California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Cal Lutheran Professor Hosts Thanksgiving Dinner for Students without Holiday Plans

Katherine Hoffmann is California Lutheran University’s Stauffer professor of analytical chemistry and has invited students over to her Ventura home for Thanksgiving dinner the last seven years. This year, she invited her Chemistry 305 class, research students and any students who have attended in previous years.

Hoffmann has been at Cal Lutheran for three years, but started the tradition while teaching at a previous university. Every year the group gets larger, with this year tallying 25 students in attendance. This is a tradition Hoffmann carried on from her mom, who was an economics professor. Growing up, Hoffmann’s mom would have international students over for the holiday, she said.

“Part of the reason I do it is that I think people are very intimidated by scientists, sometimes they think we’re lonely asocial people and we’re not. We have families; we enjoy getting together for Thanksgiving and that kind of thing,” Hoffmann said.

The dinner party began as an event for students who did not, or could not, travel home for Thanksgiving. Hoffmann said that while in college, she often couldn’t visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday because she lived far away. She referred to her college self as “an orphan on Thanksgiving,” and said her peers were always looking for somebody to take them in.

Hoffmann and her husband decided to start inviting students who didn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday over to their home.

“[My husband] thinks students are amazing and the best food audience ever because they’ll inhale anything, basically. He loves cooking for students. If we haven’t had them over for a while, he’ll suggest that I find some reason to invite students over for dinner,” Hoffmann said.

The meal is kept to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner just in case it is a student’s only Thanksgiving meal for the year. However, she said it is not uncommon to have commuter students attend and for most of them, it might be a second Thanksgiving meal.

“It’s a little bit different every year but we have your classic turkey, potatoes of some sort, a dressing of some sort, a couple of vegetable dishes. It turns out Cal Lutheran students inhale vegetables, which I was kind of surprised by. The Brussels sprouts are the first to go every year,” Hoffmann said.

This year, senior Jordan Fong attended Hoffmann’s Thanksgiving dinner for the second time. Fong said he went because his friends were going, and because there was free food.

“The food can’t get any better. She always says something about ‘cooking exactly like the recipe.’ You know she’s good because she teaches quantitative analysis,” Fong said.

Fong said the atmosphere in Hoffmann’s home is very welcoming and noticed more students in attendance this year particularly.

“The evening always starts slightly awkward, so it’s good to be prepared with some sort of icebreaker to keep things from getting real awkward. This year it was my baby. That made it pretty easy, but my mom also went through and ordered people to sit down and get comfortable,” Hoffmann said.

Hoffmann said there is something for everyone to do, such as playing cards, entertaining her baby, petting her cat or helping out in the kitchen.

“I enjoyed cooking under the direction of her husband, spending time with my peers in a non-school setting and getting to hold her baby,” said Cal Lutheran junior Sophia McCarty.

McCarty is a commuter student and was able to visit family for Thanksgiving. Despite this, she wanted to go to Hoffmann’s Thanksgiving dinner because she really enjoys her as a person and professor, she said.

With the group getting larger every year, Hoffmann said she may need to invest in some folding chairs or outdoor picnic benches to accommodate more students.

“The students frequently ask me if we’re doing it again. I get a lot of requests from students the next year asking if they’re allowed back. Of course you can, so that’s fun,” Hoffmann said.

Bridget Sjolie

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