Save the Dates: March 22–26, 2021

While you wait for our next preview days, you may watch recordings from our most recent event and take a virtual campus tour below.

A young man riding his bike along the ocean near Monterey.

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Recordings

Recordings will be posted below as they become available and we will notify everyone who has signed up.

Where Do We Go From Here? (Opening Session with the Dean of the Institute)

This year has been challenging for all of us. The timely relevance and usefulness of a Middlebury Institute education have never been greater. Dean of the Institute, Jeff Dayton-Johnson discusses the role you can play and how the Middlebury Institute will help you make a meaningful impact for the greater good.

- Alright. Well, let’s go ahead and get started. Well, first of all, hello, my name is Devin Lueddeke. I’ll be your host today. So thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate having you here. And this is the first event. The kickoff event for our virtual preview days of this week. So we hope that you’ll attend some of the future events as well. Before we get started, just a few quick technical notes. You should see audio and video icons in the lower left corner of the Zoom screen. Many of you may be all too familiar with the Zoom platform at this point. But just to note, we do have your microphones muted for the session, but your camera is enabled. So feel free to turn that on. It’s nice to see who’s joining us today. And we’re really gonna be taking advantage of the chat function for much of our interactions during this discussion. So hopefully everyone can use that chat function. And just to get us started, if you don’t mind typing into the chat box, where you’re tuning in from today. It’s always nice to see where people are coming from around the globe. And as those responses coming in, just a quick note, of course, we’re working from home during this pandemic. So please forgive me, frankly, if you happen to hear a weed whacker, I think one of my neighbors is, you know, trying to do some trimming right now. So if you happen to hear that noise, I apologize. Or if you hear dogs barking, you know, my two-year-old son crying, sorry for all of that in advance. But bear with us and we’ll have a good discussion, nonetheless. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce our speaker. And by the way, great to see folks chiming in from all over the country and the world too. We’re seeing folks from the UK, Cambridge, the original one, Chicago, Santa Fe, California, Ohio. So that’s great. That’s a lot of fun for us to see that. But now let me pass the microphone, virtual microphone to our Vice President and Dean of the Institute, Dr. Jeff Dayton-Johnson.

- Thank you, Devin. And good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. Whatever time of day or night it might be. In this Zoom era, we need a new greeting. Because all of our greetings are time of day specific. So whatever time it is, I hope it’s going well for you wherever you are. And of course the second Zoom greeting is always, “Could you mute yourself, please mute yourself. We’re getting some feedback.” So with all of those formal greetings out of the way, I just want to say I’m really grateful to all of you for your interest in the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, for showing up to this virtual preview day. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for you to get a really good idea about what it is that we do here. Starting in this session. Because we will have some time for some Q&A and I’m gonna be really pleased to answer your questions about the Middlebury Institute experience. I have a couple of comments I wanted to start with. And I wanted to say a couple of things. One is tell you a little bit about the nature of our institution and what it is that we try to help students do, and why that’s so relevant right now. And secondly, to talk a little bit about our plans for the spring semester, for those of you who are considering starting your experience with us in the spring semester of next year. That will be of particular importance. So, you know, the last time that we had a commencement exercise in person was in May of 2019. We had one in December, but the big one, the big one that we do at the end of the academic year, in May of 2019. And we typically have our commencement exercise on the lawn at Colton Hall. Colton Hall, it’s across the street from the Institute, downtown Monterey. It’s a 19th century building. It was the place at which the first constitution of the state of California was written in 1849. It was written simultaneously in English and Spanish. Very historic place, very historic setting for our commencement. And at the May 2019 commencement, our honorary degree recipient, and our keynote speaker was Ben Jealous. And Ben Jealous was the former executive and press executive officer, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP, one of the most historic civil rights organizations in the United States. And Ben Jealous also grew up on the Monterey Peninsula. So he’s got a local connection as well. But a national and indeed an international leader. And he said a couple of interesting things to our graduates at that particular commencement. He said that it was incumbent upon them to be builders of a better future. This was in May 2019. He also said that they should seek to be healers. And I thought at the time he had pegged our students and our mission perfectly. What we seek to do, is to train you to be builders of a better future. To equip you, because you’re already seeking to be builders of a better future. We would like to help you become better equipped and seasoned and ready to do that work and to be healers. Another interesting thing about the May 2019 commencement. For the first time in our history, since the Institute founded in 1955, it rained. It rained on us. And it’s outdoors and everybody was getting soaked. And we thought this is the most terrible thing that could ever happen to a commencement. At least next year in May 2020, everything will be back to normal. Well, little did we know, needless to say in May 2020, our commencement was a virtual one. It was a beautiful ceremony in fact. And I think people were grateful to be able to celebrate the achievement of our graduates at that online commencement exercise. But all the more reason to go back to what Ben Jealous said to our students a year before. We need to be builders of a better future, and we need to be healers. This world is broken. This world is broken, and we are training people to address that broken world. That’s something that perhaps a dental school would not say to you. Dental school, they train you to do something important, which is to fix people’s teeth and take care of it. But this is really our moment, as a school which trains leaders and builders of a better world. This world has been racked by a global pandemic. A pandemic which is not getting better as we talk today. That global pandemic has been accompanied by an economic catastrophe, by a recession in the United States, by hardships around the world. If that weren’t enough, we’ve seen an exacerbation of environmental catastrophes. Right here in the state of California. And not just in California, in Oregon and Washington and Colorado as well. And I see that many of you are joining us from some of those states. We’ve had wildfires out of control all summer. Continuing to burn in some parts of the state. We’ve had increased hurricane activity on the Gulf Coast, still striking so many people here in the United States. So we’ve got a public health disaster. We’ve got an economic catastrophe. We have an exacerbation of environmental crises. We need to rebuild this world. And the Middlebury Institute is a place where people who want to be a part of that rebuilding effort can come. Whether that happens in communities or on the global scale. But I want to come back to something else that Ben Jealous said. Which is that, it’s not only rebuilding after a catastrophe, it’s also healing. And I think that there’s something that those of us who study languages or study public policy or study analysis or education. Sometimes we forget in thinking about all the technical things that we do. That to be effective, we need to be healers. This world has not only withstood natural disasters, public health crises, economic downturns. This world needs healing. I’m not gonna get into U.S. politics right now. But after last week, I think that no matter what side of the ballot you marked, if you are a U.S. voter and voted last week or in the weeks before, I think you will agree that this is a country and a world that needs healing. And the work that you do, and that you’ll learn to do better when you join us, is the work of healing. Because indeed it’s not just that we had a natural disaster with wildfires in this state. It’s not just that we have a public health crisis. But the impact of those crises and disasters has been felt very asymmetrically, very unevenly, very inequitably. There are fault lines in our societies that make these crises much worse for some of us than for others. Even if we all suffered to some degree from these catastrophes. And it’s those fault lines that we need to address, as healers. That can be as I said before at the community level. Many of our students work in cities, in city jurisdiction, in neighborhoods, with community organizations. It can be at the state level, it can be at a national level and indeed it can be in healing a global system that is meant to make the whole world work better. We need to see healing at all of those levels. And that could be, you may be most concerned with climate change. You may be most concerned with education. You may be most concerned with international security, with extremism and counter terrorism. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. You may be concerned with trade. You may be concerned with language because one of the most important tools that we have, and it’s not just a tool I know, but one of the most important ways that we have to heal wounds, is to cross the divide, to bridge the divide of language, to be interculturally competent. This is the work that our students, that our alumni around the world are doing right now. This is the work that our students and faculty do together. Shoulder to shoulder, while they’re here on campus. And this is the work that I hope all of you are doing right now and seek to do better and more effectively by joining us at the Middlebury Institute. Many schools around the country right now are going through a crisis. A budgetary crisis. A health crisis. It’s not been an easy time for the Middlebury Institute. But one thing that is crystal clear for me is that we have never been more relevant. What we do in training and equipping people to be builders of a better future and to be healers has never been more needed. And I hope that you will agree and find that the best thing you can do to make the contribution that you seek to make is to join us and work with us and then go out into the world as graduates of the Middlebury Institute. And have that impact, that meaningful career advancement that you seek and that you were thinking of when you open up that application and considered applying to the Middlebury Institute. So please, we need you to help heal a world that needs healing. That said, I’ve said, why don’t you come to our campus? And many of you are saying, “Can I come to your campus?” Well, here’s the answer. I want to switch now to talking a little bit about our spring semester. Some of you have probably seen an announcement that I sent out a couple of weeks ago about what’s happening in the spring semester. Right now in the fall, all of our classes are online. Like a lot of institutions around the country. And particularly here in California, where the evolution of the virus has not been conducive to reopening institutions of higher education. Right now, all of our courses are online. But what we are working on is a phased reopening of campus, repopulation of the campus by students. And what I did when I sent out a message about our spring plans is I said, look, many of you will not be able to come to campus in the spring. Because you may face visa restrictions. Many of our international students are facing difficulties in securing the visas that they need to come to the United States. So they may not be able to come, even though they can begin their studies. Many of you may be in the United States and you could come to campus, but you’d prefer not to. Perhaps because of health concerns, perhaps because of economic hardships that you or your families have suffered in the last eight months. For those reasons, any course that you need to proceed towards your degree will be available online in the spring. The courses will be online to make sure that nobody falls behind in their degree, in their completion of their degrees. That said we are working. We are working overtime to try to get more access to the campus. More access to campus facilities, to campus activities, to campus services for students who are in the Monterey area in the spring. I’ll have more details about that in a couple of weeks time. We’ll share with students some of the specific things that we’re doing to increase the accessibility of campus for those students who can be on campus in the spring. And we’re gonna keep widening. We’re going to keep opening the door wider and wider as the conditions of the virus, as the disease environment evolves. And we hope that it evolves in a positive way that will allow us to do more opening up the door. And as we can build up our own capacity. Putting in Plexiglas all over the place takes time. We’re working on that now. Increasing the quality of the wireless network so that people can access it from different points of campus even if they’re not in classrooms right away, takes time. We’re working on that now. As our capacity and the disease environment permit it, we’re gonna be opening the door more and more. If however, you are unable or unwilling to come to Monterey in the spring, you may continue to proceed toward your degree with the same speed as any other student in the spring. So that’s one of the big things that we’re working on. Is access to campus. And we’re hoping to share, as we have more details, we’ll share more details about all of that with you. I’m gonna stop there because I think you probably have a lot of questions that you may want to ask. About some of the things I’ve talked about, about things I haven’t talked about. I haven’t told you the whole history of the Institute. Generally, when I’m in front of a big group of prospective students, I always start out with the same sentence. “In 1955, the Institute was founded…” And I haven’t even done that. If you have questions about the founding of the Institute, be happy to answer those too. But let me just close these initial remarks by saying, thank you so much for your interest in the work that we do. Thank you so much for your interest in joining the Middlebury Institute, whether it’s in-person or virtually to begin with as a way of pursuing your own career objectives. And as I said before, please join us and help us to heal this world, which so badly needs healing. So let’s switch to some questions. And I think that my colleague, Devin, is going to moderate the questions and choose them for me. And I will just answer them as best I can. Devin, have we got some questions to keep teed up.

- We do actually. And, you know, I mentioned things might go wrong and you know, it turns out that my computer outlet, you know, blew a little fuse. So I had to open up a new machine. So I missed the last parts of your comments. And I see some questions coming in, which is great. If anyone asked a question prior to Anna’s question about the translation interpretation program, please re-type those so I can get to those as well. But just to answer that question off the bat about MA in Translation Interpretation, accepting new students during the spring term. Those are false start programs. So, you know, I can go ahead and just answer that question for you. So we’re looking at false starts for those particular programs. Becky asks Jeff a little bit, she’d love to hear a little bit more about the founding of the Institute. Would you mind giving a brief history?

