Midnight Breakfast returns for Esteban’s last year


Kiersten Riedford

President A Gabriel Esteban serves scrambled eggs during Tuesday’s midnight breakfast.

The fifth annual Midnight Breakfast returned to DePaul’s campus for the first time since the pandemic May 24. About 1,013 students attended the study break for the end of the quarter.

The event, sponsored by the Office of Student Involvement (OSI) and the DePaul Activities Board (DAB), was free for all students and was helped run by Student Affairs staff volunteers and student employees.

To help students pile their plates high, Chartwells, sponsored syrupy pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage links and crispy tater tots served by faculty, staff and administrative volunteers, including DePaul president, A. Gabriel Esteban, and his wife, Josephine.

“My wife and I volunteer because it’s something we like to do,” Esteban said to the DePaulia. “It’s one way of serving the students and getting them ready for finals.”

Seniors, like Nikki Giatras, reflect fondly on the event in the past and present.

“I remember going to Midnight Breakfast as a freshman. It was around the end of fall quarter, so I feel full circle right now,” Giatras said. “…It’s lucky to be in a class that got to have one full normal year pre-Covid and one full, pretty normal year post-Covid.”

While upperclassmen may be familiar with the typically annual event, it’s foreign to underclassmen that didn’t have the chance to attend in previous years due to Covid-19.

Awareness of the event spread through word of mouth, according to freshman, Jasmine Martinez.

“Everyone was talking about it and I got curious and decided to come,” Martinez said.

DePaul also increased marketing efforts in the week preceding the event to help inform students, according to Tina Van Buren, coordinator of campus activities and student involvement.

“I came for the free food but also because it was marketed way more than other DePaul events,” freshman Alaina Wilson said.

DePaul also offered free giveaways and activities like LED bowling, a video game lounge, DIY crafts and coloring and limited Midnight Breakfast stickers and t-shirts. The event’s giveaways and activities change every year.

“You try to appeal to different personality types. Not everyone’s going to want to sit downstairs and listen to music, but I’ve seen people make amazing crafts…,” Van Buren said. “…Because it’s every year, you don’t want students seeing the same exact thing every single year, you want them to see the branding, the staple of it and what to expect.”

Van Buren ran the event in 2018 as a graduate assistant in traditions and affinity planning and took lead again this year.

The event also offered live performances for the first time. This included blues musician, Phillip-Michael Scales, playing his unique sound, defined as “dive bar soul.” He’s referred to as the nephew of blues legend, B.B. King, who was close friends with his aunt.

Socks Off, a DePaul student band, also played hit covers like Redbone by Childish Gambino and Valerie by Amy Winehouse. The audience reacted to performers Zeno Camera, Luke Gerskovich, Ryan Toomey and Enzo Goodrich with swaying, smiles and cheers. The band may have seemed familiar to students, having played at prior DePaul events, such as Sounds of Sheffield.

Midnight breakfast is an event for students to take a break and connect with the DePaul community. It encourages everyone to mingle, from students to faculty to alumni, and de-stress.

“It’s a way to show the students we want to take care of them, especially because of the timing, right before finals, so everyone can relax and have some protein and brain food, so to speak,” Esteban said. “That was the whole point of doing it and from our standpoint, it was a way to show we really are behind our students.”

It’s also largely centered on tradition. The first Midnight Breakfast was hosted Nov. 14, 2017, following the election of Esteban in July of 2017.

He conceptualized DePaul’s Midnight Breakfast and tasked the student affairs division. It was originally led by Gene Zdziarski, vice president for student affairs, and Courtney James, director of student involvement.

“A big part of it is connection and affinity building. You can go to college, go to class, do academics, but a huge part is experiences and it helps you feel tied to the University,” Van Buren said. “It makes alumni think fondly and want to come back…My favorite part about traditions is giving a chance to connect with each other and have fun.”

While Midnight Breakfast was intended to be an annual event, the pandemic had other plans. The event was shifted to a virtual setting in 2020 and didn’t occur in 2021, making its awaited return this year even longer.

“People are still a little worried because of the pandemic,” Esteban said. “You have to build from somewhere. It’s all been a lot of fun for us.”

The pandemic altered more than the event’s cancellation in past years, but also impacted this year’s planning. Typically, the Midnight Breakfast begins later, at 9 p.m. and goes to midnight. This year it started earlier, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. This is due to original plans to hold the event on the Lincoln Park Quad at an earlier time, on account of Covid-19. The goal is to move the event back to its original schedule, according to Van Buren.

In the past, Midnight Breakfast occurred at the end of the fall term, rather than this year’s abnormal timing, occurring at the end of spring quarter. They plan on shifting the event back to the original season, expecting to host another Midnight Breakfast in the fall of 2022.

Unlike previous years, food wasn’t offered in the dining hall. Connected rooms 120 A and B, and the second floor’s open areas offered seating to eat at. Since the event ran earlier this year, they couldn’t shut down the dining hall at regular hours. Set up for the event began around noon through 6 p.m. on Tuesday and clean up took an hour.

This year’s Midnight Breakfast was Esteban’s last as DePaul’s president. The tradition may not be longstanding, beginning in 2017 with his election, but has the potential to be a time honored practice.

“It depends on what the new president decides or not, but I think at this point there’s strong indication that it will continue,” Esteban said.

Van Buren is confident it’s here to stay past his presidency.

“I can confidently say Midnight Breakfast is not going anywhere,” Van Buren said. “It’s definitely one of our staple events and it’s so fun.”