On the Same Page: In the salon tradition, celebrating Lab
Posted October 28
In the last couple of weeks, I attended my first “Salon Lab” event, an auction item that was introduced at Connections 2009. It was held at the home of one of our families and featured four parents who also are professors at University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Their topic was the State of Our Economy, an important issue for all of us.
It was an outstanding way for members of our community to learn from experts who are often asked to explain current conditions or forecast the future. The evening included a wonderful meal and the opportunity to interact with the experts in small groups, as they rotated among four dinner tables.
Following the meal, our host opened the floor to several general questions and was able to conclude the evening with a concise summary of what we heard.
Upon reflection on this really enjoyable evening, I share some thoughts that admittedly are not as organized as they could be. However, they may lead others to join me in thinking through some interesting possibilities for the future.
1. The greatest value-added feature of the Laboratory Schools’ experience is our University of Chicago connection—a belief that is perhaps more obvious to our students and school employees than it is to our parents. Our students have access to libraries, museums, the Court Theatre, and undergraduate courses for high school students. Our teachers arrange guest presentations, lectures, and seminars led by University faculty. The Summer Link program in which up to twelve high school students are immersed in research with scientists in the Biological Science Division is a powerful model of collaboration that has the potential of expanding to other University divisions.
Giving our parent population some of the same opportunities to experience the incredible resources of the University will strengthen the appreciation of their children’s education at the Laboratory Schools.
2. The resources within the larger Laboratory Schools’ community extend well beyond those employed by the University. The interesting and important occupations, talents, hobbies, and sheer expertise of non-University affiliated parents and alumni, could provide topics that would draw people together for years into the future.
The gifts of time, knowledge, and wisdom are welcome in a vibrant community of learning. We are in awe of the talents our parent community brings to us.
3. Parents from each of our divisions, University and non-University affiliations, and north- and south-siders were part of the Salon Lab I attended. There were even some people with no affiliation to Lab who were the guests of those who were. All of them shared at least one thing in common—an interest in learning more about the topic of discussion.
Our Schools’ historical barriers to parental involvement, real and imagined, can be reduced through school-wide programs that appeal to adults.
4. Friend “raising” encourages fund raising. Salon Lab was initiated and planned from the context of our most visible community fund raising event of the year—Connections. It was auctioned to those willing to purchase a tax-deductible ticket either at the Connections party or online. From my perspective, the price of the ticket was well worth every cent. It will remain an attractive addition to the auction component of Connections.
Under a different moniker, the Parents’ Association and/or Parent Councils could use a similar format to bring parents, friends, and Lab faculty/administrators together in a meaningful way. Combining adult learning with an enjoyable social event is an excellent way to become better acquainted with the plentiful and diverse resources of our community.
I am convinced that the more we appreciate the talents of Lab’s community, the stronger we will become—academically, socially, and financially