Cornerstone is the very first course that all students take when entering Quest. This course has many purposes such as introducing students to Quest and also investigating one question through interdisciplinary academic disciplines. This year the question is, “What is Knowledge?” It is a very interesting and an eye-opening experience to see how at Quest you can approach one question through so many disciplines. For example my question at Quest, which I created during question block, is “How Does Trauma Affect Children’s Development?” I am looking at this question through many lenses, such as psychology, sociology, conflict studies, and gender studies. Such interdisciplinary approaches to various questions, ideas, and opinions allows for a broader and deeper understanding of the topics.
During Cornerstone block, students do a number of team-building activities that allow for a better connection amongst students. Some activities include Adventure Pursuits, Map Making, and even a lovely, delicious dinner at our Dean of Students – Melanie’s – apartment (Yes, you read that right!).
Melanie has a strong background in academia including teaching, student affairs, and international experience. She has worked in Canada, India, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, Thailand, and the Middle East. As the Dean of Students, Melanie at this time of the year is very busy making sure that campus is ready for the incoming class and for a smooth coming of the returning students. On top of that, during the month of September, she finds time to host every single Cornerstone class in her apartment and cook numerous delicious dinners.
Before going on into talking about what we made, I would like to write a little bit about the history of Cornerstone dinners. To make sure that this history is accurate, this past Friday I went into Melanie’s office to get more information in reagrds to this topic. According to Melanie, a few years ago, Ryan Derby-Talbot (Chief Academic Officer) mentioned how at his Liberal Arts & Sciences University, the Dean had everyone go over for dinner at her house. Melanie was amazed by this and thought that that was such a great idea. Thus, she decided to have every Cornerstone class over her place for dinner. Later, she realized that the Dean of Students at Ryan’s university had a full team of helpers, including caterers and cleaners. At Melanie’s it is simpler, students and Melanie cook, eat, and clean all together.
There were five returning students and twenty incoming students. Thus, the incoming students were divided into five groups and each group was joined by a returning student. During the dinner, we made a variety of vegetarian dishes. This included a fresh watermelon salad (watermelon, feta cheese, cucumbers, and mint leaves), a quinoa salad (quinoa, black beans, corn), a green salad (berries, beets, with pecans on top), samosas (gluten free options were available), and a chocolate torte. My group and I were in charge of making the torte, which included fresh and healthy ingredients such as almonds, dates, coconut oil, organic cocoa powder, and raspberries. While making the torte, my team members and I got to know each other better and learned more about each other’s experiences, fears, and dreams. Oh and if you are wondering, the torte turned out to be delicious!
These dinners are very important to Melanie because she is able to meet the new students and share her passion about healthier eating. She is able to show students that healthy meals are not very expensive and not very hard to make, as some may think. In addition, Cornerstone dinners allow upper year students to meet the incoming students, creating a better and closer community at Quest. I remember my Cornerstone dinner like it was yesterday, even though more than two years have passed. It was lovely to leave campus for a couple of hours and be in a home, it truly reminded me of my home.
Thank you so much to Melanie for finding the time to organize Cornerstone dinners and having a pretty large number of people come to your home during the month of September. Melanie is truly sacrificing her evenings but in return she gets to meet amazing students from all over the world and eat delcious food.
I am very happy that I was able to go to Melanie’s house and experience a Cornerstone dinner with the class of 2019.