Every year, Northwestern’s Evanston campus slowly begins to empty as students return home for Thanksgiving Break. Traditionally, many students head home for breaks throughout the year, but last year, Student Enrichment Services (SES) identified a need for support over Spring Break. A short survey revealed that 50 students stayed on campus prompting SES to sponsor community meals and organized care packages from the student group, Points for a Purpose, to help supplement meals for the week.
This year, as students prepared to head home for the five-day Thanksgiving Break, eager to see familiar faces and take a break from the rigorous coursework at Northwestern, a significant portion of students stayed on campus during the holiday. About 600 students were on campus to enjoy a Northwestern-style Thanksgiving celebration.
According to data taken from Foster-Walker Dining Hall, around 15% of residential students remained on campus for the duration of break. It is likely that there were even more staying on campus whose data could not be collected because they were not dining at Foster-Walker. At Foster-Walker, students on meal plans could swipe for free. Residential Services and Northwestern Dining sponsored both the meal service as well as snack bags that students could take with them.
The University held several events for any remaining on-campus students. Roger Boye, faculty chair of Northwestern’s Communications Residential College (CRC), held his annual Thanksgiving dinner for CRC members while African American Studies professor Michelle Wright from the Women’s Residential College (WRC) hosted six students at her home for dinner. Melissa Foster, faculty-in-residence for Shepard Hall and 1838 Chicago and senior lecturer for the School of Communication, invited students to come to a pie and cider event at her apartment on Wednesday night.
Other residential life staff members and resident assistants hosted various events for their residents. The graduate housing assistance staff served a Thanksgiving meal that 65 community members attended, and eleven students shared Thanksgiving dessert together in the Northeast residential area. Meanwhile, the Southwest residential area held a Popcorn, Pizza, and Movie on Friday night.
For the sixth year, the Quest Scholars Network at Northwestern hosted their annual Quest-Giving Event and were excited to co-sponsor with SES, Sheil Catholic Center, and Residential Services this year. The event took place at the Sheil Catholic Center, and served around 100 students.
The Religious Centers on campus came together to host a “Pop-Up Pantry” for students on the Wednesday before break. The pantry was hosted in Parkes Hall and offered students access to fresh produce and grocery items for the five-day break. Close to 30 students took advantage of this new resource, and the Religious Centers are excited to offer this resource again during Spring Break this year.
Despite the gaps left by so many students leaving campus, the students who remained on campus were able to enjoy Thanksgiving in their own way. Residential Services, in collaboration with campus partners and students, will continue using data to further improve students’ experiences in the upcoming years.