While Freshman Sophomore College (FroSoCo) may be known on campus for its quiet and studious environment, on one evening every quarter, FroSoCafé brings lively discussion in a special format to the West Campus dorm.
Hosted by Nadeem Hussain, dean of FroSoCo, at his residence, FroSoCafé brings students together to discuss a variety of intellectual and personal issues at five to six cafe tables, each with its own unique discussion topic.
A host, or “intellectual DJ,” sits at each table, briefing new participants on the prior discussions. This allows newcomers to quickly build upon the ideas previously developed.
After about a half hour of discussion at a table, participants move to a different table to explore a new topic.
Questions considered by participants at the Oct. 21 FroSoCafé included “Can science ever inform moral questions?” and “How do you feel about the ‘duck syndrome’ that you observe around you?”
Participants also debated more personal questions such as, “Who inspires you?” and practical questions, such as, “Is Stanford worth the cost?”
Jay Patel ’14 created and implemented the idea of FroSoCafé, drawing on European and international educational models that strongly support students to cultivate the self.
Sukrit Narula ‘14 and Sumat Lam ’14 teamed up with Patel to bring his idea to fruition.
Patel wanted to provide a forum to discuss topics beyond students’ usual comfort zones in a non-judgmental and calm atmosphere. He said he sees the discussions as a means of bonding the participants to form a tighter, more collaborative Stanford community. According to Patel, students can formulate their most original thoughts through informal conversation and communication.
“With Frosocafé, the ultimate goal is to just bring the community together,” Narula said. “This event is an embodiment of the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Considering the opportunity that we have…being at Stanford, where the sum of those individual parts is very large already, we figured that we were doing our part for the community by bringing those parts together.”
“FroSoCo-ans” have responded positively to the idea. Students described the fourth FroSoCafé on Jan. 20 as “invigorating,” “stimulating,” “relaxing,” “fun” and “deeply interesting.”
“Perhaps of all its little quirks, I enjoy Stanford most for those spontaneous opportunities to share late-night conversations with roommates and neighbors from all manner of subjects — practical philosophy, religion, Star Wars, entrepreneurship in Africa and music,” said Justin Lee ‘15.
“FroSoCafé is a glorious dorm-sponsored extension of this fun with an engaging structure, delectable munchies and a soothing ambiance that perfectly complements the intellectual fire,” he added.
Some residents, however, would like to see more sophomore involvement in FroSoCafé.
“Being an event geared towards both freshmen and sophomores, FroSoCafé could better integrate sophomores to fully unlock its potential,” said Shahab Fadavi ’15.
In addition to inspiring high-minded intellectual discussions during FroSoCafé, the program has the potential to affect the dorm’s regular culture, said one attendee.
“Giving people space to express themselves can be a norm we set,” said Kelsie Pombo ’12.
Looking to the future, FroSoCafé’s main goal is to spawn similar discussion events in other dorms around campus.
According to Patel, spreading and sharing insights with the rest of the Stanford community in a grand mix of ideas could unite international and American students, as well as the east and west sides of campus.