- So thank you for asking that Becky. Becky Searles. Searles is a very historic surname here in California. I don’t know if you’re part of the, you know, there’s like streets and buildings which are named it. And anyway, that just caught my interest. So the Institute was founded, as I said a minute ago, in 1955. Very different time in the world. But it was founded with very similar objectives to those that are still at the core of our mission and our mandate today. Which is to train people with intercultural competence, particular focus on languages and the analytical tools that they need to serve in different areas of international careers. Particular focus I would think, on training Americans to become internationally literate professionals. Particularly for things like the department of state. As of today, the number one employer of our alumni from the very beginning, is the Department of State. Interpreters and translators. Diplomats, analysts, specialists. That said, there are hundreds if not thousands of employers out there who employ our students. So it was a small school. It occupied a single building. It gradually grew to occupy more space in downtown Monterey. It was called at the time of its founding in 1955, The Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies. Again, the foreign studies is an indication that it was largely by and for Americans to understand the rest of the world. That the change of the name to international studies reflects, I think a change in our ethos, a change in our philosophy, which is that we seek to attract students from around the world to understand the world. It’s not just Americans understanding the rest of the world. But that is at the origin of the institution. Another big highlight in our history, and there was a particular question about this, is at what point did we become a part of the Middlebury Educational System? And we had a long history as an independent standalone institution here in California. But around 2005, there was an initial affiliation between Middlebury College in Vermont and the Monterey Institute, as it was still known. And that went through a series of, there was a series of steps that brought us more and more together. At this point, we are all part of the same institution. It’s the same bank account that pays my paycheck every two weeks, that pays Middlebury College staff paychecks every two weeks. We’re the same 501 , we’re the same legal entity at this point. We’ve been completely merged as part of the Middlebury College educational system. And this has been an extraordinary benefit to the Institute. There’s a lot of points of connectivity. The Middlebury College, like the Monterey Institute in 2005, was known for excellence in language education. Middlebury College, like the Monterey Institute was known for an early and deep excellence in environmental studies, in international studies of various kinds. And so there’s a real similarity in some of our focus areas, but also a complementarity between an undergraduate institution on the one hand and a graduate institution on the other. And East Coast, West Coast, at liberal arts professional. So I think it’s really enriched the whole Middlebury system to have merged in this way. And that continues to be one of our principal strengths. I noticed that a lot of people were joining us from Middlebury, Vermont. And I’m going to assume that that’s not a coincidence, that there may be some undergraduates or folks who just live in Middlebury, Vermont and decided they’d want to move to Monterey where it’s substantially warmer today than it is in Middlebury, Vermont. So that’s what I can say about that, the history of the institute, and happy to talk more about specific parts of that history or a specific educational focus areas that we have.

- Thanks Jeff. I appreciate that. Another question that came in that my colleague Jill has answered in chat, but it’s a nice to hear it as well. “Has research on campus also been moved online for the time being? And if your comments before hadn’t touched on what type of research is happening on campus, maybe you could speak about that a bit as well.”

- Yeah, so by and large, all the research activity is being done online. I said by and large, because that’s not 100%. This fall semester, we did put in place procedures by which faculty and staff could go back to work on limited basis. And with prior authorization only. With those of you who are outside of California may not be as closely aware of the evolution of the coronavirus in this state. It’s varied a lot from state to state and indeed between the United States and other countries. But California, although it was initially one of the states that had most successfully slowed the transmission of the virus through lockdowns in the spring, I think prematurely opened up and opened up a little too ambitiously over the summer. And as a result, we had a second spike that was worse than a lot of other states. And so we’ve been very cautious this fall semester. And we’ve been following the local rules and regulation that are really different from one county to the next in the state of California. And as a result, we said, you know, that if faculty and staff needed to get back to their offices or needed to get back to campus facilities, they could do so, but only in very limited situations. So nobody is working full-time on campus. And there are some research areas that benefit from access to campus facilities. Most notably our Center for Nonproliferation Studies, which some of you know about. Which does a lot of, uses a lot of open source technologies to pinpoint, you know, missile launch sites in North Korea. Really remarkable stuff. If you haven’t looked into this, you really should. They got some great video on the website about this. But we do have a couple of servers, which are disconnected from the rest of the world there because they have very secure information on them. And so from time to time, some of those researchers need to get in and actually look at what’s on the servers there because they can’t access them from home. But barring things like that, most research, most professional activity being done by our faculty and our students, is being done from home. And students who are working as research assistants. And there are quite a few of them, are working from home, just as the researchers in the research centers are. So again, we’d like to see more opening up the door and expanding the opportunities for research as well as other activities to happen on campus. But right now almost none is happening. And right now, very few, very little student presence on campus, whether it’s for research or anything else.

- Great. Thanks, Jeff. I appreciate that. A question came in about the academic experience here. And the question is, “How much of the MIIS programs/courses are discussion-based versus hands-on experiential practical?”

- I don’t have a scientific answer to that question, but it’s something we think about and talk about all the time. I mean, I don’t have a quantitative answer, like 50% is the answer. But I want to give you a qualitative sense of that. So like most of our faculty, I’ve worked at other institutions and I have a network of people that work at other institutions. From which I get a sense of the balance between really traditional kind of classroom experience to more discussion-based, flipped classroom types of experiences, to truly immersive experiential, out in the field types of experiences. That there’s a kind of continuum from very traditional to very professional hands-on. And that different institutions are at different points on that continuum. Everybody, I think if you go to any school’s website will say, oh yeah, experiential education is really important here. And it is. But is it important because like 10% of the experience is experiential? Or is it 90%? I would say that for us, we’re way at the more experiential end of the continuum. There are classes where there are formal lectures and discussion organized around lectures, which is a very traditional format. But that’s the minority on this campus of classroom experiences. You’ll see a lot of classes which embraced very early on, the kind of flipped classroom methodology, where you do a lot of the preparation, including listening perhaps to a podcast lecture or a video lecture ahead of time. And then you come to class prepared to work in groups based on the material that was covered in the lecture. And this is before COVID. Even before COVID that we were using this kind of teaching methodology. And because we’re a professional school and because of the aspirations of our students, there’s always been an enormous focus on experiential, immersive, field-based experiences. Right now that’s been hampered or it’s been transformed because it’s much harder to get out in the field. That said, I think that what a lot of our students are experiencing is by working in internships or in placements, or working with other organizations as part of their degree work, they’re doing so online. And so is everybody else in the world. And in fact, it is a form of professional development. Because so much, for our interpreting students, for example. I don’t know how many people are interested in interpretation programs. But there was a lot of consternation at first that you have to do this interpreting remotely, not in the room, with the people who are speaking between the A and the B language. But what we’re finding is that the whole industry of interpretation is moving in that direction now, since the COVID crisis has arisen. And in fact that even after this public health crisis is over, a lot of international conferences will probably continue to be virtual only. People are discovering, oh, we don’t have to actually fly around the world for all this stuff. So the world is changing. The nature of professional practice is changing. And that’s being reflected in the experiential type of learning that our students are doing right now as well. It is online, but that’s the way that professional practice is evolving itself.

- Jeff, thanks for that. And I’m gonna just jump around a little bit with the questions that have come in and stick with the kind of academic experience and then decisions on, you know, why we teach the programs that we do and specifically why they’re terminal master’s. So a question is, you know, why haven’t we gone in the direction of the PhD?

- Well, it’s a question that’s come up from time to time, like over the life of the institution. And every once in a while, there have been proposals to start a PhD in a particular discipline or another. And it’s a route that we’ve never gone down. I think the primary answer is that, the PhD as a terminal degree is most useful for people like me. I have a PhD. I went to school to become a professor. I went to school because I loved school so much. I just kept going until there were no more degrees to get. And that prepares you for a particular type of professional trajectory, which is largely limited to university and research sector. Which is a very exciting field, don’t get me wrong. But by and large, what our students are looking for, is something very different. I’m trying to educate my students. My colleagues are trying to educate their students to do something different than we’ve done, right? We’re not, if you to be a college professor, nothing wrong with that. But this may not be the most direct route to get there, to come to the Middlebury Institute and pursue a degree here. There are alumni of ours who teach in colleges and universities. But by and large, that is not their primary occupation. Their primary occupation is their profession, their chosen profession. It’s a professional graduate school and the most useful, historically, and in the present, the most useful degree for professional practice is a master’s level degree. And that’s what we do. Some of our students do want to do PhDs, but it’s a small number. And PhDs, by the way, I mean, PhDs require a kind of infrastructure which is very different than the way our school is built. You know, they require a kind of breadth. A size of faculty, size of facilities that’s not necessary for the kind of professional degrees that we do. Our faculty is very different in a sense than you would find at a more traditional, kind of doctoral institution. But one of the ways in which it’s different, is that our faculty is much more accessible to you. Our faculty works much more closely with students as colleagues in many cases, than would be the case in a doctoral institution. So it’s mostly about the different objectives of the students who go to one kind of institution or another, and as a result, I think that’s why you’ll find that we’ve never opted to start a PhD program.

- Great. Thank you. And, you know, please continue to ask questions. There’s a couple more that we have on deck. And Jeff, this one’s about kind of the Middlebury network of programs that you alluded to. Since we’re all part of the system, if someone’s enrolled in a master’s program here, could someone take courses potentially from the college or other Middlebury family programs?

- You can. And every semester for the last several years, we’ve expanded the number of opportunities to do that in various directions. So our Middlebury Institute, Monterey students taking classes from Middlebury College or taking classes from the Middlebury Schools abroad, or last summer taking language classes from the summer language schools at Middlebury college in Vermont. Every year, we’re able to do more of them. The pandemic has really accelerated that because so many courses are now online. It makes it a little bit easier for students, wherever they might be, to take classes from other parts of the network. I do want to caution you that you couldn’t just open up the catalog of classes at the college and take anything that’s there. It’s particular classes in particular disciplines that have been selected as being most desirable for students in other parts of the Middlebury network. But it is ongoing work and every semester we make another increase in the number of opportunities which are available. There are some, I mean, there are some things that you’d need to take into consideration. Our academic calendars are not totally aligned between different parts of the institution. So sometimes you need to start a little earlier or start a little later in the semester if you’re doing that. But if this is of interest to you, there are lots of opportunities to do this. And if there’s particular course that you want to take, we can talk about how to help that happen for you.

- Great. Thanks, Jeff. And then another question about, kind of research opportunities has come in and how do you find these opportunities. And I’ll jump in and say, you know, typically these are posted by the various centers and departments, right at the beginning of each term. And students will simply apply to those. And we give information about that closer to the term, about how to access those opportunities in the online posting or listing systems that we have. And then another question has come in about, how do we conduct academic research online? And if we’ll provide online resources, which I think is, you know, potentially meant to ask, what type of support do we give students in this new online learning environment?

