Come one, come all to the “conversation café” on the 3rd floor of Madison Union every Wednesday from 4 to 5 pm. Madison 4U, or MAD4U, welcomes everyone, including students and staff, with a “Happy Hump-day” as they treat themselves to a variety of hot teas, scones, and conversation. Although the scones are bigger and better than ever, the MAD4U workers and attending students agree that Tea Time is not just about tea and scones.
“The interesting thing is that it became a legacy almost overnight,” Shari Scofield, the coordinator of MAD4U, said.
As Scofield mentioned, almost all of the attendees are regulars and come every week for new scones and questions on the two whiteboards. Attendees make conversation based on the two weekly questions and other subjects, clustering in the seating area and chatting away.
“I’ve stayed the full hour quite a few times,” Niti Jadav, senior management major, shared.
The MAD4U staff comes up with one serious and one more light-hearted question in this welcoming environment to create understanding across opinions. Students and workers can get off their devices and share insightful ideas on the boards, like one notable response from October 4th. When one board said “what is the solution to gun violence” and the other said “love is the answer, what is the question,” a student wrote “love” on the first board and “gun violence” on the second. Scofield shared that this wasn’t the intention when writing the questions, but the response was touching.
Organizations can also co-sponsor a Tea Time to choose a thoughtful themed question and possibly hold giveaways, as the Center for Multicultural Student Services does every Martin Luther King Jr. week. Still, the goal is always to create friendly discussions of topics that make people think.
“I love that there are always questions you can sink your teeth into,” Sue Bauer, the executive assistant of Administration & Finance, commented. “Well you can’t really, you can do that with the scones.”
Whether people choose to discuss these topical questions, Tea Time remains a place to come and unwind with some good tea, scones, and company. All company is welcome, from students to staff, and encourages people from all across campus to come together and talk. This time represents the friendly and understanding culture that JMU prides itself on.
“This event has made me feel more a part of the community,” Sarah Deprey-Severance, the MAD4U graduate assistant in the clinical mental health counseling program, said. It can be a struggle to fit into the community as a graduate student. She even shared that she structures her work hours to make sure she’s around for Tea Time.
Unwinding during Tea Time can also help many improve their conversation skills. With recent advances in technology, people often don’t need to converse in person anymore, so the relaxing structure is aimed to help students practice without stressing out.
“Conversation is a skill and does take practice,” Scofield said.
In other contexts, practicing conversation skills may seem intimidating. But on Wednesdays in Madison Union, it becomes fun and relaxing, while strangers quickly become friends and connections. With all these advantages, Tea Time is clearly a rewarding break from working on homework and checking phone notifications to actually talk.
Ashlyn Johns, sophomore Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies major and MAD4U worker, witnesses how rewarding it can be each week. “There are some people who get so into a conversation that they will be here after we clean up,” Johns said.