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Dean’s Teas Brew Intellectual Conversation By Erica Levi Zelinger, Assistant Director of Communication
Pennoni Honors College

Julia Wisniewski has a tradition with a group of her girlfriends: binge-watching Game of Thrones.

“It’s a coping mechanism for the stresses in our lives,” says the 2015 Honors Program graduate. “As is engaging in meaningful conversation.”

So when presented with the chance last spring to discuss the act of binge-watching with Dean Paula Marantz Cohen of the Pennoni Honors College and a group of students across all majors, Julia was eager.

Since winter 2014, Dean Cohen has hosted more than 60 students in her office for six hour-long Dean’s Tea sessions. No sign-ups or RSVPs. Come when you can. Pour yourself a cup of tea. Find a seat on the couch or the floor of Dean Cohen’s office and engage in intellectual conversation on a particular topic: bridging the humanities and sciences; rankings and education; branding yourself; or binge-watching TV.

“I started the Teas as a kind of meet and greet with various groups within Honors (HSAC, Honors Mentors) and then opened it to all with topics that I thought would interest them,” says Dean Cohen.

“I find it not only a great opportunity for students to share opinions and engage in an intellectual and lively conversation but also a place that nurtures critical thinking and a thirst for knowledge,” says Mai-Linh Bui, a 2015 Honors Program graduate and the organizer of the Dean’s Teas.

“The Dean's office during the teas is indeed the most open and innovative environment I've found on campus,” says rising sophomore Nohra Murad, a biomedical engineering and Honors student. “I believe conversation is the best way to generate ideas because it offers perspective, and students who willingly go to such events tend to be the most open to new ideas and willing to contribute new ones.

Other ideas for future teas might include: When do you stop studying? Are books dead? What do you see as success? How do you know you're in love?

The scholarly yet productive environment where disciplines can rub shoulders with each other, Nohra adds, allows her to get out of her engineering bubble that sometimes keeps her from seeing the purpose of her technical classes.

“Dean Cohen loves to engage us about Drexel policies and proposals for improving the Honors College,” Nohra says. “You never know what sort of ideas spring out of a room with a handful of bright minds and a brilliant facilitator like Dean Cohen. I hope that the rest of Drexel follows her example and provides more opportunities for students to operate as a think tank because the ideas are certainly here.”