Cup One

person: Pat—the new director of the Bailey Scholars Program

drink: cup of brewed Maxwell House

I decided to do this blog back in April but waited until July to start. For a multitude of reasons.

Finals week was fast approaching, I was preparing for a six-week study abroad program in Europe, and after a full year of classes, lectures, assignments, papers, and exams, my brain was about as useful as a toaster in the middle of the ocean.

July seemed like the perfect time to start the project so I marked the start date on my calendar, put the idea on a cluttered shelf in my brain, and said bon voyage to America. After six weeks spent enjoying good food and fine wine in Paris, Barcelona, and Italy (and a few weeks recovering) I felt refreshed and ready for this crazy adventure to start. Or so I thought. After I wrote the initial blog post, reality sunk in:

I have to actually email someone and make a plan for coffee.

Of course that thought had crossed my mind during the planning process, but there is a big gap between thinking about something and actually doing it. Like a rickety old rope bridge strung across canyon suspended a hundred feet over a rushing river. It was time to take the first step—leave the solid ground of the thinking side—and head in the direction of doing.

Luckily, a great opportunity presented itself that made the first step a little easier. I’m involved with the Bailey Scholars Program on campus, which is an active community of students working towards a specialization in connected learning. It’s an incredible program that can’t be summed up in a few sentences. Anyways, back to the point, the program director is leaving this fall to pursue a PhD. The new director, Pat, just started coming into the office to learn the ropes so the leadership transition is seamless.

Last week, I was hanging out in the Bailey space when I met Pat for the first time. I’m frequently in the Bailey space and I knew over the course of the upcoming school year I would slowly get to know the new director, but it occurred to me that she would be a perfect start to the project. Why not invite her to coffee, get to know her sooner rather than later, and offer her a warm welcome to her new position.

And that’s exactly what happened. Wednesday morning, we met in the Bailey space, enjoyed a cup of coffee from the Bailey coffee maker (a frequent lifesaver in my life) and got to know each other.

We talked about our backgrounds, the number of siblings we had, where we grew up, what we did for fun, our mutual love for dogs, and a host of other topics that moved us from strangers to acquaintances. Now when we see each other in the space, we won’t just exchange polite hellos. Instead, I can ask her how her two labs are doing or give her an update on one of the projects I told her about. I can also be a familiar face to answer one of the hundreds of questions she’ll likely have as she gets to know her way around the community in the next few months.

Change is never easy. When the current director goes, he will leave big shoes to fill and the atmosphere of the community will be decidedly different, but after having coffee with Pat I am not as nervous about the transition. Now I have a better idea what to expect and I know I am going to like the new director.

I’m going to call the first cup a success. I had an enjoyable time and realized that if I know I am going to be spending a lot of time working with some new, taking a casual hour to get to know the person is a great way to kick things off on the right foot.