‘Quick Conversations’ event helps faculty explain research
May 5, 2014Tweet
Speed dating for researchers? That’s what Quick Conversations was all about. More than a dozen faculty from multiple disciplines came together on April 25 to learn about each other’s research – very quickly.
Sitting across from temporary partners, each person had only two minutes to explain a current research project to a colleague before switching to listening mode for the next two minutes. Each partner pair then had only one minute for Q&A before rotating to totally new partners to start the process all over again.
“The basic idea is that, in a very short amount of time, we share something about our research,” said Bat-Ami Bar On, professor of philosophy; chair of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities; chair of the Citizenship, Rights and Cultural Belongings Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence (TAE); and organizer of the session. “You don’t get to be polite, but nobody should feel rejected. This is not about rejection; it’s about connection. At the end, we will be more connected than we are now.”
With two interns keeping time and filling in when there was an occasional open chair, the clock started.
Ninety minutes later, and after only a few “stop interrupting me” comments, the consensus was: Quick Conversations was a rousing success.
“This is the best hour and a half I have ever spent on this campus, and I’ve been here for 40 years,” said Susan Strehle, distinguished service professor of English and vice provost and dean of the Graduate School. “This should happen more. It’s fabulous. I’ve talked with people I’ve known for years and others I’ve just met and in both cases I’ve discovered things about their work and mine that we have in common and that I never knew. So many times we ended with, ‘Let’s have lunch!’ We should do this more often.”
Professor of Philosophy Anthony Preus said it was refreshing to learn what is uppermost in colleagues’ minds right now and how their work is going. “We don’t usually do that. We don’t just go into somebody’s office and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’
“I was curious to hear about what everyone else was doing,” he said. “And I have a certain amount of pride that I have things to say and talk about when I have a captive audience, if only for two minutes!”
The surprise for some was how much fun they had. “It was more fun than I had expected,” said Lubna Chaudhry, associate professor of human development, who characterized the session as more about engagement with each other’s work than actual collaboration. ”I really enjoyed talking to people about their research because we don’t do that and I enjoyed having the opportunity to talk about my research. I received good feedback from some colleagues and promised to be in touch via e-mail.”
Bar On expects this was the first of many more sessions, some with faculty and others with graduate students. Strehle said plans are under way to incorporate conversations about transdisciplinary initiatives involving the University’s five TAEs into orientation for new faculty in August.
“The TAEs will be invited to talk with the new faculty about the ways these trans-disciplinary groups stimulate intellectual synergies across the disciplines,” Strehle said. “During breakout sessions, each TAE will have a chance to introduce its focusing ideas or themes to the new faculty, who will then be invited to affiliate with groups working on parallel projects across disciplinary boundaries from the orientation onward.”