A Project for Better Journalism chapter

TTalking It Up

Students partake in TableTalk on Strip. Photo by Olivia Tucker ’19.

Cecilia Moore ’20: TableTalk is a mission and a movement that has been on the Holy Hill since mid-winter of my first year here at Episcopal. Ask any student you see in the dining hall, on the way to the center, or hanging out on strip, and they will tell you the time they dread the most during the school year is that cold, gray, January to February stretch. Tackling research papers, spending dark evenings indoors, struggling to strategize a route to all of your classes that will minimize exposure to the elements, you name it.

Last year, however, something changed. The conversation was coming to the High School, and people were ready to start talking. Starting with a discussion (complemented with ample amounts of donuts) in February on Anderson dorm titled “Freshmen, how’s it going so far?”, TableTalk hit the ground running and truly hasn’t stopped since then. In the spring, CampusCouches was introduced. Suddenly, it became normal to see three or four big leather couches grouped together on strip or on the chapel quad every few weeks, filled with students and faculty immersed in conversations about student life, the upcoming Finals dance, exams, and summer activities.

Mark Berry ’19: My first experience with TT was helping facilitate a CampusCouches event my sophomore year. I was pretty nervous going in, thinking no one would want to sit down and talk, or I would have no clue what to say if someone did sit down, or people would start a conversation I wasn’t involved in and I would have to sit there awkwardly pretending I knew what was going on. Luckily none of that happened, nor has that happened any time I’ve facilitated a TT event.

CM: In September of my sophomore year, I became my class’s grade representative on the TableTalk executive board. We were ready to tackle the road ahead with new ideas for new exchanges between students, collaborations with other student-led groups, and more ways to incorporate food into our conversations. Arguably our most popular initiative has been BlindBrunches, a Sunday brunch event at Shirlington restaurant Palette22 that came back for the third time this past weekend. Students were encouraged to come without their usual friend groups to meet new people in a neutral setting with delicious food. Needless to say, there was a waitlist!

MB: My favorite thing about TableTalk isn’t that I get to put a new leadership title on my resume or that I get free Chick-Fil-A (I mean it’s not a bad thing but it’s not the main point). My favorite thing is that I hear new stories and new experiences every time. I only genuinely know a few people on this campus, and TT gives me the perfect chance to increase that list, whether it’s forming new connections with people I don’t see often or deepening connections with people I do. I’ve loved every minute of every TT experience I’ve had, and I know everyone else will too.

CM: The magic of TableTalk does not lie in the ability of its members to pull off magnificenTT puns or to manage a donut order large enough to accommodate slews of hungry teens, but in its devotion to the purpose of bringing purpose to our dialogues, both among the student body and the faculty and staff. Whether that purpose is to get to know someone you always wish you said “Hi!” to in the hallways, or to discover what your classmate really thinks about the meaning of life, TableTalk provides that safe, open space to talk to new faces that we search for in a world of labels, fences, and boundaries set for people. TableTalk has brought out the two qualities of the student body that I most enjoy taking part in: the ability of our students to try new things and have fun while doing it, and the fearlessness we have in facing “big” conversations.

I joined TableTalk as a freshman looking for something to be a part of. Sure, I had been to most of the CampusCouches that spring, and had even done some of my own facilitating, but I was also doing what all Episcopal students are constantly trying to do: find my niche. Little did I know that within TableTalk, I would find a place to lead, to ask new questions, and to start new conversations. I found a place where I could actually get out of my comfort zone. I discovered that I didn’t actually have to wait 3 years until I could apply to be a Monitor and be a textbook “community leader.” I found my leadership role on a big, brown leather couch on strip, talking to new people about new topics. With a donut in hand.

Two of TableTalk’s executive board members collaborated for this editorial.