September 2020: From Beth Fisher-Yoshida

Dear SPS Faculty,

The beginning of a new semester is an opportunity to think about the type of community we want to build with our constituents; students, other faculty, staff members, alumni, within SPS, across Columbia University, our profession, and so on. We may not be aware that this is what we are doing if we think about completing a series of tasks to get from point A (start of semester) to point B (end of the semester). However, our courses are embedded within the framework of our programs, which are embedded in the system of the school, university, and other bigger systems, showing that what we do does not float in isolation, rather it is very connected.

If we think of our mini-systems as communities that are built of relationships, then the quality of our relationships influence the types of communities we build. If we want to improve our relationships then one way of doing that is by improving our communication. This can be done by looking at the patterns we create in our communication with others.

In the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM), a practical communication theory developed by V. Cronen and W. B. Pearce, we look at the patterns of communication rather than through communication as a means to an end. We often ask the question, “What are we making together?” because we believe communication is dynamic and we are co-constructing our social worlds (communities) together in our communication.

So if we take the new norm, hy-flex, we can ask ourselves “What are we making this semester in ‘how we be together’ in this course?” What kind of experience are we co-creating in relationship? What is the value added for all directly and indirectly engaged? How are we meeting the many expectations placed on us?

We are individually and collectively being asked to stretch, adjust and accommodate and it is interesting to reframe from a mindset of loss that some of us may be feeling, to instead a mindset of gain, as many of us identify ways in which we are experiencing benefits of this new way of being, much to our surprise. It is a good practice to reflect on the quality of the experience we co-create in each interaction and class we teach. We do have agency in creating the community we want so use that power to be intentional in how you communicate.

Thank you,

Beth Fisher-Yoshida