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4 Reasons to Apply for Grad/Prof Table Talk

Home Blog 4 Reasons to Apply for Grad/Prof Table Talk

Applications for the Spring 2024 semester are due January 28.

Duke’s Grad/Prof Table Talk program is more than just a meal – it’s a platform for career-enriching conversations between Duke students and faculty.

Selfie of two women, one instructor and one graduate student
Occupational Therapy Doctorate student Fatima Al-Sarakbi Hernandez (right) used her Table Talk funds to get a meal with Dr. Abigail Carroll, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, at the Duke Fairview Dining Room. “The conversation was academically stimulating and inspiring,” she said. “Dinner was overall super delicious, and we had a great time!”

Thanks to the Heaton-Blackshear Innovation Grant, the Table Talk pilot provides funding for graduate and professional students who want to invite a faculty or staff member to lunch at one of Duke Dining’s approved locations. Associate Dean of Students Genille Anderson, who developed Table Talk, modeled it after Duke’s FLUNCH program, which funds similar networking opportunities for undergraduates.

So far, nearly 50 graduate and professional students have taken us up on the offer, meeting with Duke professors and staff members to discuss everything from career advice to life in Durham.

Have someone in mind you’d like to get a meal with? Applications for the Spring 2024 cohort are open now through January 28! Learn more and apply here.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here are four reasons why you should apply for Table Talk this semester.

1. Build meaningful relationships with Duke faculty and staff

Maybe you haven’t been able to make office hours because of your work schedule. Or maybe there’s an instructor you’ve always wanted to meet. The Grad/Prof Table Talk program gives you the perfect reason to strike up a conversation and get to know one another as professionals in your field.

One Duke student took the opportunity to connect with the senior associate dean of their program. “Meeting him over a meal/coffee was something I had been looking forward to, and I’m grateful that this program made it possible,” they told Graduate & Professional Student Services. “During our conversation, we discussed my journey at Fuqua so far… and he even provided me with valuable advice for my future. This lunch was truly one of the most memorable experiences of my graduate student life.”

Other students have used Table Talk funds to meet with professors outside their field, or to meet with instructors they had only met over video calls, if they had started their program during lockdown.

You never know what surprising connections may pop up! One student remembers being surprised by just how much they had in common: “We ended up having a 3-hour conversation about psychiatry, forensics, mushroom foraging, and our mutual love of true crime documentaries. This was such an awesome way to open the door to reaching out to a faculty member that I didn’t know but worked in a field I was really interested in.”

2. Gain academic and professional development

By opening doors to discussions about your career and research interest, Table Talk meals are the perfect opportunity to grow as a student and a professional.

One Sanford Public Policy student scheduled their Table Talk lunch with a Duke Law professor so they could gain a new perspective on their career path. “It was lovely to be able to connect with someone who has similar interests and passions as I do, but who chose to pursue them in a different professional capacity,” they remarked. “This professor also went to school in Mississippi, so we had so many topics to choose from when talking with each other.”

Other students have found that their Table Talk meetings led to unexpected opportunities for collaboration. “My faculty member offered to reach out to me the next time her team did a forensic evaluation/case conference so I could sit in and learn!” one student said. The conversation “helped me make a connection with a faculty member whose work I was really curious about, opened up some new opportunities to get involved in that area of work, and also helped me decide what specialty I want to pursue for my residency training!”

Whether you’re still refining your academic interests, or you’re close to graduation and looking for specific advice, Table Talk gives you the space to have the professional-development conversations you need to thrive.

3. Explore new dining locations around campus

Duke Dining operates world-class venues across our entire campus. With a variety of cuisines and locations, you can use Table Talk funds to explore somewhere you’ve been meaning to try. Or you can grab coffee at your usual spot. We know you’re busy!

A full list of available dining facilities can be found on the Table Talk webpage, but here are some of the favorites chosen by students who have participated already:

  • Fairview Dining Room (Washington Duke Hotel) – Reservations required
  • The Commons (Brodhead Center) – Reservations encouraged
  • Nasher Café (Nasher Museum of Art)
  • Terrace Café (Duke Gardens) – A picnic with a view!

Don’t be intimidated about making a reservation at the Washington Duke, the JB Duke, or the Commons. Our Duke Dining team does their best to accommodate Table Talk requests!

4. Applications are open now

Table Talk is an open door to discuss your career, your research interests, and your life as a student – all while building connections that can last for a lifetime. Students from every graduate and professional school at Duke have already seen the benefits of grabbing a meal with a faculty or staff member. To see for yourself, all you have to do is apply! What are you waiting for?

The Grad/Prof Table Talk Program is open to all Durham-based graduate and professional students at Duke. You must be actively enrolled for the 2023-24 academic year to participate.

Learn more and apply on the Table Talk webpage. Remember, applications for Spring 2024 close on January 28.

If you have questions, please contact Graduate and Professional Student Services at We hope to hear from you soon!