- Well, this is something that like most institutions, we’ve been learning as we go. And one of the resources we have, which has been tremendously useful to faculty and students alike, is our DLINQ office. Which is Digital Learning and Inquiry. I think is what it stands for. DLINQ with a Q. Which is a Middlebury wide office of experts in online and digital learning technologies. And so they’ve been really helpful in working with our faculty over the last summer to get the faculty much better prepared, and much better equipped to provide high quality online courses this semester. But they’ve also had plenty of opportunities for students to become better digital learners. And so that’s one resource. And there are other centers and offices throughout Middlebury who help with these kinds of questions. Which is sort of the, how, to do it. I think another part of our response has been, helping students make sure that they have the infrastructure that they need, the equipment that they need. So in the spring of 2020, when we were rather suddenly forced to close our doors and move everything online, I think just about every webcam we had in storage went somewhere to a student. And so because we’re a small institution, we were able to really work with individual students on what their needs were. Whether it was the quality of their wifi, whether it was not having a headset, we gave out a ton of headsets. If they didn’t have, we basically worked with the inventory of equipment that we had and student needs and tried as rapidly as we could to improve the quality of the of the online experience for students. What we did subsequently, is through fundraising, we created a fund from our donors to support additional needs that students might have. And we had a process whereby students were able to apply to this fund and say, it was very straightforward. You didn’t need to come up with a long winded proposal. But just to say, this is what I need, this is how much it costs, we had a small committee that was looking at these regularly, like once a week, and would say, okay, we can give you this much. Or we actually have some of the stuff that you need and we’ll send it to you. So I expect that as this stretches on, we’ll continue to have to meet the needs of students, both in terms of providing training and how to be a better digital learner and digital teacher, but also hardware, software, and financial resources that are needed to improve your capability, to work and learn at home. Because I think we’re gonna be doing that for sure, during the spring semester. And we’ll see how much longer this is gonna last.

- Yeah, and Jeff, to stick on this topic of, you know, COVID-19 and the academic experience. There, a question that came in, once this pandemic is behind us and we’re back to a new normal, will remote learning remain possible, or will students be 100% expected to relocate to Monterey?

- Well, in general, you know, the question is that remote learning will be possible, in general. And the reason I say that is that, before this crisis forced us to put everything online, it had been a strategic priority for the Middlebury Institute to have a much broader online presence. And to try to reach audiences that we haven’t been able to reach. Students who, because they’re working full time or because of their, because of their economic circumstances are not all that eager to come move to Monterey for a couple of years, for example. And increasingly we’re finding that more and more students, more and more potential students are in that position. And I imagine that some of you might be thinking along those same lines. And so it’s been a long-term objective of ours for the last few years. And we’ve been working in that direction. This crisis has accelerated that move rapidly. And all of a sudden now, all of our faculty are equipped to do it. And now we’ve actually put a couple of, you know, we’ve put in a number of courses online and we’re learning as we go along how to do this better and better. So I think that this will only accelerate our move to be a more online type of school than we were before the crisis. Now there’s a very practical question, which I think has been raised here. Which is that, if I start my degree online, can I finish it online? And a few of our degree programs have explicitly worked out their degree map so that they can say that with certainty. And I’ll leave it to Devin and his colleagues to be clear about which degrees those are. But that they’ve said, okay, we’ve been online now part of the spring semester, all of the fall semester, we know what it takes, and yes, we are equipped to continue to provide this degree for as long as we have to. Others are saying, you know, even after we return for students who want to remain online, we’ll continue and we’ll guarantee that they can finish that degree for as long as it takes. But we need to work out as an institution over the next two or three years is, which of these degrees should we have online forever now? Maybe not forever, for the foreseeable future, because it just works well for students. It works well for students needs. So that’s kind of the kind of planning work that we’re doing now about online. But for a number of the degree programs right now, those degrees have, the leadership of those degrees has said, we guarantee that if you start now in fall of 2020, if you start in the spring of 2021 online, you’ll be able to finish online no matter what happens with the COVID-19 situation.

- Great, and just to reinforce that for everyone in the chat, I’ve posted a link to the COVID-19 FAQs. And that question about which programs can remain online is actually answered there as well. So those programs are listed. So you can see that in writing. And then some other kind of questions that have come in about the size of the institution, Jeff. And I know that I could answer this one as well, but how many students and what is the average class size? So what type of experience will students have here academically?

- So the size of the institution varies from year to year, but, you know, over the last five years or so, I would say that the number of students has varied between 600 and maybe 750. There’s usually more students on campus in the fall than there is in the spring. Partly because there’s a lot of internship type experiences that people do in the spring, the students do in the spring, so that they’re not on campus. But it’s between 600 and 750. And the average size of the classes is all over the map. So there are a lot of language classes and translation and interpreting classes, which by design are capped at about 12. And we don’t like to see those get bigger than 12, because then the effectiveness of the language learning and being able to participate is hampered if it goes above 12. So by design they’re small and some are smaller than 12. There are other courses which are much more amenable to a larger format, like, you know, 15 to 20 to 25 people in a class. And there are a small number of classes, which are closer to 50 students, I would say. But the 50 students, I don’t think we have anything larger than that. We don’t really have that many rooms which can accommodate a class as much larger than 50. But about 50 is probably the max. And those are designed in a way so that’s a lot of breakout activity. You still get a lot of intense interaction with the faculty and with each other. It’s not sitting in a lecture listening to somebody in a big lecture hall. So there’s a lot of variation in the class size, I would say. But no, we don’t really have the kind of huge classes that you might see at a large university. When I was an undergraduate, I remember my Econ, one class had over 1,000 students in it. We don’t have enough students to do that. And nor is that really the kind of experience that we want to provide to students and that we think you’re seeking.

- Great. Thanks, Jeff. And a question has come in about tuition and I’m just gonna generalize the question a little bit. But what has the institute done or what will it be doing with respect to tuition in the midst of this pandemic?

- Yeah. So what one immediate news item that I can share with you, although you may have already heard this, which is that at our, at the Middlebury Board of Trustees meeting, which happened last month. One of the things that they always do, is they figure out what our tuition will be for the next year. So this doesn’t apply to the spring semester, but it does apply to fall of next year and spring of 2022. And that is for the first time there no increase in our tuition. Every year, our tuition goes up by a few percentage points. That is to partly to meet the increase in our costs every year. There are slight increases in our labor costs. The cost of what we pay our professors and staff people. That is our largest cost of operation. Is what we pay the people who work here. We don’t have expensive overhead. We don’t have expensive non-compensation costs, but our people are really at the core of the value that we provide to students. And every year the cost of paying those people goes up a little bit. And as a result, the costs that we pass on to you, the student, goes up a little bit. We made a bold statement, and this was probably hard for the board to do, to say there’ll be no increase year. And that’s never happened before. So that is the sticker price, right? That is the full cost of what you pay to the institution. But as I’m sure Devin and his colleagues will inform you in much greater detail in the course of these preview day events. Most of our students access some form of financial aid, some form of scholarship support. And that the the scholarship resources, which are available to lower the out of pocket costs to you, of being a student here, have been increased this year because of, you know, because of COVID, because of the economic crisis, because of all of the uncertainty surrounding the world in the present. And so I think we will expect to see increased scholarship support continue, increased fundraising in order to have that scholarship support. And those are primary methods. So we’re holding the sticker price constant, and we’re increasing the scholarship support to lower the out of pocket costs that you pay as students relative to where we were last year, relative to where we were in the past.

- Thanks, Jeff. I appreciate that. And I know we’re running a little bit short on time. I promise to let you return to your schedule before the end of the hour. So there’s, a couple of questions have come up. What about the spring 2021 course catalog, and when that will become available, and I think it may have recently been launched, or it will be launched shortly. Jeff, do you have a specific notion to that?

- You would think I would know the date? No, I don’t think it’s been launched yet because it is later than usual. Just because we want to make sure that all the courses can be online and that all the courses that we need will be scheduled. So it does not come out, but I believe that our internal deadline is such that we should expect to see it no later than the beginning of December.

- Yeah. We’re actually getting some, sorry to interrupt, getting some dates from Jill in the chat. With-

- Even better.

- November 18 and the website might give us a couple extra days, November 20th. So stay tuned on that. And then another question has come in about differing admission if accepted. And I can just mention that typically in a normal world, you know, we don’t offer deferment. You know, we offer kind of, easy way to reapply. A very streamlined reapplication process. But in the time of the pandemic and announcements about changing formats from online to onsite or vice versa, we have opened up a deferment process. So we make those announcements. You know, we’ve admitted students and the format changes from what they expected, then we provide an opportunity to differ. So I’ll look for those emails, or we’re happy to answer more specific questions one-on-one as well. And I should also note that we’ve gotten a few kind of program specific questions in the chat, and it’s really great if you’re able to attend the Thursday sessions that we’ll do a deep dive into each program and how they work. So if you can attend those or at least watch those recordings, a lot of those questions would be able to be answered in that session. So Jeff, just the final question to you to kind of wrap things up for us is, you know, for someone who’s considering coming to graduate school at this kind of unique time in history, is this a good time to come to graduate school? And why is MIIS the place that someone, someone should consider?

- You know, I think the answer will be different for different people and different interests. But I think that for the kinds of students that are interested in the Middlebury Institute, now is the time. There are a lot of obstacles, there are a lot of situations, there are a lot of complications now that weren’t here a year ago, but by the same token, the urgency of the kind of work that I was describing at the beginning of this session has never been more palpable to build a better future, to heal a global system that desperately needs healing. And if you are motivated by those high and noble callings, now is the time to work on that calling. Can we help you with that? Absolutely. We have a demonstrated track record. If you look at our alumni around the world and the work that they’re doing of a helping them to better focus their career objectives, to access new skills, new capabilities, new temperaments in some cases, to better address these global problems, the world needs more people like you. I’m confident that you will all be able to make a difference in a world that needs it. And I’m also confident that if you choose to make the Middlebury Institute part of your path towards making that contribution, you will be grateful that you did. And I really hope to be able to see you, whether it’s in a setting like this, or actually face-to-face on our campus in the very near future as part of that effort. So thank you so much for your time today. Please stay tuned for all of the other preview day activities, which we’re gonna answer more of your questions and provide more details. But I’m delighted to see all of you and have been grateful for this chance to talk.

- Great. Well, thank you so much Jeff for your time. Really appreciate it. Especially on a busy Monday. And thanks to everyone for participating in this session. I just put an email into the chat. In case we didn’t get to your question, sorry. Just feel free to email us directly. And then also a link to the registration form, which has the schedule for the events this week. Of course, the next one we have scheduled is for 9 a.m. Pacific time, tomorrow. Which will essentially profile, a day in the life of an interpreter. That’ll be an interesting panel discussion. And then on Wednesday, we’ll have the cirector of our Center for Nonproliferation Studies talking about U.S., Russia, the nuclear predicament. And an afternoon session. That’s 4:30 Pacific time on Wednesday. And then Thursday, we’ll be kicking off with a lot of our program by program breakout sessions, as well as sessions for international students. So please pay attention to the schedule that is on that link that I shared. And then Friday is on the 13th. So lucky us. We’ll have a session on how to succeed on virtual teams. Which of course is talking about a skill set that I think we could all use some polishing on. Or maybe just just me. But in any case, really appreciate everyone’s time. I look forward to seeing you at the other events later this week. And I hope everyone has a nice day or evening, depending on where you are in the world. Thanks so much.

Day in the Life of an Interpreter

Get insights into what a day working as an interpreter is like. We feature faculty and alumni who have worked in a range of professional settings, including the U.S. State Department, COVID-19 testing centers, courtrooms, hospitals, and more.

- Hi, welcome everyone. Welcome to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies online panel discussion, A Day in the Life of an Interpreter. I’m Carol Johnson, I’m the enrollment advisor at MIIS, who works with and support students enrolled in the MA degrees in translation, translation and interpretation and conference interpretation. The chair of these programs, Professor Julie Johnson and the MIIS career advisor for these programs, Winnie Heh, will join us today. We are also very proud to have such an amazing group of MIIS alumni to tell you about their careers and what their workday looks like. Let me introduce our alumni speakers and their language that they pair with English at MIIS, Jennifer An, Korean. Jesse Cleary Budge, German. Lauren Hammer Aguilera, Spanish. Natasha Kharikova, Russian. And Maggie Hong, Chinese. Thank you, if you’re joining us live today. I’d also like to thank those of you who may be watching the recorded session later. Before we get started, I’d like to go over a couple of quick notes regarding our technical setup. Please take a moment to note the location of your audio and your video icons at the bottom left corner of your screen. If your video’s not already on, please feel free to turn it on so we can see who’s with us today. But if you would, until we get to the Q&A at the end, please keep your mic muted while the presentation is underway to avoid background noise. You should also see a chat box near the bottom of the screen in the center. And we welcome you to type your questions here, excuse me, at any point during the webinar. And we will do our best to answer them during the Q&A. We will also make it possible for you to ask questions verbally. Anyway, I thank you for your patience. As you know, we’re all working from home these days through the COVID-19 pandemic. So if you hear a dog bark or baby cry or the internet is a little choppy for us, please bear with us. And now to get started, let me introduce the first of our amazing alumni, Professor and program chair, Julie Johnson. Julie will give you a quick overview of our global alumni network and the types of careers that we prepare them for.

