Faculty Invited to Host ‘Hot Topic’ Dinners

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Cindy Zapata first learned about the Hot Topic Dinners that Residence Life sponsors from a student who invited her to host one.        

“These dinners allow faculty to interact with amazing students in a much more intimate setting,” said Zapata, who is an assistant professor in the College of Business. “And I had complete flexibility in choosing the topic I discussed, which focused on success and how to achieve it.”  

Zapata is just one faculty member who has hosted one of the dinners, which are held throughout the semester in Georgia Tech’s residence halls.

“About five years ago, we started offering the dinners to give both faculty and students the opportunity to talk about topics that are interesting to them, in an informal setting,” said Brett Hulst, assistant director of Housing and the Freshman Experience. “The whole goal is for our students to feel more comfortable talking with faculty, and the dinners are just one way we address the component of the strategic plan that encourages increased faculty and student interaction.”

The time commitment is minimal for those interested in participating. For example, Zapata said that it only took about two hours of her time to prepare.

“It’s up to the faculty member to think of a topic he or she is passionate about — whether it’s a hobby or a current event — and come up with a few discussion questions,” said Holly Shikano, coordinator of residential academic initiatives for staff and community development in Residence Life. “After that’s done, all you have to do is navigate to the building the night of the dinner and hang out with our students.”  

Charles Liotta, a Regents’ Professor and chair in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has also hosted a dinner. He spoke about his experience with students over 49 years at Tech and his love for chemistry.

Liotta’s advice to any colleagues interested in participating in the program? 

“Don’t do all of the talking,” he said. “Be sure you engage in give-and-take conversations.” 

Faculty members interested in doing more with residence life or hosting a dinner this semester should email Shikano by Feb. 1. Those interested in hosting a fall semester dinner should express interest by June 30. 



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