goal is to make UT Dallas a smaller, friendlier place.” Dinner can be catered or homemade and, in any event, Carter says the point is not so much the food as the sharing. The goal is that these University of Texas at Dallas students get to talk with someone who understands the Jindal School experience.
Pat McCown, BS 1991, the first alumni host, says the hardest part about hosting was coming up with an evening both he and his wife were free. “It’s occurred to me that one thing that seems lacking at UT Dallas is connectivity between students and alums. I travel to many universities for recruiting, and I see other schools where students and alums have greater connectivity and I think this helps to foster a sense of community and support,” says McCown, partner at Grant Thornton LLP. “I want the students at UT Dallas to have that same experience, and if I can do something as simple as hosting a dinner in my home to help drive this, then why wouldn’t I?”
“The Dinner with 12 Comets was such a neat experience,” says Ashley Blaha, a senior business administration student originally from Houston, who attended another Dinner With 12 Comets event. “As a student, it's easy for me to forget that there is a life after graduation, and this helps me to remember that and plan for it.”
Blaha’s dinner was held at the alumna’s 500-square-foot converted garage in the Lakewood area of Dallas. “It was so cool to see where our alumni end up,” Blaha says. The alumna shared her vision of spending her earnings on experiences, rather than space. Blaha says it was a good reminder. “It was so beneficial to gain some wisdom about life and working in the business world from someone with experience.”
Students sign up for the dinners and are paired with hosts based on their major or other interests. Carter and her staff handle the details, including invitations, finding out dietary restrictions and arranging for student transportation to the alumnus’ home, if necessary. At least six dinners have been scheduled for the inaugural semester. Information about hosting a dinner is on the Jindal School on Volunteer tab of the Alumni page.
“I was surprised by how quickly the list filled up with students, which tells me students are hungry for this type of event — or maybe they’re just hungry!” says McCown, who also serves on the JSOM Advisory Council.
— Jeanne Spreier