- Thank you, Carol. And hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining today. I just wanna say that the alumni that we have with us today are wonderful, tiny sample of our really broad alumni network around the globe. And to me, that network is one of the most wonderful things about MIIS. As soon as you become a student here, you become part of that family and we really stay in touch and we become each other’s main colleagues. I have to say, I think the vast majority of people that I work with on the market are MIIS alums. And in my case, I’ve been around a while, so they’re my former students as well. And just to give you a quick example, a couple of weeks ago we had an online reunion and there were about 50 of us who connected online together just to share what’s happening in our professional lives, asking each other questions and just simply reconnecting. So these alumni work in all facets of the language industry, in written translation, whether it’s corporate stuff or legal matters, government documents, all sorts of different things. And in interpreting, we span all sorts of different sectors. So there are our interpreters who go and work at international organizations like the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the Organization of American States and so on, also the EU. And students who go on to work for the Department of State, doing diplomatic interpreting and interpreting for foreign delegations that come over. We work in the courts, we work in hospitals and clinics, and you’ll hear from Lauren this morning, her current work in that area. And of course, just classic conference interpreting, corporate meetings and what have you. Also a lot of graduates at some point in their career work as project managers or as business owners who then subcontract out work and manage major projects for others. Also a lot of our students, whether they’re from the localization side or the translation interpretation side end up working with major clients like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix, working in-house and managing their teams and being that real bridge between the language industry and the engineers and project managers internally. For myself, my language is French. I work both in interpreting by directionally in the courts and for conferences and for business. And written translation, French to English. Most of that being corporate documents, financial documents, legal contracts, and so on. And I’ve also translated a number of trade books. With that, I will pass the floor to Jennifer An in Korea.

- Thank you, Julie. Hi, I’m Jennifer and I graduated from MIIS in 2011 with a major in conference interpreting in Korean. And I am a freelance translator and conference interpreter. I’m currently in the California, San Francisco Bay area. And right now I work, my interpreting assignments are mostly government. And translation is all over the place from patents to emails and I’m trying to get started in translating comics soon, so that’ll be interesting. I was born in Minnesota and I split time between the US and Korea growing up pretty evenly. And I went to college at UC Berkeley, I majored in comparative literature. And then I decided to go to grad school for TNI translation and interpreting in Korea, just to hone my language skills. And I realized after graduating I wanted to settle back in the States. And so that’s why I looked into MIIS and I went to MIIS as an advanced entry student, so just one year. The reason why I got into interpreting was because in college there was a North Korean defector who was on a book tour and he did a speech at our school and my roommate was organizing the event and she said, “Hey you speak pretty good Korean, “do you wanna interpret for the event?” And I said, “Sure, why not.” And I showed up and there were 200 people and I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is either gonna be “the worst day of my life or the best day of my life.” And it was really successful. And I was really floored by the story that that defector had to tell about his persecution but also really exhilarated that I could potentially be a voice to people who really need to tell their stories like that. And after graduating grad school in Korea, I was trying to actually find jobs directly to start freelancing in the U.S. but I realized that I really didn’t have a network. And I would send out emails and applications and nothing. So I decided MIIS was where I needed to be, to really leverage the tight-knit network as Julie mentioned. And I wanted also to gain some more experience and have some time to hone more of my skills and MIIS provided just that. So after I graduated, I went on to do an internship at the world intellectual property organization as a translation fellow. So I spent a couple of months in Switzerland and then I went to DC for a conference interpreting internship with the Department of State. And those two internships right after graduation really proved helpful in providing a steady stream of income as I was building a network of clients to freelance with. And I’ve never been in-house, so I’ve been freelancing for, I guess, nine almost 10 years at this point. And I think freelancing is exciting because you’re exposed to a myriad of different subjects and different people all the time and you get to travel for assignments. But I also translate and the idea of just cozying up by the fireside and opening my laptop. I’ve one memorable experience where I was assigned to a former secretary of defense who visited Korea. And we were riding in different cars in between meetings. And he was a pretty big guy and I’m 5’1. So every time the car stopped and we had to go in, I had to sprint to catch up with him. And I learned two very important lessons during that assignment, one is to carry comfortable shoes. And two is to sit next to the door if you’re on a bus. And these days with COVID, everything is remote, and it’s nice because I have two little kids and I don’t have to leave my family taking on assignments and I get to work out during breaks or even do the dishes between meetings. But also challenging because I can’t entirely focus on my assignments. So when I’m traveling for an assignment, I have the whole day to myself and I could sit in the hotel room and really prepare but that’s hard to do with family around. And I think going to MIIS really opened up so many opportunities for the work and the lifestyle that I’ve always wanted to pursue. And if anything go for the chance to live in Monterey, it’s a beautiful city and also get to know possibly the most diverse and interesting group of people that you’ll ever meet. And that’s all I have prepared for today. And I’ll hand over the mic to you, Jesse.

- Thank you, Jennifer. I’m Jesse Cleary Budge, and I graduated from MIIS back in 2012 with an MA in translation and interpretation for German. And right now I’m living in Lexington, Kentucky which is where I was born. As far as my career path, I started learning German in college and I got really excited doing intensive German course at the University of Cincinnati, and ended up doing an internship overseas with Deutsche Bahn, the German railroad company. And then later with SAP, the software company. And in between my two years at MIIS, I did an academic exchange program through the German Academic Exchange Service over in Berlin. And so I had some opportunities to really refine my German skills, even leading up to MIIS and in between my two years after I graduated in 2012, I did freelance for a while, but I, like a lot of people, I had student loans and I really wanted the security of a full-time position, so I joined a company, a translation company in Germany, I moved to Frankfurt, Germany and worked there for several years. And that was translation only, so I wasn’t using my interpreting. But there was a little part of me that knew that I wanted to and I got an offer to work in-house as a contractor at the Department of State. And so I moved to Washington, D.C. after that. And I lived and worked in D.C. for several years. And I went out on interpreting assignments as a German interpreter for State and also worked in house at the Office of Language Services in the Department of State as a project manager and assigning interpreters to assignments. So I saw both sides of it, which was pretty enlightening. And an experience that sticks out to me during that time as an interpreter was, you had the power of interpreting as was mentioned by Jennifer to convey a story that might not otherwise be conveyed. I went to the Rosa Parks Museum with German legislators. So I’d come over to the US and we were on a cultural exchange through the Department of State. We went to the Rosa Parks Museum and one of the museum guides was telling a personal story of experiencing discrimination as a black man in Alabama. And I was able to relate that as an interpreter to the visitor and he was blown away. Even an interaction at a gas station, something as simple as that feeling, just feeling that discrimination and being able to relate, that felt, it was amazing, being that conduit. And so I have experience interpreting being really satisfying in that way and rewarding. I decided to take a step back and move back to Kentucky and work as a freelance translator, which I’ve been doing now for several years, I’ve been really focusing on stuff care. And so I take a lot of time for myself. In COVID I’m working at home every day. I have my CAT tools that I work with. I use memoQ and Trados Studio, ones you might’ve heard of, but these are definitely industry tools. I use them every day, so they’re definitely worth learning, it’s worth learning about how cat tools and that’s computer assisted translation, I’ll say CAT, how they work, helping to store translations as you talk them out and also to access clients existing databases full of translation so that I can draw upon those in my work. But I am really, really focusing on staying in communication with other people is really big for me as a freelancer right now, even in the morning, I connect to others before I start work. And as I work, I take time to relax. And so I use, might’ve heard of the Pomodoro method which is 25 minutes on, five minutes off. And I take those five minutes and I lie flat on my back for five minutes. And just breathe, and it’s so, so helpful. I’ve learned a lot about the ways that I work and that I can love to work. Cause there are ways that I could work and not love it. So that’s been a big lesson for me, I enjoy that. When I do love my work, it’s when I’m in that flow of translation, I’m feeling the German, feeling into the German and creating English texts that feels authentically, hopefully American English. Sometimes I do translate into British English and then maybe it’s not quite as authentic, but clients demand what clients demand. So these are my experiences and I encourage everyone, I know COVID is going on, but I encourage everyone to spend as much time as they can in countries where the language that they really wanna focus on is spoken. And if you can’t go there, use technology to do what you can. Even tandem, it’s just speaking, exposing yourself to as much as you can, listening to news, even shadowing the news I’ve found really helpful. So saying the words the newscasters saying after they’re said can be really helpful to just get it inside you. So these are things that have helped me and I’m really happy to be here with you today. I’ll pass it on to Lauren.

