It is reassuring to see that Reedies will take care of one another even after they graduate
Paul Messick ‘15 got in touch a while back. Paul won the award for Most Switchboard Members Contacted last year. We love hearing from Paul. And he was freaking out about Tony Fisher’s ‘80 Charm School. “I went to it last year and was absolutely blown away. The entire presentation was bursting with real world advice about how to thrive professionally,” Paul wrote. An endorsement if we’ve ever heard one.
Tony talks about being an effective public speaker, asking more powerful questions, dealing with rejection, table manners, and leveraging alumni. As Tony says, these are skills he wishes someone had taught him at Reed or in grad school. Here’s Tony’s Switchboard Hearts page.
You can learn more about the 9/29 event sponsored by Career Services over here. You need to RSVP by today, 9/26.
Let me say this: when I was a student I never would have attended Tony’s talk. “Pshaw, why do I need to know any of that?” But it turns out this is one of the only times an adult comes to Reed and talks to you about how to be in the world and gives you advice on interacting with other people. Other people who do not live in the library, scrounge, and stay up all night reading Lorca. Other people that will greet you when you toss that tasseled hat and walk off campus. It also turns out that you can learn these lessons now, at Reed, risk free, from a generous alumnus. Or learn them over years, by trial an error, later, at your first job, depressed and overwhelmed, from cynical strangers or ornery office mates. That is our humble pitch.
Someone go and tell us what you learned and what you thought.
XO + Love Reed
The Switchboard tries to support every Kickstarter project by Reed College alumni. We’ve received so many fantastic thank you goodies and wanted to post a little round up of them here.
From top to bottom:
A photo from “Shock and Awe” by Ethan Rafal ‘07(122% funded)
“True Believer,” a comic by Lucy Bellwood ‘12 (777% funded)
“Lines on the Map,” a zine about bicycles by Elly Blue ‘06 (105% funded)
A screenshot from Rubicon, Josephy Perry’s ‘13 (aka Wick) hand-drawn computer game (260% funded)
Most importantly: if you are an alum launching a Kickstarter campaign please tell us so we can support it and spread the word.
You guys! Today was convocation! Do you remember waiting your entire life for that moment when your parents dropped you off at college? When you simultaneously felt free and wanted to throw up? That happened for hundreds of Reedies today.
We did a little project to ease the throwing up part, and remind Freshmen that they are but the newest members of an awesome family. You know those Switchboard Hearts photos? Well we turned them into stickers and then stickered New Reed with the friendly faces + passions of Old Reed. Kieran ‘15 and Alex ‘14 also anointed new Reed president John Kroeger. The sticker he chose? BRAINS, appropriately. XOlovereed
This is the follow up to the request we posted here about fostering gratitude.
Thank you all SO much for weighing in. What a great experiment in crowdsourcing Switchboard policy. We’ll be doing more of it in the future. [Thanks especially to antoniaeh, goesitso and guerilladanceparty for your thoughts.]
We heard from you that, above all, expectations should be clear and the list should not be public. Check and check.
You know from us that there is no way we can track and send individual email reminders to every person who asks for help and handhold and prod and nudge them to say thank you. That would be insane.
So here’s a draft of the system. Please weigh in.
STEP 1: Any Reedie who asks for help gets a reply that looks something like this:
STEP 2: That link in the email goes to this page where expectations are clearly spelled out.
STEP 3: If we don’t get a simple thank you back, or we hear from a grouchy alum, first name + last initial + class year goes on the list.
Thanks + what do you think?
The other day we got this email from Superhost Jennifer Caamano ‘12:
I just wanted to give some positive feedback for the host program. Colin ‘11 left a couple of days ago, after interviewing for a graduate program at University of California, Riverside. We went to a pizza parlor, narrowly avoided karaoke, watched a movie, chatted about the downfall of modern society, etc. As he put it, “I was confident I could enjoy at least one day with any Reedie.” I just really appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the community from afar, even when I’m not at a place where I can donate to the Reed Fund. And it was great to spend time with a Reedie again.
I’m definitely looking forward to being a host again, and when the time comes that I’ll be the hosted.
Again, thanks for creating this program! It’s a lovely thing for everyone involved.
There are so many things to love about this it’s hard to know where to begin. Jennifer: thank you for being such an awesome host and taking the time to write. Colin, thank you for summing up this enterprise so beautifully. Namely: that we’re all pretty confident we could enjoy at least one day with any Reedie. Which is exactly what the Switchboard is about. Take note that this is a ‘12 grad helping an ‘11 grad. New Reed: your generosity leaves us speechless and inspired.
So now comes the part where we ask you for advice.
A lot of you have reached out and you’ve been wonderful. You’ve made our Switchboard dreams come true. You’ve asked for contacts, places to stay, advice, ideas, leads, suggestions. You’ve followed up. You’ve thanked the people who’ve helped you. You’ve been gracious and grateful, knowing that every bridge you burn with an alum is one fewer bridge available to another Reedie in need. Thank you for being awesome.
Thanking people for their generosity of time and spirit is, after all, what the Honor Principle looks like beyond Reed. It is very simple. It is very profound. It is what makes the Switchboard work. Without prompt replies, enthusiastic expressions of gratitude and an excessive use of exclamation points, everything falls to pieces. Alumni get grumpy and we have to suffer through emails about “kids these days.”
But there are also some of you who — for whatever reason — refuse to follow up. A list of Superhosts is emailed to you within minutes of your request, and you never reply to that email with a simple “Thanks!” An alumna meets with you and then sends a long list of professional contacts, names, email addresses, and you never thank her. A Superhost opens up his/her home and then never hears from you again about if/when you’re arriving. The excuse “I’m busy” just doesn’t fly, because we’re all busy. It’s cool. Things are hectic. It may take you a week to reply. But not replying is not an option. The Switchboard doesn’t have time to babysit and we’ve been pretty clear about the protocol.
