Lunch Pairings, brought to you by THRIVE!

Author: Ellen Crowe Finan

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THRIVE!, an employee resource group focused on increasing opportunities for women at Notre Dame, recently launched “Lunch Pairings” — a new quarterly initiative to connect employees with others on campus. “There was a real interest among our membership to connect with others across campus who they’ve never met,” says Jessica Schiller, chairman of the THRIVE! professional development and networking committee.

Thrive Two Color

THRIVE! opened the opportunity to all employees on campus. It has been enthusiastically received. In October, the group organized 47 Lunch Pairings for the first quarter. In January, they matched up 55 pairings for the second quarter. 

To keep Lunch Pairings flexible and easy for participants, each pair schedules their own meetings. (The lunches sometimes include more than two people.)

Lunch Pairings have attracted men and women from across the campus, including employees who are not THRIVE! Members. “The feedback from the survey after the first set of pairings in the fall was overwhelmingly positive,” says Schiller, a grants program manager in Notre Dame Research. 

Amelia Lutz, pre-award program manager in Notre Dame Research, took part in two Lunch Pairings and thoroughly enjoyed them, she says. For one lunch, she was paired with Liz Loughran, a consultant in Graduate Career Services. “It’s a wonderful platform to meet people on campus and build new relationships,” says Lutz. 

As a working mother with small children, Brianna May, a student services representative in the Office of Financial Aid, found the inspiration she needed in meeting Sarah Craig, a communications specialist from ND Research, and Beth Swift, director in the Office of the President.

“I loved hearing about the start of their professional careers to present,” says May. “They both have accomplished so much and gave me the pep talk I needed when discussing my career goals and path.” 

May and Craig enjoyed the lunch so much, they asked Schiller to arrange another one. So May, Craig, Schiller and Lutz got together and invited four others to join them. “We’re going to keep meeting for fun,” says Craig.

Stationed at Notre Dame for the next few years, Capt. Cody Brockelmeyer, Marine Officer Instructor for the NROTC, wants to interact with as many people as possible while he’s on the campus. He was paired with Kate Garry, director of the Office of Communications in the College of Arts and Letters. “Professionally, it gave me another perspective on our various missions and problem-solving methods across campus,” says Brockelmeyer. “Personally, it was great to meet somebody outside of my normal battle rhythm and get to know them as a peer and friend.” 

Likewise, Garry, who also volunteers as vice president of THRIVE!, enjoyed meeting Brockelmeyer. “Cody is someone I definitely would not have met otherwise,” says Garry. “He has an interesting life story and perspective to share as someone who is serving in the military and teaching in our ROTC program while pursuing his Ph.D. While we are different in age, background and career path, I found that we have a lot in common as busy working parents of young children and we had a good conversation about work-life balance and time management.” 

The committee uses the website to create the pairs. “We always have to make a few adjustments,” says Schiller. “I was matched with my husband the first time, so I ran the list generator again.” 

Following the positive response to Lunch Pairings, logistics are being worked out for it to continue.

“It’s a great ice breaker and platform for building new relationships,” says Lutz. 

Interested in being paired up for lunch? Contact Jessica Schiller at or call 1-7923.

Originally published by Ellen Crowe Finan at on July 08, 2019.