- Thanks Jesse. And thank you everyone for being here and sharing a little bit of your morning or afternoon wherever you are with all of us, we really appreciate you coming out. So my name is Lauren Hammer Aguilera, I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have a Bachelor of Arts and Spanish degree from the College of the Holy Cross in western Massachusetts. A Master of Arts in Spanish from Middlebury College in Vermont and an MA in translation interpretation from MIIS. I graduated from MIIS this year in May of 2020. And since then I’ve been working full-time as a medical interpreter at the Santa Cruz County COVID-19 testing clinic located about 30 miles north of Monterey in a small farm worker community called Watsonville, California. And I have also been working as a freelance interpreter, taking remote simultaneous assignments in sectors that include education, social services and most recently politics leading up to the election. I have been a lifelong student of Spanish but I have no ties to the language or to Spanish or Latin American culture. For me, Spanish is an entirely acquired language but my long time interest in becoming an interpreter really concretized while I was volunteering internationally after college for two and a half years in Santiago, Chile. And what you could call my first professional interpreting assignment really fell into my lap there. It was 10 days in the vast and inhospitable Chilean Pampa, basically the desert, interpreting for a U.S. sociologist who had traveled to Chile to document this dance festival. It’s kind of like the Chilean Burning Man, if you know what Burning Man is. It’s called the (in foreign language) and for 10 days, every July 250,000 plus people come to this village in the middle of the desert that usually has a population of 1200 people and they dance and they put on these elaborate costumes and the sociologists had taken a very deep interest in this festival over the years. And he needed someone who could speak native English and also was proficient in Chilean Spanish which if you know anything about the variants of Spanish, Chilean is notorious for being the most difficult and the one that nobody else from any other Spanish speaking country really understands. So I’d been living there for two years, so I already spoke Chilean Spanish proficiently, and I’m a native English speaker. So my name kind of got thrown around and I ended up landing the gig. So I spent 10 days with this sociologist. He was my principal and I interpreted all of his interviews and interactions. And I realized a bunch of things on that trip. One that being bilingual was not enough to be a competent interpreter, but also that I had just found the coolest job in the world. And it was a really magical trip for me. It led me straight to MIIS. And this spring was the end of my two years at MIIS, fast forward a few years. I had a great two years at MIIS, but you probably are here to listen to what we’re doing right now. So as I was coming to an end in my two years in MIIS and the pandemic was just starting, I was preparing to take the State Department exam to become a diplomatic interpreter and also had the California Court Interpretation Both of those were postponed due to the pandemic. My initial short-term plan had been to become a court interpreter full-time and to do that while I was waiting for the clearance process to go through with the State Department, because that can take a while. But since both exams were postponed indefinitely I really had to pivot kind of completely in my plans for life after MIIS. But the plan B has turned out to be a pretty fascinating one, I’d have to say. On graduation day morning, I was hired as a medical interpreter at the Santa Cruz County COVID-19 Testing Clinic. And I started the day after graduation, bright and early at 6:30 AM. And I have been in that position ever since. A day in my life starts when the alarm goes off at 4:45 in the morning, and it consists of 12 and a half hour shifts with a 40 minute commute each way, five days a week, it consists of donning a full suit of PPE and providing bi-directional, mostly consecutive but some whispered simultaneous, interpretation between the Spanish speaking patients and the English speaking administrative and healthcare personnel onsite. I accompany the Spanish speaking patients through the whole process, from intake to explanation of test protocols, to consultations with the nurses onsite, to accompanying them actually into the testing area for the test itself. I have a rock solid consecutive note taking technique thanks to MIIS, but I can’t use it because of potential cross-contamination concerns. So luckily memory building exercises are also part of the curriculum because all day long I’m responsible for rendering 10 digit patient confirmation codes, phone numbers, patient last names which if you’re a Spanish speaking person you often have two last names, two first names, sometimes more. Long lists of symptoms, et cetera. And I have to get them perfect every time but thanks to MIIS and those memory building exercises that they really kind of forced on us that first semester in consecutive, before we even started taking the notes. I get it right every time, I can draw on that. It’s a really kind of direct cause and effect from what I learned to what I’m now required to do. To sum it up, I mean the hours right now, they’re super grueling and even though I’ve never had to experience the PPE shortage that really characterized the early months of the pandemic, I’m exposed in my job, it’s a highly vulnerable position, but at the same time and I really echo what Jesse said, the work provides me a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that I’m contributing in real time to help people access information that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to understand. And under these circumstances, it’s potentially life saving information. I work in a farm worker community with a substantial strictly Spanish speaking population. And specifically the zip code where I work has been disproportionately devastated by the pandemic. I mean, we’re talking about a town that represents a tiny fraction of the total population of Santa Cruz County but that also represents upwards of 60% of the cases. So this town has been rocked by the pandemic and being able to help facilitate the process by which these people, many of them essential workers, many of them also uninsured can get the information that they need, to me, it is empowering, exhilarating, exhausting, especially since right now, I’m kind of working seven days a week because I’m trying to build my freelance career for when my job no longer exists, which I hope it comes to an end sooner than later, so we can all get back to our normal. But at the same time I’m really grateful to be on the front lines, helping other healthcare personnel combat the virus. So there you have it. That’s kind of a day in my life right now. And now let’s hear Natasha talk a little bit about a day in her life.

- Thank you, Lauren. And hello everyone. My name is Natasha Kharikova, and I am a Russian conference and court interpreter. I am originally from Moscow, Russia, but I am now based in supposedly sunny Los Angeles where it’s been recently very, very chilly. I graduated from MIIS with an MA in conference interpretation. My first degree was from Russia, I went to the Russian State University for the Humanities, where I studied, what’s called the philology. Well, very simply, it’s basically studying English and Russian history and literature and language obviously. And that’s how I started learning English with Russian being my native language. When I was in my fourth year there my English professor recommended me to a nonprofit as an interpreter. So like several people have said already, I kind of accidentally stumbled into this profession and I loved that very first assignment. It was a lot of fun, even though stressful too. And after that, I don’t know, just never looked back basically. But since moving to the United States, I had been thinking about I’m going to MIIS. Well, first of all, of course, because the reputation of MIIS is one of the best schools for interpreters in the world is obvious, but also because I really believe in professional education and that it’s really not enough to just hang out your shingle and say, “I’m an interpreter, give me work.” I felt that it was important to get that professional foundation on which you can build and advance your career. So I went to MIIS and after I graduated, having working, as I said, as a freelance interpreter doing a variety of assignments, which include a lot of court work, but also a lot of conference work with private clients and government clients as well. One thing I really love and this is something that has already been mentioned is the variety of the profession. You really never know where your next interpreting assignment is gonna take you. And this job, well, first of all, it’s taking me all over the United States, but also other countries like I don’t know, Hong Kong and Barbados, of course that’s not a part that we can be enjoying right now because of COVID, but it’s still amazing to think that by being an interpreter not only you can be helping other people communicate but you can also enjoy what you’re doing so much. And the work is really very, very diverse, and one day you could be, I don’t know studying and brushing up on stock market because you need to be interpreting for a conference on securities and then the next day it could be learning how to say wipe-out or dungeons or something that in Russian, because you’re gonna be interpreting for a video game launch. With COVID, everything has changed, of course, as we know, everything has gone remote and there was a period of time, very brief last spring, where I actually thought like, “Oh my God, I’m never gonna work again.” But that quickly changed. And I think if I learnt one thing at MIIS it was that you really need to keep an open mind about various opportunities available to you and be able to look for those opportunities and accept them when they come. So last spring, I started doing translation work, a lot of it related to COVID actually because suddenly all these materials had to be available in various languages. So I was translating into Russian. Then of course I watched a bunch of operas on wine, I think everybody did, but then I also had to update my hardware on my computers, software and what you don’t see it right now, but I have several other monitors. I have several headsets and microphones and this is how it’s been happening in the last several months. It’s all remote. And also like Jennifer said is great because you can be home and you can actually take more assignments because in Los Angeles, the distances are really very long and there is a lot of traffic and sometimes you really have to drive a lot for an assignment and without having to do it right now, I can do several assignments a day. Another thing that changed with COVID is because, as we’re all trying to adjust to different time zones or rather accommodate different time zones, some assignments start, I don’t know, three, four, 5:00 A.M. My time here. And I never thought actually that I’d say it, but I enjoy it right now because I discovered during the quarantine, lockdown, that I actually live in a pretty noisy neighborhood. Like the house next door, I hear my neighbor picked up some kind of hobby, which involves a lot of like metal cutting and glass grinding. So I don’t mind 5:00 A.M, sign me up, I’m gonna do it. So yes, it’s incredibly bright, it’s incredibly diverse and fascinating and also rewarding because you really feel like you’re helping other people communicate. And it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s fun. And I just wanna briefly mentioned one assignment that really stands out and this is the assignment that I got right after I graduated in 2018, this was interpreting for Fox Studios here in LA, during the FIFA World Cup 2018, which was held in Russia. And I interpreted pre-game, post game, player and coach interviews. And I grew up a soccer fan back in Russia. But even those interpreters who didn’t really know much about soccer and who worked on that assignment really got into it because it was impossible not to, the atmosphere was absolutely amazing. And I honestly don’t think my heart pounded like so much during an assignment ever, and it’s not because I was afraid, but it’s just because you just finished watching the game where, I don’t know, Russia beat Spain out of all countries. And it was an amazing assignment to get graduating and I have to admit that actually when I was first contacted about this assignment, I was, well, shall we say a little bit economical with the truth, I mentioned that Monterey and that I studied at Monterey, but I didn’t really say that I don’t have the degree yet, but I kind of expected that I was gonna graduate. So I did. And that assignment happened and that was amazing. Well, that’s it. Thank you. And I’m going to pass it over to Maggie now.

- Thank you. Hi everyone. My name is Maggie. So I’m currently a conference interpreter based in Chicago, I’m also a certified court interpreter and certified a medical interpreter. And in addition to that, I’m currently holding the position of vice chair of the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters, and also sitting on the board of the Midwest Translators and Interpreters Association. So I graduated from MIIS in 2011, as a MACI student in the Chinese program. So after I graduated, I graduated in May and thanks to MIIS network and professors referrals, I get my first job in June, a first full-time job. And I worked there for three years. In 2014, I began to freelance and move to Chicago because being a freelance interpreter has always been my career aspiration. I always like being an interpreter because it allows me to see the world and learn different things every day. And thanks to my work in the past six years of freelancing, I’ve traveled to 30 states and interpreted for over 20 subject matters. So I really learned a lot and it really broadened my worldview. So for a typical day for an interpreter, I think it’s really different before the pandemic and now. Before the pandemic, for my business I have really clear division between busy season and slow season. So during busy season, I basically travel everywhere to interpret for conferences and for court proceedings. And during slow season, for me, it’s usually the long and cold winter in Chicago. It’s from December to February. So during that time, I usually stay home and gain more credentials, like I got my court certification and medical certification also learned about remote simultaneous interpreting platforms during the slow season. So that’s before the pandemic. But after pandemic, everything has changed. Thanks to the experience with remote simultaneous interpreting platform before the pandemic when everything switched to virtual mode, I think I had a relatively easier time adapting to it. So the main difference now is in the past a conference usually lasts for at least a whole day, sometimes several days in a row, but now because attendees are in different parts of the world, different time zones, so that would not be feasible. So right now a conference is usually two to three hours, usually wouldn’t exceed four hours. So now a typical day for me is interpreting for a conference through Zoom or through Kudo in the morning or in the evening. And for the rest of the day, I’ll translate documents, will attend continuing education webinars and also volunteering interpreter associations. So, I think the three main differences between now and before pandemic are, the first differences is, it’s easier and we have more opportunity to continue education, webinars and conferences because in the past all the conferences are held onsite. And based on my work schedule, it’s just not likely for me to travel to every one of them and attend them. But now I can just adjust the log off my Zoom meeting and attend a webinar. And the second change is my work portfolio has changed a lot since the pandemic. Before the pandemic, I would say about 80% to 90% of my work are conference interpreting. And the rest 20 to 10% is probably court interpreting. But after the pandemic, my translation work and interpretation work are actually almost a half and half. And in addition to that, I took on more roles in presenting at conferences and give continuing education trainings. And the third difference, I think is the lifestyle or work life balance, because before pandemic especially during busy season, I’m traveling everywhere, just I don’t have the access and time to cook for myself but now after I finished my conference, I can cook myself a meal, I can exercise. I can spend more time with family and also play with my cat. So those are the three major differences during the pandemic. And I think the education and the degree in MIIS really helped me a lot and gave me all the tools that I need to survive or even thrive in the market. So actually, when I just started freelancing, the very first gig was referred to me by my professor and the very second one was referred to me by my classmate. And also because of the education at MIIS I have a solid foundation for interpreting skills. And also I know what to do, what not to do in the market, have some understanding of professional ethics, especially with MIIS network, it’s really helped me a lot to get easier start in the markets. And also because of MIIS, many opportunities are just available to me. Yeah, that’s it about my day as an interpreter.

- Sorry. I was muted. Thank you so much, Maggie. And thank you all of you amazing alumni for your time and telling your stories of your day in the life. Now I’d like to introduce Winnie Heh. Winnie is our career advisor for the translation, translation interpretation and conference interpretation programs. She’s gonna talk a little bit more about how she supports our students in their career management. Thank you, Winnie Heh, please take it over.

