On Sundays, students often find themselves cramming in homework due Monday morning and catching up on chores and errands they neglected during the weekend. But on certain Sundays, Medill junior Allison Ledwon, an RA in Shepard Hall, mingles with residents from her floor and from across the Shepard/1838 Chicago Residential Community, giving out the two things every college student wants: prizes and free food.
Dubbed Sunday Funday, these 30-minute study breaks every two weeks, which alternate between the Engagement Center in Shepard Hall and the main lounge in 1838 Chicago, let students unwind, snack, watch a student group perform, socialize, and spin to win. Each Sunday Funday includes a snack – anything from soft pretzels and donuts to Chicago-style hotdogs and wings from NU-favorite Hecky’s Barbeque – and features a performing arts student group like Tonic Tap, musical theatre dance group Steam Heat, and Freshman 15 a capella.
Organized by Faculty-in-Residence Melissa Foster and RAs like Ledwon in the two buildings, Sunday Funday is a fun way for students in Shepard Hall and 1838 to relax and meet students from outside their hall and building. Foster lives in the Faculty-in-Residence apartment adjoining Shepard Hall, but because the residential community spans two buildings, events like Sunday Funday help bring everyone together in one space.
“I really want to give people a sense of belonging and engagement in a mass quantity,” says Foster, a senior lecturer of musical theatre in the Department of Theatre. “It’s a great way to get the community together and, just as importantly, to get those two buildings together. It’s also a highly visible event for me and what I do just so that they know who I am.”
Two-year Sunday Funday attendee Ben Chase missed maybe one Sunday Funday last year. The combination of free food and easy community building make it a hot destination for Chase.
“It’s a good way to say hi to a few folks who you maybe haven't seen as much that week – or friends you already have,” Chase says. “It's nice because you realize that you know a lot of people. There is almost never a reason not to go, so I always go.”
But aside from community building, Sunday Funday also serves as a consistent stress reliever. Besides the late night snack and student group entertainment, residents can also spin a brightly colored prize wheel, one of Foster’s creations. Every spinner is a winner, but some winners are luckier than others. Prizes range from lower rung treats to king sized candy bars and nostalgic toys and knicknacks.
“I have a conversation with every single person who comes to spin the prize wheel” Foster says. “It’s short “how’s your day,” “what are you studying for,” – just simple questions. I try to ask everybody something, or they say something to me. Just any interaction with people who might not seek me out to help facilitate them feeling like they could.”
Lucky students win a cookie party: cookies and milk for you and four friends in your dorm lounge delivered personally by Foster herself. The luckiest students land on the grand prize. Grand prizes rotate out every now and then, but with the two current options of snack service (similar to the cookie party, but with the snack of your choice) or a private movie party in Foster’s Faculty-in-Residence apartment (with more snacks, of course), either choice is a great deal for a hungry college student and helps Foster get to know more of the residents on an individual level.
“Movie night in Melissa’s apartment is hands down the best prize,” Ledwon says. “Her home is so cozy and Melissa feeds you the best snacks. It’s like a little trip home for an hour or two.”
Ledwon isn’t the only one who’s been treated to a movie night, either. Weinberg freshman and Shepard Hall resident Anamaria Sayre watched When Harry Met Sally when one of her friends landed a coveted special prize. Sayre also won a cookie party, which she was able to share with friends and floormates. She goes to every Sunday Funday she gets the chance to. The community aspect of the event is great for Sayre – it makes the two buildings feel like a more cohesive community. But she also isn’t one to turn down free goodies, especially the prize wheel, which is one of her favorite parts of Sunday Funday.
“It was definitely the food that first drew me in,” says Sayre, whose favorite snack so far has been donuts. “It is absolutely the people and the atmosphere that keep me coming back. It's something my friends and I look forward to and a place to have some time to breathe before the craziness of the week starts.”