Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of EM Forster’s novels, the restrained and deliberate prose, the precision on his word choices, the delicate characterization that surprises the reader with its immense depth. Those friends of mine also know that one of my favourite quotes (the one my daughter painted for me in the Doctor Who language of Gallifrey…because in our house we appreciate the intersectionality of geek and literature) is Only Connect from Forster’s Howard’s End.
Years ago when I was freelancing, I had a company called Only Connect which provided communications services for entrepreneurs. I’m a believer in the power of connection…in multiple ways.
And if there is one thing we/I struggle with right now it is that sense of connection. It’s not impossible just more challenging.
This was brought home to me in a discussion with a student this week who emailed and said she’d like to take me up on the pep talk I offered. We chatted on video on Teams, and it was good to have that one on one, that real talk about how things are going. One of the key themes emerging was that she is–like many of us–craving connection. With her professors, with her classmates.
So this week, I am putting aside time in Communications to implement “only connect” discussion boards, where students can engage with each other on topics of common interest completely unrelated to the course. We will set up little hubs and students can start there, and if desired, share contact information for more personal connection opportunities. In this way, I think we will find a way through the isolation and lack of community that so many students – especially in first year are facing.