Holiday dinners reunite ‘Rook Buddies’

Norwich Cadets, rooks, Vermont

Cadet Training Company 09-2-3 hams it up at dinner.

At Norwich University, many traditions become student bonding experiences. Dining is no exception.

While many universities provide holiday dinners, according to the general manager of Sodexo, students at Norwich take theirs as more than just dinners.

There are two holiday dinners provided by Sodexo, a multinational France-based food service that serves meals to the Norwich university community.

“We try to make them special because it is a time for the students to be able to share a nice dinner with their friends before going on break,” said Scott Rossen, a general manager at Norwich Sodexo in an email interview.

As general manager, Rossen is in charge of all the food service operations on campus, including the residential dining at the Wise Campus Center, as well as the retail stores, such as the newly opened Dunkin Donuts, the Partridge Pub, and the Mill.

“Every, if not most, universities that I know provide these dinners,” Rossen said, adding that it is standard practice. However, Rossen also wrote in his email that “Norwich wants its students to have a special meal before they go on a break.”

Students said that the meals are more than just dinners before they head off for school break.

“Holiday dinners are when we, especially cadets, can reconvene and enjoy each other’s company,” said Matthew Connor McEldowney, 20, a junior in studies of war and peace from Andover, Mass.

According to McEldowney, holiday dinners provide a time for his rook family members to get together and have a good time.

“The holiday dinners are important because it’s the time of the school year in which you get that nice, warm environment with your friends,” he said.

He also compared Norwich to other schools and what it means to be part of the tradition.

“I think it’s more important [when] you are at Norwich and you are in the corps when you are having that holiday dinner,” McEldowney said, adding that it is part of the Norwich experience.

To corps members, everything is organized to better the Norwich experience. Such a lifestyle is not available for many other schools.

“In other schools, the closest you can get to the corps is maybe joining a fraternity. However, the intentions are different. At Norwich, we are trying to make a next generation of leaders and good, quality citizens, where as a fraternity – you can argue – it’s just a something to write on a resume,” McEldowney said.

He thinks the membership and experience at Norwich as a cadet is what makes the dinners special.

“It’s a bit of a cut-above, which other schools cannot offer,” McEldowney said.

According to McEldowney, his rook family was able to gather together and relive the moment i subsequent years.

“When I was a rook, we were able to talk at ease and socialize. As an upperclassmen, we now move to the dinner together just like we did in our freshmen year.”

McEldowney also said that after rookdom, everyone disperses into their own life, and that dinners provide a good time to get back together since they’re usually too busy to do so beforehand.

According to McEldowney, dinners add to the Norwich experience. “The whole idea of rookdom [is] people from all over the place coming together and suddenly you have to work together.

The holiday dinners are part of that family experience that completes the Norwich experience, he said.

“Those were the times that we were able to sit down and enjoy each other’s company, and it will certainly aid in building that bond that will last a lifetime,” McEldowney added.

Cadet McEldowney himself is a cadre member who needs to spend a lot of time with his recruits, which limits his availability to hang out with his friends.

“I hang out with my rook buddies as much as I can. I spent a lot of the summer with two of my rook brothers.”

Another cadet had a similar view with McEldowney. “I spent more time with my rook buddies in my sophomore year. I try to hang out as much as I can,” said Andrew Judd, 21, a junior majoring in civil engineering from Concord, N.H.

Judd agreed that he has less time to hang out with his friends since rookdom. Judd is also one of the cadre members in the Corps of Cadets.

“It’s not as important for the rooks because they sit together every day anyway. But for upperclassmen, it’s a time for us to come together.

It’s kind of a tradition; it’s been around for a while,” Judd said, adding that he felt it’s one of the most important traditions at Norwich.

“I tell my recruits that these dinners are when their platoon members get together. It doesn’t matter how busy they are; it’s one of the most important things,” Judd said.

On the civilian side, the students find they are not affected as much as the corps by the holiday dining experience.

“I don’t really care for the dinner because it’s just like any other dinner for civilians,” said Stacey Avnes, 19, a sophomore communications major from Los Angeles, Calif., commenting on the web.

Avnes agreed that the family dinners are pretty much solely for corps students. “They dress up and eat with their platoons. It’s a tradition for the corps.”

Although these holiday dinners are also provided at different universities, students at Norwich view the occasion as much more than just dinners; it’s a part of the Norwich experience that adds to student bonding.


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