For Students Who Stay, A Community Thanksgiving Lunch

While many Anteaters returned home to their families over Thanksgiving break, students who remained on or around campus last Thursday were welcomed to the annual Thanksgiving lunch at Pippin Commons.

Phuc Pham | New University

Phuc Pham | New University

For the fifth year running, the lunch was hosted by the Office of the Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs in conjunction with UCI Hospitality & Dining.

Originally conceived by former Chancellor Michael Drake and Thomas Parham, Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs, the annual lunch seeks to hold space for students who, for a variety of reasons, remain in their UCI residence during Thanksgiving.

“We thought we would create an opportunity to be able to provide a Thanksgiving meal for students who had nowhere else to go,” said Parham, who said the idea stemmed from the fact that many students hail from beyond California and are not always able to go home to their families for the relatively short break.

This year’s affair drew 300 RSVPs, the largest number yet. For the first time, walk-in students were accepted as well. According to Jack McManus, director of UCI Dining, approximately 50 students also came to the event.

For the first time, the men’s basketball team participated in the affair, filling positions along the food line, serving sides of green bean casserole, candied yams, mounds of mashed potatoes and bell peppers stuffed with quinoa.

“We’re just appreciative for the opportunity to give back to the community we’re a part of,” said Russell Turner, head coach of the men’s basketball team.

Historically, members of the men’s basketball team don’t go home for Thanksgiving due to games that are hosted during the same weekend.

“I got used to it,” said Mike Best. The fourth-year point guard spent his freshman year in Anchorage for the Great Alaska Shootout.

Another first this year was Chancellor Howard Gillman’s presence, replacing Drake’s place at the carving station, doling out scoops of gravy and slices of ham.

When asked if he helped with any of the cooking, Gillman admitted that, just like in his home, he always shies away from helping with the culinary portion of Thanksgiving meals.

“We want them to have a good experience, so I made sure not to help cook,” Gillman said.

Traditionally, the role of the vice chancellor and chancellor is to serve the food to students, engaging in face time while they are line.

Jerry Lyu, a second-year mathematics graduate student, was impressed that the chancellor and vice chancellor were in attendance and talking to students. For many, the lunch served as the first time they connected a face and a person to the names of two of UCI’s top administrators.

Lyu, despite being from China, does not feel homesick as he is able to talk to his family via Skype. Since coming to UCI last year, he visited his family in Beijing once over the summer.

For those like Lyu who are not able to go home during breaks, however, he felt that lunch served as an opportunity to feel a sense of community.

“Many students can come together here and enjoy this holiday.”