Unlike the CLI colloquia, which are structured conversations aimed at improving the research of each of the CLI Fellows, the informal lunches are unstructured, free-flowing, easy-going conversations where the researcher can direct the dialogue to answer her questions and to get exactly the kind of feedback she needs. Because the group that attends the informal lunch is smaller, the researcher has more time to talk through the questions, concerns, and triumphs of her research. The informal lunches allow for individualized attention, a place where the researcher can address and meet her researching needs.
I attended the second informal lunch of the semester, and I came prepared. In my head, I had a list of questions I wanted to ask: “What is the best way to manage large amounts of data?” “Does the group have any suggestions on how to improve my research method?” “What should my final product be?” Although I came prepared for the topic of the conversation, I did not expect to be the only student sitting at the CLI lunch table. Surrounding me were Carlos Espinosa, Professor Reuman, Stephen, and Professor Zannoni. Initially, I was intimidated by the idea of being the only researcher at the table, but I realized I benefited from having “all eyes on me.”
The result? I had all my questions answered. One person told me the best way to manage a lot of data is to, simply, “just get started.” Another suggested ways in which I could organize my investigation so that the variables do not distract me from what I hope to find in the data. The third contributor gave me a whole list of ideas on how to create a fact sheet of my results.
Attending the informal CLI lunch was one of the best things I could have done for my research. I received answers to my questions and advice on how to move forward with my project. Best of all, I received individualized attention on my work. I felt supported by the faculty who sat with me, all engaged and eager to help me improve my research. I left Mather Dining Hall feeling a renewed sense of vigor and excitement to put into practice the advice I received from the CLI lunch table. Of course, the caffeine from my after-lunch coffee didn’t hurt either.