Engage STL Gephardt News

“The Longest Table” hosts 150 students for dinner and civic dialogue

On Wednesday, Sept. 6, the Gephardt Institute held WashU’s first “The Longest Table.” It’s a concept used in other communities and at other universities to bring people together to enjoy a meal and have a conversation on civic topics in a guided dialogue session.

In its inaugural event for WashU, The Longest Table was a hit as students gathered en masse to share a meal and talk with each other about their civic interests and visions for their communities.  

“We talked about how to improve society in terms of general hopes, and I guess fears about what’s going on, whether that be in the current news or just…the political climate,” said Tyler Hanson Mathur ’27. “So, it’s definitely interesting to hear everyone’s opinions, and also just from their own backgrounds…how they feel about these issues.” 

Modeled after events of the same name held at schools and in communities across the globe, one of the goals of The Longest Table is to demonstrate what dialogue—across differences and among many identities—can look like on topics that are sometimes difficult to navigate. Bringing it to WashU was an idea of Eric Jones, Graduate Assistant for Student Civic Learning, who with Associate Director for Civic Engagement Alannah Glickman and Graduate Assistant for Civic Learning Supriya Sthapit, brought the idea to fruition.  

Students were asked to join tables with students who they didn’t know—both undergraduate and graduate students—to foster discussion of new and different perspectives. Discussion for each group was lightly guided and facilitated by WashU faculty and staff members.  

For Bralin Duckett ’27, a first-year student, The Longest Table represented part of WashU’s efforts to inspire students to connect with their communities.  

“I’ve just noticed a lot of small things leading up to this. WashU has all these ways to make sure you’re being active within your community,” he said. “Learning how to communicate with different people in different ways, and when people come from different backgrounds, it’s okay to…give your input and also listen to others’ input.  

“And I think this event, The Longest Table, has definitely impacted that for the good.” 

The Longest Table is part of the Gephardt Institute’s Engage Democracy Initiative, which educates students for lifelong civic engagement, including robust voter engagement, civic education, and civic skills development aimed at advancing the ideals of American democracy. WashU students are welcome to attend future civic learning and dialogue events including Civic Café on Tuesday nights, 5:30-7 p.m. at Stix House.  If you would like to make a gift to support future Engage Democracy programs, please contact Colleen Watermon at cwatermon@wustl.edu