Keri Stephens' Blog

Intellectual Adrenaline Junkie experiencing & studying this communication technology-filled world!

Spring 2014: Understanding Student Meetings on Campus

Ignacio and I are working on an extensive student meetings project.

Ignacio and I are working on an extensive student meetings project.

Spring 2014:  Student Meetings Undergraduate Research Team 

Ignacio Cruz and I have been studying student meetings for a year now and this spring we have a team that will tackle this interesting research challenge.  We are tying to understand how student meetings (using technology and Face-to-Face) can contribute to the development of social capital.  Ignacio and I have some survey data that we are analyzing, but our team will be focused on collecting interview data with students on campus.  It should be fun project and we have an amazing team!!!  The graduate student on the team is Eric Waters.  In addition to Ignacio, a junior at UT Austin, we have three freshman who are learning about social science research to see if this is something that interests them.

What does it mean to “meet?”

In the past few weeks, people have scheduled meetings with me and when it came time to “meet,” I got Skype calls. Meeting through Skype or teleconferencing is not a new phenomenon, but the way we use the word “meet” seems to be shifting. In the past we clarified our meeting location in addition to the time. I wonder if there is an assumption made of knowledge workers that they will have computer or mobile access when the meeting time happens? As a professor, I am still required to hold office hours, and I often assume that people will come in person to “meet” with me. But this is changing. I want to meet my students, but face-to-face is not always their preference or priority. Sometimes the students are out of town and or permanently geographically distant, and meetings mediated by a device seem to be nice option.

I’m not a linguist, but since I study meetings, I find this shift fascinating. I wonder if this word will become the conversation equivalent of a Southerner’s use of the word “coke” (the equivalent of soda or soft drink.) In the South, we often follow the request for a “coke” with the phrase, “what kind.” To which I always reply, “a diet coke or a sparkling water.” Perhaps in the future people will ask for a meeting and we will need to ask what kind. Then we will know to plug in our desktop video camera and be ready to Skype away when the meeting starts.

Lean In Led to a Great Discussion!

I had a wonderful group of 25 young women in my book club group at the Freshman Reading Round-Up! One thing that made this group so dynamic was the varied experiences they have had. We had international students, women with diverse cultural backgrounds, people from small private high schools and some from huge high schools. They all seemed to get a lot from the book and from the conversation. As they start their journey at UT Austin, I hope this conversation helps them think about how and when they will want to Lean In to their classes and their career choices. Good luck to a great group of young women who are well poised to Change the World!

Freshman have a wonderful attitude!

After one week of classes, I am so energized by my great group of freshman in my signature course. They participate, they are curious, and I’m confident we will learn a ton this semester. They will start observing student organizational meetings this week, and we all look forward to learning more about campus life and how those meetings function.

Emergency Response Focus Groups

I just fininish my 10th focus group on communication technology use and emergency communication. I had amazing groups of business owners, business managers, government managers, and nonprofit organizations who participated in one set of focus groups. I also got the perspective from staff, night shift workers, and students. There are obviously some similarities between the groups, but I am amazed at how many different types of work and school environments people experience. Several work enviroments cut off internet access during work hours to help their employees focus on their job. Other work environments make internet access and the latest social media tools an integral part of work. This is not suprising because jobs vary in how much workers need to connect with the outside world. It is important to remember that emergency communicator cannot assume that people have mobile devices and they are always connected. Many people do not have smart phones, and some have lost them. Just because we see and hear so much about apps, social media, and mobile tools, we cannot forget that access is not universal.

Stakeholders in Emergency Response Communication

While I was attending the 2013 International Communication Association Conference in London, I got to meet with the London Metropolitan Police Department and learn about their stakeholder approach to emergency communication. They have a great philosophy about including the community and business owners in the communication path for urgent situations. They really worked with this philosophy during the Olympics and their strategies of incorporating social media into the communication process are solid best practices. I look forward to continuing the conversation and conducting some research on my own concerning a stakeholder approach to emergency communication. This resonates well with my organizational communication research. I appreciate Trevor Wheatley-Perry of Vocal in the UK for helping arrange the visit and my college Cindy Posey also traveled from Texas to attend the meeting.

Technology Trends in Interviewing

I was preparing to teach interviewing for my internship class and I’ve updated my content substantially this year. For example, this recent article suggests that some companies might use tweets in addition to or in place of resumes. While this might be an isolated case, I think it is a useful exercise to summarize “you” in 140 characters and in as few as 6. I was recently asked to summarize my work life in 6 words and it was really hard. I finally came up with: Biochemist turned social scientist, loves learning. Try it and see if it helps you crystalize what is important to you.

There are many trends in interviewing and hiring today. In my class we will also talk about Skype interviews, current trends of being interviewed by a computer through the Web, phone interviews, and making a substantial first impression.

Emergency Notification Study in HCR

My research on how people used combinations of technologies to receive emergency response notifications will appear in Human Communication Research in April 2013 (but an early version is on their website now). If you want to hear me describe this research and provide some of the background, feel free to check this out. My team found that multiple messages matter when we are trying to help people realize the urgency of the situation. There are differences between whether people receive the notification through an asynchronous communication channel like a text message or through synchronous channels like an in-person conversation. Those differences are discussed in detail in the article.

Spring 2013 Projects

I am excited about the work that my undergraduate research team is conducting. We are examining student leadership and meetings. We will be reviewing the academic literature on this topic, but we hope to create content that is readable, but grounded in research.

New Meetings Undergraduate Signature Course

I am very excited to be working with my undergraduate students who are a part of my Meetings Course. They are exploring student organizations on the UT campus and attending a wide variety of meetings. As the semester unfolds, they will be able to assess the quality and quantity of these student organization meetings and write a final case study for the class. The peer mentor for my class, Sarah Classen, is a wonderful resource for the students because she knows the campus very well. Once I teach this class a few times, I hope we can create a guide for student organizations that will help them run more effective meetings.

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