- Thank you, Carol. And thank you everyone for joining us today. I like to tell you a little bit about myself, I am an alum as well. I graduated from the Chinese Conference Interpretation Program in 1990 and then I spent 25 years managing language companies. And it was a great experience, I did pretty much every job you can think of in a language company except for the CFO and the CEO job. And five years ago, I had a career change, I became a career advisor stepping into the big shoes of my career advisor, Jeff Wood. And in terms of how I support our students, we are a professional graduate school. So by definition, when somebody decides to attend a professional graduate school they have a career goal in mind, they’re here and they wanna reach there. And clearly, as you have heard from our alumni, we have one of the best academic programs in the world, you prepared so well, and I can speak that for myself. At the same time, we also realize that there are some mythologies and processes and tools that will be helpful to you from a career management perspective. So I support students from three broad areas, the first one is I teach a career management class during students first semester. And in fact, we start preparing you for your career management from your first week at MIIS, you start getting career management workshops. And the second area is, everybody’s situation and career aspirations are different. So we take a very individualized approach. I like to tell students that I’m your personal trainer. So we have a lot of one-on-one opportunities to work together. And finally the industry is ever changing, and I like to tell students that the job you’re gonna have in five years may not exist yet. So I spend a lot of time connecting with employers in the public sector, in the private sector, staying in touch with them to understand their talent needs and sometimes give them input as they think about their own talent and recruiting strategies and bring in their feedback back to the school as well. And in some situations connecting students with those employers and with alumni. And what I like most about the industry is this, from a career perspective I’ve always felt that it’s better to be in a small but growing industry rather than being in a big but declining industry. But the good news is for the language industry, with globalization, with migration, it is a big and growing industry. Right now, the size of the industry is about $50 billion and it’s also projected to grow. So I think this is a very exciting industry for you to consider. That’s it for me.

- Thank you so much, Winnie. Appreciate that. So one of the things we’re really lucky to have is so many of our amazing alumni have come back to work at MIIS and support the next generation of translators or interpreters. And really a supportive, small supportive community, you get a lot of interaction and feedback from your teachers, it’s small class size, and then again you get to meet all the amazing students that are here at MIIS, studying all kinds of different areas. And build a friend and a professional network that goes around the world. So we’d be happy to take questions now, if you wanna ask any of our speakers or you wanna ask Winnie about career preparation or Julie about programs, please feel free, we’d love to hear your questions. And they can be themselves now, right Devin?

- [Devin] That’s correct.

- Okay. Anybody have a question? Or if you prefer not to, you can type it in the chat box but we didn’t have so many people.

- I do actually see a question in the chat, Carol.

- [Carol] Oh okay.

- Does provide medical interpretation certificates?

- Well, if you wanna go ahead and answer that, Julie?

- Yes. So an actual certificate is available in Spanish community interpreting with a specialization either illegal or medical. So that currently exists just for Spanish.

- I will say that within your training of your master’s degree, you get exposed to many different domains and you will touch on medical interpretation many times, if that’s an area you wanna go into, we’ll help you to find an internship in that field. For many years, Stanford Hospital and clinics have taken students in the summer to train them in medical interpretation, I don’t know how that’s happening now. But for the most part, we’re focused on the master’s degrees in all the other languages. But we do have the Spanish Community Interpretation Certificate, as Julie said.

- I can give some concrete info just on what Carol just said. First of all, the weaving in of medical content matter in our regular interpretation translation courses does happen. For example, on the translation side I typically subject the students to translating a patent on artificial heart valve prosthesis. And just in- There’s a strange echo. I’m not sure why. There we go. Just this semester, with the advanced simultaneous interpreting students, we did a whole segment on Ebola to be in the area of epidemiology, but giving the COVID thing a rest. And in that context, we had a doctor from Senegal Zoom in and talk to us in French about the whole experience of Senegal around a Ebola in 2014 and the lessons learned from that and the students simultaneously interpreted his remarks. And Carol mentioned Stanford Healthcare, so Stanford Hospital here in California typically has a very robust internship program for us. And they felt so badly, a lot of our alums that are working at Stanford, that they couldn’t do it with the pandemic, that they’ve actually approached us and said, “Here are the different things that we would like to offer.” And so we’re just in the process of gearing up for this spring to integrate their offerings, both as part of the career advising offerings and integrated directly into our practicum and other courses.

- I’ve got a question here. What do the financial prospects look like for translators or interpreters post-graduation? And how does that relate to being in-house freelance? And how long have you been out of school? Open to anyone to answer. I did provide the link in the chat to our career outcomes data that has a lot of salary information and sectors and that kind of thing for you to take a look at. But if anybody would like to respond to this question, go for it. I think they’re kind of hoping it would be one of the alumni speakers. But it could be anybody.

- Hey, this is Jesse. I can maybe speak to that since I’ve done all of these. The real answer is that it’s all over the place, no matter whether you’re freelance or in-house. Some of it depends on the country where you might be working. I started out working really in-house in Germany the salary prospects weren’t that high there, but I came back to the states and worked in government and the salary prospects were a lot better. Now I’m living in Kentucky and I’ve reduced my working hours significantly. So I’m limiting my own income by working less. And maybe some other people could speak to this especially people who are combining interpreting and translation. But my impression there is that the sky’s the limit, it depends on how much you want to work, but I’ll pass it off to another alum.

- I can also try to speak to that. I’ve been out of school nine, 10 years now. And like Jesse said, you really get to decide what you want as your income, given that you can get enough work. And I think I’ve been on the extreme side where I was interpreting three and a half weeks out of a month and I was never home and it was great, but it was also very exhausting and it just wasn’t sustainable. So I scaled it back. I took on some more translation work just for my own sake, my mental health and my physical health. But I know some colleagues who do translation only and they’re incredible. And they work six days a week and they love it and they can sustain it, they find time to work out, and it really is up to how you wanna balance your time, your health and also if you have family that comes into play and really this is TNI, but there’s also localization careers and Jesse’s been in project management, you can go in-house that way. And I think there’s a very large range of income that you can expect and also large range of benefits too. Obviously, if you’re freelancing, you are responsible for your own medical insurance and all of that. But if you go in-house, you can negotiate those benefits as well.

- Sorry, I have a barking dog. There’s a question about working in three languages and conference interpretation, Julie, would you like to answer that?

- Can you repeat the question, Carol?

- Can you work in three languages for the conference interpretation degree?

- Yes. So what we call MACI, is a master of arts in conference interpretation. And you can do that just with one foreign language working by directionally. This is typical in many of the Asian languages and it requires near native fluency. So you can really actively work into your foreign language as well as your native language but typically conference interpretation involves a third language or more languages. Here during your studies, we’re limit it to just two foreign languages, so a total of three, otherwise it would be a little bit crazy. And in that what you do is in the first year, everybody, translation, conference interpretation and translation and interpretation combined. Those three degree tracks share essentially the same curriculum. So everybody gets a taste of everything because there are surprises. People who could never imagine themselves as an interpreter, but realize, “Oh, wow, I actually enjoyed this “and I’m pretty good at it.” Or vice versa, students who always wanted to be a UN interpreter, but when they started doing it they realized, “Oh, this isn’t really for me, I much prefer translation.” So everybody gets a taste of everything, but then as of the second semester, and then certainly in the second year, there’s specialization according to degree track, if you have three languages, you’re gonna work actively from your native language into your strongest foreign language and back in the other direction from your, what we call your B language into your A language, meaning your native language. And then you work from your second foreign language, your C language into your native language but not the other way around. I hope that answers the question. And I did see Carol that Gavin had his hand raised.

- Well, I wanted to catch this one because our time is getting a little short and this is a question for the panelists. What do they wish they knew before they joined the Institute? And are they afraid of AI taking their jobs? I hear that question from a lot of perspective students too. So, yeah, please, if any of you wonderful alumni would wanna respond to that? What do you wish you knew before you joined the Institute? That’s a hard one, I think.

- Natasha here, I don’t know if I could actually answer the other question about AI, cause I feel like I have a pretty strong opinion about it. The short answer would be no, as an interpreter, I don’t think it’s gonna happen, but the reason why I actually wanted to answer this question is not only I think that it’s not happening in general because or at least not in the near future, but I also think that there’s a certain degree of basically there are different levels of interpreting and the same with translation and the same way there are some translation jobs that have been taking over by machine translation and there’s post editing right now. The same I believe with interpretation, there might be some areas or some levels of interpretation that could be taken over by AI. But I also think that if you’re professionally trained and if you have a degree from MIIS you are always gonna have a variety of options and they’re gonna be what I would probably call higher level options of jobs that are not gonna be taken over by AI. And I think that’s where the importance of having a professional degree comes to place, not that it’s gonna make you completely safe but I think it’s gonna equip you with a lot more tools to be able to resist, I guess the onslaught of the AI. Thank you.

- I can chime in there after Natasha and echo what she said about that idea of maybe the lowest hanging fruit being picked up by AI and the people responsible, the human beings responsible for producing those translations being rendered a little bit obsolete, but the kind of work that MIIS qualifies us to do is what I believe will be the very last, if it ever is taken over by any kind of artificial intelligence. In my fourth semester at MIIS I took a class taught by Professor Barry Olson that deals with the RSI platforms or remote simultaneous platforms that Maggie mentioned and also talks about artificial intelligence a lot. And we got to do hands-on tutorials and trials with six or seven of those platforms over the course of the semester. And we got to see very clearly and very much in real time the limits on even the market’s best AI tools and just how much the human interpreter will continue to persist as such a necessary conduit, like Jessie said of information for people, I think for the extent of our lifetimes. And learning to work on those remote simultaneous platforms, while I was still a student at MIIS, positioned me really well to be able to take some of those jobs and be prepped for what the pandemic would bring in terms of transitions and changes to the market. But I think the human interpreter and translator is going to be around longer than we are. And also just to chime in one thing I wish I had known about the industry before I got to MIIS, is that there isn’t an interpreter or translator on this earth that knows it all. And that until the day you retire, you will be looking things up and making glossaries and turning to resources and this degree program has a lot to do with trial and error and feedback that often looks like criticism, constructive criticism, but realizing that you’re just on your journey to accumulating resources but that you’ll never have them all is a really good and healthy thing to keep in mind and it’s the only way to survive and thrive in this program.

- Go ahead Maggie.

- Okay. So if I may, I want to also share my two cents about the AI question. And so I do agree that probably some of the low hanging fruit might be picked but I think for interpreting or translation, it’s not simple code switching from one language to another, it is a bridge between two cultures. So because for AI, I think it’s unless if the AI can really have human emotion and human emotional intelligence, I think it’s very difficult for AI to replace real interpreters. But that being said, I think it’s very important for translators and interpreters to learn new technology and to keep up with it and use the new technology to help us with our work.

- This is Jesse, could I say one quick thing about that?

- Of course.

- I just wanted to share my experience because I’ve had AI affecting my biggest client directly. My client is basically incorporating an AI solution into the software that I use every day. And then asking me if I will accept a lower rates because this AI solution is suggesting translations to me that I’m free to use or modify or discard and that has created some pretty uncomfortable situations. And I don’t find AI suggestions helpful, in fact, I find them the opposite of helpful because they take up space in my brain that I need to be free for a creative solution to arise. And I think that that is a, in my experience, is not a concept that is taken to account when people are talking about AI, shooting out AI solutions into translation environments. And I’ve had to turn down work because of this, because I’m not willing to accept those rates. So I wanted to say that this is a real issue and that’s with my experience.

- Great. Thank you everybody. Gavin, unmute yourself, let’s hear your question, thank you for your patience.

- Yeah, no problem. Just curious, kind of like a two-part question. So my interests lie in entertainment, arts, culture, storytelling, tourism, and I hear a lot about politics economics obviously in the program. Just curious, if any of these interpreters on the panel had any gigs or whatever, where you have had to talk more about the entertainment, arts and culture side of things. And then also, is there a piece? My language learning has been mostly technical, grammar, literature, all that sort of thing, is there a piece of the education that you receive at MIIS that does give you some content and inform you on what’s going on currently? So just curious about that.