[You may be all, “why so uptight, man?” And here’s why: if I put you in touch with someone in my professional network and you don’t follow up I look like an asshole. I look like someone who routinely endorses flakes. This reflects poorly on me and my work. That person starts thinking “maybe she’s actually a flake, too.” You endanger me ever, like, working with or asking a favor of that person ever again.]
So here’s what we’re considering: there will be a gentle but public announcement for falling asleep on the job like this. Unless you guys have a better idea, it will come in the form of an online list of dishonor/”time for you to pony up the gratitude, friend.” And names will stay on that list until we receive proof that all is well, bridges are mended, people feel appreciated.
Does this sound draconian? Perhaps. But did you know that at other schools the lack of follow up can mean being blacklisted from using the alumni network forever? Mosey on over to Brandeis’ Hiatt Career Center Integrity Contract.
[Climbing off of soapbox still with a heart full of love.]
Do you have a better idea for holding Reedies accountable?
The FBI first came to Reed in 1953 to interview the faculty and administrators. The main person that they wanted to speak with was the admission director, Bob Canon, who had just been appointed dean of students by President Ballantine in the fall of 1953. They made Canon tell them which other people at Reed were Reds. Canon later told friends and relatives that testifying was the worst thing he had ever done. They believed that he cooperated only because the FBI threatened to expose his homosexuality.
A story that took place in 1953 as remembered by Michael Munk ‘56 which can be found in Comrades of the Quest.
I’ve never really heard the politics of my professors. Sure, the curriculum might reflect their beliefs, but I wouldn’t know if a professor was Communist or even Atheist. Yet some professors are comfortable with the student body knowing their sexual orientation. I recall at the end of Edward Segel’s “Origins of the Second World War” class one year, Ed gave students a chance to ask him any question. One student through rumor had heard that Ed ran down the halls, telling everyone he was gay, once he received his tenure. Ed chuckled, then made a comment hinting that at least part of the rumor was true. It is good to know our professors can trust us with such knowledge about themselves.
Alex Cherin ‘12
Also!: Shout-out to Reed Switchboard. It’s so nice to know there are alum who have our backs pretty much anywhere we go. Love Reed.
The best reason to ask a question is to contribute to the quality of the discussion that has already begun. You can do this if you can draw something more and perhaps unexpected out of the speaker you are addressing. “Mr. Rasputin, I admire your tunic. Do you consider fashion to be a revolutionary statement?”
Think of yourself as someone who seeks to enhance the occasion, rather than as an opportunity to show yourself to advantage. “Mr. Darwin, your description of odd wildlife in the Galapagos Islands is fascinating. Do you think evolution works differently on large continents?”
You have not been invited to give a speech. Before you stand up, boil your thoughts down to a single point. Then ask yourself if this point is something you want to assert or something you want to find out. There are exceptions, but if your point falls into the category of assertion, you should probably remain seated. “Mr. Nixon, you are unworthy of being president,” is not a question. “Mr. Nixon, what else would you have done as president if Watergate hadn’t gotten in the way?” is a question.
Question periods are not really the right time to ask for factual details. You are not interviewing the speaker. “Mr. Hillary, what brand of shoes were you wearing when you topped Everest?” is a real question but not one that is likely to enhance the discussion. There are exceptions to this, as when the fact you ask about evokes a larger meaning. “Mr. Hillary, what do you consider was the most important piece of equipment you carried in your assault on Mt. Everest?”
Likewise, never offer up a roll call of your own facts or belabor them into a Perry Mason pseudo-question. “Mr. Malthus, are you aware that as economic development proceeds, birth rates decline, and that crop yields can be multiplied by a factor of x with the proper use of fertilizers, genetically-enhanced hybrid species, and market-based incentives?”
Weigh the usual interrogatory words in English: who, what, where, why, when. If you can begin your sentence with one of these you are more than half-way to a good question. “Who gave you that scar, Mr. Potter?” “What is a black hole, Mr. Hawking?” “Where is the Celestial City, Mr. Bunyan?” “Why are you wearing that letter, Ms. Prynne?” “When will our troops come home, Mr. Lincoln?”
You will discover that, if you think in terms of these simple interrogatories, you will be able to skip right over the prologue. The right question evokes its own context. If, having formulated a question, you still think you need to set the stage for it, try again.
Don’t engage in meta-speech. “I was wondering, Ms. Steinem, if I might ask you a question that I am really curious about.” Go directly to the question. “Ms. Steinem, who is the man you admire the most?”
Look at the person you are addressing. Speak your question directly; don’t read it. Wait for the answer before you sit down. Don’t try to ask a follow-up question. If the speaker evaded your question the first time, he will evade it again. If the audience applauds your question, you are grandstanding and have failed an important test of civility.
The best questions are poised between attentiveness to what the speaker has already said and the chance to deepen the discussion. That means you should not try to introduce a divergent topic. “I appreciate your analysis of the space-shuttle disaster, Mr. Feynman, but are you not morally troubled by your work on the atomic bomb?” attempts to wrench the discussion to a new place. But, “Mr. Feynman, your analysis of the space-shuttle disaster shows the frailty of human judgment. How do you think that bears on other areas of advanced technology?” builds on the theme at hand.
A few people have a gift for witty, memorable questions. You probably aren’t one of them. It doesn’t matter. A concise, clear question is an important contribution in its own right.
And above all: ASK MORE, TALK LESS.