Meetings – 7.23.21
Letter from Dean Sive - July 23, 2021

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,

When was your first meeting? Preschool maybe, when you were in the Moonbeam class? Morning Meeting, with a hello song and what was going to happen that day. You picked at your socks, drew on the soles if you had a crayon. Because Morning Meeting was a little slow. And you wanted to get going and do stuff, preferably pedal a tricycle on the outside track as fast as possible.

The actual first meeting must have been very long ago, when groups of people living in the same place wanted to share information. Ancient Greeks set aside the ‘agora’, a place for meetings that became a signature of urban communities. To complete this history, the etymology of ‘meeting’ is Old English ‘mētan’ – which means to come upon, possibly an enemy, or to encounter.

In the College of Science we broker lots of encounters through meetings. Meetings have a bad reputation – useless, waste of time, too many, are common complaints. But I love well organized meetings that have a point (scroll down in the link to ‘Meeting for Success’). Snappy, carefully led meetings give useful information, unexpected insights and important ideas. Seminars, especially those not in your field, often introduce a technique helpful for your research, and casual meetings are great ways to exchange the latest data.

Over the past 16 pandemic months, we’ve conducted most of our meetings online, and hooray for that ability. But as we move rapidly to fully on campus or hybrid work, we need some meeting strategies. In person is preferable – attendees are more ‘present’ and focused. Sometimes remote meetings will remain the best option – COS Community Meetings will stay on Zoom, so our entire faculty and staff can be there. Going forward, Colloquia can readily include distinguished speakers from around the world since they do not have to make the long trip here, who present on Zoom to an in-person audience.

Beyond talks, the notion of hybrid meetings with some in person and some remote participants sounds attractive but making these inclusive is technologically challenging. We are working with ITS to equip selected COS rooms with speakers and screens that will facilitate hybrid meetings, in pilot experiments. Please think carefully about your Unit or Group meetings: what format will bring the most attendance, how can everyone attending have equal opportunity to contribute, and what structure will promote the most vibrant discussion? Let’s use next semester to try out meeting formats, and let’s pool our data as we go along to uncover creative, effective mechanisms. You will be able to check whether you have the right meeting design because no-one will be drawing on their socks!

Please remember that we have designated MONDAY AUGUST 16 as full re-opening for the College of Science. At this time, you should be back on campus, unless you have a hybrid work option. If you are not vaccinated, now is the time!  COVID vaccines are readily available, incredibly effective and wonderfully safe. To those of you teaching in Summer terms, thank you! To those of you working so hard in research groups or admin, thank you! Please enjoy the rest of summer and take some time off. ​​​​​​​

Have a pleasant summer weekend!

Best regards,

dean signature

Hazel Sive PhD
Dean, College of Science
Northeastern University