- Anybody wanna take that? I work with a lot of prospective students and applicants and we have definitely had people who came in and said, “French is my language and I want to interpret for the arts. I want to be the person that takes people through museums or art galleries.” We’ve had people that work film industry, people who work in the wine industry, live in France or Italy and work in the wine industry. And they want to work in that particular field. But again, in our program, we expose you to many different domains. And so you will touch upon the arts and humanistic works in addition to court and medical and technical and all those areas. And really you can pick your niche, we’ll support you in that based on, and that’s where Winnie and the career team helps you, are there alumni out there that are already working in that field? Do an informational interview. Is there someplace that would be your dream job? They help support you, how to contact them and put together a proposal for an internship you might do with them. So we have lots of ways to help you find your niche. Some people come in knowing what they want and move forward with it, but sometimes they learn about another field or come across something, do an internship, let’s say at YPO or at one of the hospitals and then say, “Oh my gosh, I love that. “I wanna go in that direction.” And maybe Winnie can add more, I work with them coming in and she works with them the rest of the way for their careers.

- Yeah. It would not be a surprise to you that entertainment is a growth area in the language industry right now, for example, Netflix, they have an in-house localization team. What I have heard is one third of the localization team are MIIS alumni. And the Disney also has localization. And there are gaming companies that allows students that are also very interested in. So those are the growth areas and there are opportunities on both the linguistic side of it and also the project management side of it.

- Great, thanks Winnie. I’m looking for a question here, does the translation and court interpretation program have stricter language requirements for students than, it says TML, but I expect that’s TLM. Yes. In the translation and localization management program you can have a translation specialization where you actually take translation classes or language specialization where you take content-based language classes. We found that people who graduate with our degree are often working in many different ecosystems and so maybe they’re not ever doing translation, so it’s not necessary. But in most cases you only work into your A language. So your B language doesn’t need to be so strong, you don’t need to work in both directions and you don’t need to have strong oral skills because in localization, there’s no interpretation. Hope that answers that. See we got one. So I think this will bring an end to our presentation to our talk with you. Again, thank you, alumni. Thank you so much for your stories, your expertise, for taking time for us. Thank you all of you visitors for sharing your time with us. Julie had to go, she had a class. Thank you, Winnie. And please stay in touch with us, I put my personal email address in the chat. If anybody wants to reach out to me, I do see a lot of familiar names of people that I have communicated with already, but I’m always happy to have a one-on-one conversation or answer your questions. So thank you everyone. You will also, once we’ve edited this recording, you will also get a link to it and it will be posted on our virtual preview days site before too long. Thank you again for your time everyone. Bye-bye.
 

How to Succeed in Virtual Teams

No matter the field or discipline, remote work (and remote learning) are becoming increasingly crucial and may be the key to your success. Join Dr. Anne CampbellDr. David Wick, Thi Nguyen (International Education Management student), and members of Middlebury’s organizational development team, Melissa Sorenson and Sheila Cameron, for a rich exploration of how to succeed in intercultural virtual teams.

- Hi, everyone, welcome. We’re delighted to have you here for this session on how to succeed on virtual teams. And it’s nice to see so many of your faces that I’ve seen in prior events this week for preview days, so thank you for joining us. And thanks to those of you who are joining and watching the recording later. I know we’ve done this at every session this week and you’re experts on Zoom by now but we’ll just do a few quick reminders and orientation to get us started. In the lower left corner of your screen, you’ll notice your audio and video icons. If it’s comfortable for you, we invite you to turn on your video so that we can see who’s with us here today. We will be keeping mics muted during the session, just to help us avoid some background noise. Please also look toward the center of the screen and you’ll see a chat box and we invite you to include questions in that at any point during the session and we’ll leave time at the end to review your questions. I’d also like to ask for patience with us and thank you in advance. We too are working from home and we might have choppy Internet or we might have pets come through or babies come through, so thanks in advance for your perseverance with us as well. And to get us started, I’d like to first allow our speakers to introduce themselves. So begin with you, Sheila.

- Good afternoon, it’s great to be with you. I am joining you from a cloudy, rainy, cold, Middlebury, Vermont today and I work in the Office of the Provost, I’m the director of strategic initiatives. And I’m happy to be here, thank you.

- Thank you. Hi, everyone, I’m Dr. Anne Campbell, and I’m associate professor in the international education management program. And I’m joining you from Monterey, California and from my vantage point, it’s also quite cloudy.

- Thanks Anne. David?

- Hello there everyone, welcome. I’m Dr. David Wick. I am a professor in international education management, joining you all here today from San Francisco, California and it’s a beautiful gray day here.

- Thanks, David. Thi, welcome.

- Hi, everyone, my name is Thi Nguyen. I am an international education management graduate student, currently in my practicum semester. Hi, I’m very honored to be here today and excited to be sharing my experiences. And I’m joining you all from Phoenix, Arizona.

- Thanks Thi, Melissa?

- Hi, everyone, my name is Melissa Sorenson. I work with Sheila in the Office of the Provost as the assistant director for strategic initiatives. I’m based at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey and happy to be here today.

- Thank you. And to kick us off, we’ll start with Sheila.

- Well, again, welcome everybody. I have the honor of kicking off this conversation and I just have to say it’s been a lot of fun working with my colleagues and getting to know some new colleagues virtually, which is really what this conversation is about today. I’d like to kick off the conversation with a polling question and I’m going to put it in the chat right now. And what I would like you to do is click on the link, include it in the poll and if there’s any problems with that link, please let me know. And pick one or two words that best describe the changing nature of your work, or school over the past six to 12 months, just what comes to mind. And again, if anybody has any trouble with that link, please do let me know and I’ll let my team members indicate whether or not that link works, because I’ll ask them to participate as well. I’m seeing some population of it, so that’s a good sign. I’ll give you about 30 seconds or so, put a little pressure on us. Thank you, so Melissa is gonna do me the favor of sharing the screen, I just pasted that in a slide and Melisa’s gonna do me the honor of sharing the screen with everybody. So you can take a moment and see what’s going on here. And I also invite you, if you wanna put your comments in chat as to what you’re seeing, happy to hear that. But it’s literally all over the map, family, disrupted, connected. So there’s definitely some positives, but then also some challenges, uncertainty, pivot, big word in our lives the last few months, creative, so opportunities to be creative. So this is a really, really great map. Isolating and exhausting, I’m sure all of us have felt that at one time or another. Learning process for sure. Non-stop, constant and engaging. I think somebody put Zoom in there. So a lot of us are doing this work virtually and so this is a great representation of really what we’ve been experiencing over the last six to 12 months. And so, what we wanna talk about today, is really as a result of a lot of the work that we’ve been doing over the last six to 12 months and prior to that as well, but definitely, especially during COVID, as we find ourselves working remotely and then find ourselves working more and more in virtual spaces and on virtual teams. So I’d like to share with you, just a couple of statistics to get you primed for thinking about why it would be important to be thinking about this, not only because we’re in a pandemic at this moment, but you know, virtual teams are often geographically distributed, but also oftentimes, they’re distributed within one location within an organization. So this is something that’s really prevalent and on the rise. I’ll give you an example at Middlebury, I reside in Vermont and Melissa is based in California, but our Office of the Provost team, seven out of eight of us, are in Vermont. In pre-COVID, we actually agreed to start working as a virtual team completely, even though Melissa was our only person who was not on the same campus as us. We started having our Zoom meetings and our meetings virtually so we could level the playing field. So luckily, we had some practice with that and that was great. But just thinking about the rise of virtual teams, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2019, 22% of U.S. workers are working completely from home and 50% are working in some capacity on virtual teams. The biggies, Google, Facebook, Twitter, are all on the rise in terms of having their folks working from home. Google says that their 200,000 employees will continue to work from home indefinitely. Facebook says half their workforce will be working from home within the next five to 10 years, and Twitter has already said everybody can stay home and keep working from home as long as you like, so this is definitely on the rise. A recent survey by the congress from the Harvard Business School said that post-pandemic, one in six workers is projected to continue working remotely. If not completely, at least two days a week, so there’s going to be a lot of flexibility in the workforce and the learning force. And in that study, they also identified some, what we might call obvious impacts of this because we see it in our word cloud. Some have reported increased productivity, creativity, a lot of ingenuity and a lot of innovation going on and reduced costs. On the flip side, others have reported lower productivity, disconnection and loss of community, if virtual teams are not managed well. And so, the pandemic has moved us more towards working and learning virtually and this is more than likely to continue. So we’re gonna find ourselves in this space, even beyond the pandemic. And that’s why we’re here and this is going to include an increase in learning more about technology, but just as importantly, context about where people are from and how we connect with folks interpersonally on a virtual level. So that’s essentially gonna be our discussion today, for the rest of our time. And David and Melissa are gonna discuss the importance of establishing that context and making that connection and providing us some tips and then Thi’s gonna take it home. And she’s gonna talk to us about her own experiences while working virtually on virtual teams, actually three different teams simultaneously, I believe, so she’s gonna share her real-life experience with us. So I’m gonna pass that on to Anne and I look forward to hearing what my colleagues have to say.

- Thanks so much, Sheila and hello everyone. For those who joined late, I’m Anne Campbell and I’m an associate professor in the international education management program. I’m really glad to have you here today and great to see people from all over the world, so welcome. So I wanna start my section by asking you to participate in a poll. So Devin, if you’ll launch that. And just take a few minutes, if you’d like, responses are completely confidential and voluntary, but we’d just be curious to know kind of what is your experience in working in virtual teams or being part of virtual groups. So while you’re looking that over and answering, I thought I would continue with my comments to make the most of the time, but also I know that everyone’s so distracted and able to do multiple things these days that this won’t be too much of a challenge. So, the two main points I want to highlight in talking about intercultural and international teams, is first, the context matters. So I know for me, it feels like these virtual teams that we’re part of just kind of exist in the ether and aren’t very situated or rooted anywhere, that something is happening out there. But actually what’s happening, I think, is that we have a fractured nature and that we’re all joining these meetings from our homes, or our offices or our cars, wherever we can get a quiet space and good bandwidth. And that those contexts, wherever we are in the world, should be recognized and actually matter quite a bit to the team. So each person has their own place in reality and that context is important. And so, what happens in virtual teams, is that it’s often not made explicit, which context, which culture is considered dominant, or default. And so, I would recommend to you to really consider that for your team, which culture, which style, which language, do you want to center? And then also, what might you do to decenter the more dominant culture? So just three quick examples of work that I’m doing right now. The first is that I try very hard to make sure that everyone can join a meeting at a time that is natural to their work day. It’s not always possible, of course, but I’m putting here in the chats, my favorite and most popular space that I use on the Internet, which is World Clock Meeting Planner. And what I try to do is make sure that when people join meetings, that it’s after 7 a.m. for them and before 9 p.m. And I know that sounds absolutely wild, but in the global nature of our work and global teams, that’s just how it’s come to be. And so, I really recommend checking that, this is a good site. And also, keeping in mind daylight savings time shifts, that has derailed one project and it took us awhile to get back on track. And also, what is considered are typical working days, in which culture? So one of my closest collaborators right now is based in Algeria. As you probably know, from much of the Muslim world, the weekend is different than the American world. It’s a Friday-Saturday weekend, so we’ve had to adjust to have no meetings on Friday and then for me to play catch up on Monday and it’s worked, it’s just taking some time for us to think about that. So being aware of those cultures and schedules. And then also think about what’s happening around the world in that person’s space. You can check the news, you can check the weather. So for example, another project that I’m working on right now, is with a woman in Moldova and in Moldova, they have elections this coming weekend. So when we talk about elections, it’s is a very different situation for me, based in the United States, for those of you in the U.S., you may have been following what’s happening, very different election context than what’s happening in Moldova when they’re getting ready to vote on Sunday. And then the second main point that I wanted to highlight, is try to use your skills in cross-cultural competency in the virtual space as much as possible. And we have a whole suite of great classes at MIIS in intercultural competency, we talk about it a lot across our curriculum. And so, really thinking about sense of time, identity and power, gender issues, human rights across the spectrum and other ways that our identity show up and those systems replicate themselves in the virtual space as well. So two quick points on this, consider being explicit about how people should participate, how people jump into conversation, how they share their ideas, do they wait to be asked, these kinds of things are different across cultures. So being explicit, like Jill was at the beginning and saying, please put your questions in the chat, it’s a very good technique for helping everyone to understand how to best participate. And then also think about sense of time, how do you wanna spend your time together? David’s about to speak about community building in the virtual space, but that sense of connectedness is really essential for having virtual teams work and again, it’s very cross cultural, what do you share? How do you share it? What’s appropriate? So keeping all of those skills in mind when building virtual teams is also quite helpful. Okay, so before I turn it over, could we see the results of the poll?

