New student-led initiative: Coffee Chats

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed the second in a series of event announcements, each of which invited students to come and chat, over coffee, with a professor or fellow student.  Great idea!  So I contacted the organizer, Ameya, for details.  Ameya told me:

The idea for these chats came about from a conversation early last year between some of us who had Prof. Chayes as our faculty adviser.  She has, as you know, a wealth of experience; we were all interested in learning more about her career and interests, but it was hard to do this in ten-to-fifteen minute office hour conversations, plus it was repetitive for Prof. Chayes, as well.  So we set up a combined chat for an hour or so, which all her advisees attended, and it was a tremendously valuable and informative experience.

Based off that, I started setting up similar chats — maybe once a month — with other professors.  At some point, it also became clear there were students and alumni with valuable experience in specific areas, so this year I’ve started alternating between faculty and student/alumni speakers.  I’ve consistently found the sessions both valuable, as well as reassuring, in that everyone has had a roundabout path to where they currently are in their careers.

Sessions last year were with Professors Babbitt, Wilkinson, and Johnstone, and one alumnus.  This semester, we’ve met with two current students and Prof. Moomaw.

I really love this idea, especially the conversations with students, which formalizes the commonly stated opinion that there’s much to be learned from one’s peers here.  Plus, it’s an example of how a student can create a new Fletcher tradition, and I hope that Ameya’s idea will be carried forward even after he has graduated.

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