Views from the Graduate Seminar

By Rachel Brooks, GCC Fellow & PhD Student

As the Global Change program develops, so do the required courses for the PhD-students and Fellows. This year we added a new “advanced” seminar session that is student lead and designed. After a few introductory seminars lead by Jeff Walters and Bruce Hull, we (the students) spent time brainstorming and planning the rest of the semester. With the help of numerous sticky notes and a few whiteboard markers, our seminar agenda emerged: practicing science communication, increasing diversity in our programs, building interdisciplinary teams, and learning about career options. One of our ideas was to practice communication skills by blogging about the seminar: hence this post!

To start our semester off, we attended a local political meeting to get a firsthand look at how citizens communicate with policy makers. So, on February 22, we found ourselves at the New River Valley Indivisible’s Town Hall Meeting for Morgan Griffith (Virginia’s 9th District Congressman).

A few things made this meeting a little unique: (1) Mr. Griffith did not attend, so we were unable to hear any of his responses to any questions and (2) the meeting, which was advertised as being nonpartisan, felt more like a rally then we expected. But by the end, we all gained appreciation of those able to communicate respectfully and clearly to others. During the next seminar meeting we discussed how citizens voiced their concerns. We all agreed that individuals who asked for a specific change (ex: to provide healthcare or for gun control laws) had their voice heard with the most clarity. That is a lesson we’ve also heard in some of the communication workshops organized by the GCC—your message should have “an ask.”

We also spend time in seminar practicing our communication skills. This included stating our research goals while stressing different values (such as equality and fairness, care and protection, loyalty and patriotism, respect for authority, and purity and sanctity) as discussed in this TedTalk.

We look forward to continuing to share our experiences and discussions from this seminar with the rest of the community!