Four times a year, six William & Mary students and six university alumni have a very special date. But there's a twist: it's a blind date. The companions they are about to sit down with for dinner are all complete strangers.
The Student Alumni Council started running the Dinner with Twelve Strangers event in 2005, with the idea of connecting current students with alumni of the university. Twice per semester, six students are selected at random by the Student Alumni Council. They often represent a broad variety of backgrounds, majors and class years. Meanwhile, the Alumni Association is charged with contacting the six alumni. They are typically local, their provenances ranging from southern Hampton Roads to Richmond, but are equally as diverse as the collection of students.
Dinner itself is casual. It starts with a half-hour reception, after which guests proceed to a buffet served by William & Mary's own catering services. The magic, however, is in the dynamic of the group. Admittedly the very beginning is always a little awkward – after all, nobody knows anyone. Yet within the first five minutes someone will invariably break the ice, and then there's no stopping the conversation. It goes on and on, sometimes for three hours or more. How? Easy. They are all members of the same Tribe.
Similarities between the dinners stop there, though: every single one is completely different. Talk ranges from sports to academics, from current events to reminiscing. Freshman beanies and women's raincoats? Hard to picture – yet that's exactly what some of the alumni were wearing during their time on this very same campus.
Some of the alumni who have been in attendance are also presently at William & Mary: our very own Vice President for Student Affairs Virginia Ambler '88, Ph.D. '06, Government Professor Clay Clemens '80 and Associate Director for Student Activities Anne Arseneau '89. You truly never know who one may get the chance to meet over dinner, and that's what's so wonderful about it. Who knows? You could be next.