Internal Communications Entry #1

I just spent a wonderful evening with three faculty members and some of their children - yummy food, followed by multiple rounds of Apples to Apples. It was my first time playing, and I was left feeling that the game probably doesn't get any better than when playing with other Oberlin people. Much hilarity, as you might imagine.

This is the sort of thing that has made me dream about coming back to Oberlin for ten years - the people in this community and the spectrum of conversations and experiences they have together. This brings me to the topic of today's entry - how can creative communications widen that spectrum?

Hopefully you've seen my entry on the forthcoming exciting fall events. I discovered tonight, almost by accident, that none of my dining companions knew much about any of them. On top of that, they all felt strongly that many faculty would be interested in incorporating these events into the syllabi of their fall classes if given enough advance notice.

Much conversation followed. The low-hanging fruit here is of course the launch of a proper homepage and events calendar, which will be coming soon. But I got the sense that while these would help attendance in general, faculty might not think to look at October's calendar when planning their syllabi over the summer, and the chance for any synergy between the events calendar and the classroom might therefore be lost.

My companions seemed hopeful that we would find a way to push event info for the coming semester to faculty as soon as an event is confirmed (i.e. over the summer for fall semester events). I'll give this some thought. Mass emails are generally discouraged; do any of you have thoughts on other reliable ways to reach faculty?

This is only one of many examples, really the tip of the iceberg in terms of what our goals should be related to internal communications. I've heard from a variety of professors since my appointment was announced, and their requests share common themes. To boil it down, they all want to know what their colleagues in other departments are working on, thinking about, bringing to campus. With more strategic internal communications, they'd be able to support each other more deliberately, learn more from each other, reduce the competition for audiences when scheduling events, etc. The Source has made great strides, but much more is still needed.

Friends, together we will improve this. My office will need some time - this isn't going to happen overnight - but it's high on the list.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear more from you (especially faculty) on this topic. If you feel inspired to respond, please do so below.

Responses To This Entry:

I'm certainly no expert on this, but it seems to me that there are 2 essential elements of good intra-organizational communication. First, there has to be some desirable consequences of better communication (i.e. answering the need for "what's in it for me?"). Second, people have to be willing to put in at least SOME effort to participate in the communication, and the effort can't be too great.

For example, a campus wide events calendar won't do me any good if there's nothing on the calendar that I'm interested in. And an events calendar won't help me if I'm unwilling or unable to easily access it.

At Oberlin, we are fortunate to have LOTS of events and activities that will appeal to any audience. But perhaps we don't make them appealing enough. Maybe we should market the events better - make them sound more appealing. Make them easier to appreciate.

A few years ago I sat in on Sylvin Suskin's Music History 101 class. It was wonderful, and it gave me an opportunity to learn some of the background that made attending OC music events more appealing. I suggest that (for example) noon time "mini" classes, for OC faculty/staff/students/others, could greatly increase interest in the scholarly and artistic events that happen daily on campus. This would naturally create better venues and opportunities for informal communication.

Just some thoughts..... I've got more.....

John Bucher

Posted by: John Bucher on September 4, 2008 12:02 PM