Eric Wang

As thousands of Yalies headed home over Thanksgiving break, residential colleges and cultural houses hosted a variety of meals and events for students who remained on campus.

Residential colleges have each developed Thanksgiving traditions for those students — many of whom are international — who stay on campus over the break. From all expenses paid trips to buffets to conventional family dinners to gingerbread house making, each college made sure its students had events to attend.

Head of Timothy Dwight College Mary Lui hosted two gatherings — a catered Thai meal on Nov. 25 and a Thanksgiving dinner. The latter is an annual tradition which has taken place since Lui became the head of college in 2015.

“Because my husband … and I love to cook and host Thanksgiving, we thought it only made sense to open up the house and invite in the TD community,” Lui said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

At the community dinner the Monday before Thanksgiving, TD students also made gingerbread houses in small groups. These structures are now on display in the Thompson Room, which lies adjacent to the college’s dining hall.

Maya Kerfoot ’22, a student in TD, said she has attended this event for the past two years, as she typically stays on campus due to her varsity ice hockey commitment. Specifically she has always enjoyed joining the dinner which includes food, company and a competition for the best gingerbread house.

“There is a great turnout every year, always with a mixture of new and old faces. It’s a warm night of conversation and fun competition for the best gingerbread designs,” Kerfoot said.

Lui said she tries to create a familial setting for the Thanksgiving dinner, adding that even her mother participated by making spring rolls, which proved popular among attendees. Lui encouraged attendees to take home leftovers in compostable containers.

Jeacy Espinoza ’22, a Saybrugian who attended the Thanksgiving dinner at TD, said the dinner was “the most welcome I’ve ever felt at Yale,” and would like to attend it again in future years.

Although Lui had traditionally baked breads and desserts for the Thanksgiving dinner, she noted that they purchased pies this year from the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop to support its “To Feast and Share” fundraiser. This program uses its proceeds to fund scholarships for children assisted by Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services — a New Haven-based nonprofit refugee resettlement agency.

But TD is not alone in its goal to make students feel welcome over the holidays. Berkeley Head of College David Evans said that in his college, he hoped to recreate “a kind of atmosphere that reminds people of a long weekend at home.”

Like many other heads of college, Evans hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in his home with his family, students and other Berkeley College affiliates. Berkeley also provided breakfast, lunch and dinner in its Fellows Lounge on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Several colleges — including Pierson and Trumbull — continued longtime traditions of attending buffet meals at John Davenport’s restaurant, located on the 19th floor of the Omni Hotel. Heads of colleges and their families joined students there on Thursday to enjoy Thanksgiving lunch or dinner.

Davenport Head of College John Witt ensured the college’s student kitchen was stocked for those who remained on campus, so they could prepare their own meals over the break. He also led a community outreach trip to Saint Thomas More Chapel’s soup kitchen on Wednesday, where they served food to several hundred guests.

“We washed dishes like a well-oiled machine and helped dozens of people have the Thanksgiving meal they would have almost certainly missed out on otherwise,” said Bryan Mendoza ’21, a Davenport student who volunteered alongside Witt at the soup kitchen. “It felt amazing to be able to ignore all the business of college life and invest my time in helping others, even if it was just for one morning.”

Witt brings Davenport students to the soup kitchen every month, but he described November’s visit as “a special Thanksgiving break version.”

In addition, Witt hosted a dinner in his home.

“John Witt is an excellent host, and his dog Pixie was the life of the party!” Mendoza wrote in an email to the News. “Together with a few other students and visiting professors, we shared the Thanksgiving meal we wished we could have had with our families. The food, conversation and people were amazing, and I’m glad to have been able to spend Thanksgiving with them.”

Thanksgiving break began on Nov. 22, with classes resuming on Dec. 2.


Ako Ndefo-Haven |

David Guo |


Ako Ndefo-Haven currently serves as a copy editor. He previously covered Yale Hospitality and the Schwarzman Center as a staff reporter with the University Desk. Originally from Los Angeles, Ako is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in history.