- [Devin] Yep, they’re shared now.

- Sorry, they’re hidden behind the screen. Okay, so I hope you got a chance to look at those. I’m seeing your message now Devin, thanks. And I’m going to turn it over to my colleague, David Wick, who’s going to carry forth this conversation about building community online, thank you.

- Thank you Anne and thank you others. Thank all of you, actually, for participating, seeing, basically, this picture of the world you live in with all these teams. We have a couple of folks with zero to one team, but quite a few with three or five. I click those high boxes where I’m participating in so many groups at the same time now and yet I don’t move, right? I’m in the same space and having to create that and so that was the topic that I’ll talk a little bit about which is this idea of building community and creating interpersonal connections, when what we have is occasionally video, but not always, voice and text, which is very different from when we walk into a room to collaborate together and we say hello and we see what things are on the table in front of us and whether everyone has their coffee or their water and things like that. So, we thought we’d share a few ideas that may be helpful when we’re starting a new team, or when we’re bringing a team together and have different types of relationships. For example, in this team that’s presenting to you today for preview day, we didn’t all know each other before we came together to collaborate on this. All of us are connected to Middlebury, the Institute, the College, both and other parts, but we have to become a team. So how do we do that? And why is it important? One reason it’s important is, of course, we can all best contribute when we feel valued and respected, when we know our role and when our role matters to the team. And so, in every communication, connection or meeting, we need to really consciously demonstrate that everyone who is there is necessary and that their contribution is vital to the work that we’re doing together, right? So this is why we make sure to, as Anne said, schedule meetings at a time that is conducive for work for all of us and that we make adaptations to account for when weekends are held or when people are observing celebrations in their local culture or in their spiritual belief system, so things like that matter. And we talked about three key ideas that I’m going to bring through to talk, the idea of inviting, accepting, and engaging. And I’ll give a couple examples of what this can look like. So meetings and collaboration, we find most productive when we become a community. One way to do that, is to invite more details. Here we have 20 of us on this meeting. Individual introductions may be one way, but it can also be cumbersome. And so one way we can share who’s in the room, is in Zoom, by leveraging our names. For example, I see all of you who have joined us have your full names in your Zoom, so we get a little bit of a sense, we know a little bit more about you, but we can also do things to tell a little more about us. And I’d actually invite you all now, if you are able to play in Zoom with how you present yourself. So for example, you can go in and by hovering over your name, or going in the participants, you have the option of renaming yourself. And we would love it if you would add in a little bit about your connection to the Middlebury Institute. So you might add what program you’re thinking of applying to, if you’re a guest, or partner, because we invited many of those today. And I’ll put an example in the chat of what you might do. So if I were adding that I’m interested in the international education management, I can add in parentheses after my name, that program. If I’m a guest, I could add guest, if I’m a partner, I could add partner. And if you’re able to do that, in your Zoom screen, all of us who are here together today will start to know a little bit more about the community and we’ll start to see some of the connections we have. So I’ll let folks play with that. You may notice that all of us who are presenting from Middlebury, have added in our pronouns to let you know how we identify in terms of our gender. And also, we’ve added where we are within Middlebury, the provost office, the Institutes, the others and our role as faculty, enrollment office, students. And the idea is that it gives you a little bit of a connection to who we are and how we come to the conversation. So in other contexts, we might do other things with this, but it is one way to begin building those connections. The idea that Anne talked about with accepting, has to do in part with that recognition of our identities and talking about coming to a conversation as faculty, which in an academic context, is a position of power. Age is another one of those identities that may change things. So, if we really want everyone in the team to be able to contribute, we have to consciously take note of those identities and create spaces for everyone to participate in the ways that are comfortable for them. So we might invite folks to add video, but make sure that it’s okay that they choose not to. We may make sure that we give phone-in opportunities as well as link via computer, depending on whether we expect all those who are contributing to be able to digitally access via Internet or smartphone or if we need to provide different things. So those are some of the ways we might accept how each person comes to a conversation. Another thing we might do if we want feedback on an idea in a meeting, is make sure that everyone knows that they can provide feedback by voice, by chat, or even follow up privately via email. Sometimes we might also have an anonymous form, like a poll, that allows a way to weigh everyone’s opinion, without everyone having to publicly state their opinion, which may allow for different identities and different placements in terms of the power structure to be able to share their voice without maybe putting themselves at risk, depending on the nature of the conversation. And the final piece that we’d look at in terms of this community, is engagement. Many of us have probably been in meetings where we found ourselves wondering, why am I here? Because we’re listening to all the things but we never get asked our opinion, or invited to share or change it. So we tried, in fact, to model a few of the techniques many of us use in meetings, by having the poll that Sheila led, or the word cloud that we co-generated with Sheila that brought in many of our ideas and experiences and gave us all a sense of how we all think about these virtual spaces. We use polling, which was a way to know a little bit more about the range of experiences we have. And we’ve also invited things like chat. So those are all different ways that we can try to create engagement online and in fact, I’m finding in my teaching, I can do some engagement things now in remote teaching that I couldn’t do in the classroom. So now, for example, I can pose a question, have everyone take the time they need and respond via chat and we can hear every voice in the class, before we move on to the next idea. In live sessions, once one person starts talking, some of us are thinking about listening to what they’re saying we hope, which means we’re no longer having our own ideas, so engagement and virtual meetings does create some new ideas. So I hope this gives some examples of how we can invite, accept, and engage in virtual teams. They can be used in synchronous and asynchronous settings. So when we’re together, or when we’re collaborating through other channels. And these combined with clear roles, preparation, follow through and really a lot more communication, we’re finding, can be ways to get the most out of our virtual teams. So now Melissa is gonna talk about some tips and tricks for success in virtual teams. Melissa, to you.

- Thanks so much David. So yeah, again, I’m Melissa Sorenson, assistant director for strategic initiatives at the Middlebury Institute. And yeah, I’m excited to share some more specific tips and tricks around succeeding in virtual teams. And from Anne’s poll that she conducted earlier, we realize many of you have or are working on remote teams right now and we can all learn from one another. So I’m gonna post a question in the chat, asking if you’re willing to chime in, what’s one tip you might give someone who wants to succeed in a virtual team, so we can build on the knowledge of the group. So these pieces of advice that I’ll be sharing, come from both my reading and experience, facilitating and leading remote teams, but also from student insights and observations that we’ve gathered through surveys on what supports success in our remote context. And there’s three main takeaways here. The first is intentionally design for the remote environment. The second is to increase communication, clarity, and structure. And the third is to make time and space for relationship building and wellness. And so, I’ll briefly dig into each of those three and then I’ll have the pleasure of turning it over to one of our students, Thi, to talk about some very specific experiences that she’s had and what’s worked for her. So, the first is intentionally design for the remote environment. And this first note might seem obvious, but while teams can draw in many of the skills that support in-person communication, it’s important to acknowledge the different dynamics and needs that emerge in the remote environment. And I’m intentionally using the word design, versus adapt. It’s easy for us to think like, well, how would I do this in-person? And how can I accomplish that in the virtual space? But if we designed with remote in mind as our as our starting point, it might unlock even different ways of engaging and as David was referencing, some new things we can leverage in the remote space that might even improve the experience beyond what we had in person. These might include everyone when they’re working in the remote space, we’re navigating technology, different work environments, different work settings, we’re balancing those boundaries between personal and professional spaces, I know a lot of this came up in the word cloud that Sheila shared, different times zones, different comfort or ability to have our videos on or off and many of the elements that David outlined. And so as with all teams, no one approach will work for everyone and it’s important to be on this constant learning journey of what works well for your team. And so, as you’re intentionally designing for the remote environment, it’s an ongoing practice. The second piece of feedback that we got, especially in our student survey was, it’s so important to increase communication, clarity, and structure. These are essential in the remote environment and our students especially helped outline this by expressing a strong desire or expressing that what helps their success in the remote setting, is really clear expectations, assignment checklists, well-organized course resources and sites, consistent and predictable deadlines, a limited number of tools and platforms that it’s easy for the group to stay focused. And I know some of you chimed into Anne’s poll saying you work on many virtual teams at once. Finding opportunities for consistency across those teams, using the same platforms in multiple spaces, or some of the same practices, can really help that mental overload of trying to have each team use a completely different set of practices. With clarity, keeping it as simple as possible, so limiting that number of platforms, using tools team members already know and are familiar with. And again, continuing to check in and adapt those practices along the way. Increasing structure in your own space, as well as the team space, can be an important part of greater success in the remote environment. So on the individual level, that might look like you identifying what time management practices, routines and structures work for you, that can be especially important in helping establish those boundaries between that personal and professional space that we’re all navigating, blocking time for focused work and finding your system for managing multiple tools and platforms and tasks, which is the reality for many virtual teams. We touched on time zone awareness, being mindful of effective meeting length and helping really prepare your group in advance, what is expected of them when they join the remote meeting today, all of that really helps lay the groundwork for more successful work in remote teams. The third piece is to make time and space for relationship building and wellness. And we need to manage and renew our energy in different ways in the remote environment, to maintain our ability to focus for a sustained amount of time. Something that we hear from our colleagues and our students is that, screen fatigue is something that we need to be really mindful of. And so how do we check in on our mental health and physical health? Use things like podcasts or taking a meeting over your phone to allow for a break from that screen time. We also realize it’s easier to feel disconnected and we need to think more proactively about connecting with others in the virtual space. And so that might look like creating opportunities before or after a team meeting to have some casual conversation and check in, thinking of what type of tool or platform your team might use to have casual exchanges or chances to just happen with ideas to one another and identifying practices that support your success, whether that’s, listening to music, scheduling time to move around, stepping outside, joining a meeting by phone, any of those things might be helpful in you maintaining the energy to effectively participate in the remote space. So I just wanna acknowledge, I really appreciate some of the ideas that have come up here in the chat and I hope everyone will take a chance to read those through. But I’m really happy at this point to turn it over to Thi, who’s gonna be talking about what’s worked well for her as she’s navigated working on multiple remote teams, the last few months.

- All right, thank you, Melissa, David and Anne, for a very comprehensive overview of working in a virtual team. I’m here today to give you a student perspective, my perspective, on how one can deal with the transition of the modern workplace, the modern office from an in-person format to a virtual format. Thank you, Jill for sharing the screen. So just to give you some context, I’m working virtually at three different jobs for my practicum semester. So for my international education management practicum, I serve as program coordinator at World Chicago, which is a citizen diplomacy nonprofit in Chicago, Illinois. I also serve as a development graduate intern at D.C. Immersion, which is a language advocacy nonprofit located in Washington, D.C. And aside from that, I’m also working part-time alongside Dr. Anne Campbell, who’s here today, on a qualitative study funded by the Middlebury Institute on global education and climate change. So you can see sort of like my distribution being presented on the screen. So in total, I deal with four major time zones. I’m physically in Arizona, which is the Mountain Standard Time Zone. I’m also dealing with the Central, Eastern and Pacific Time Zones, so four major time zones in total, I have three different job functions, so programming, development, and research. I’m also immersed in three different workplace cultures, from like a somewhat hierarchical environment in World Chicago, to a friendly and inclusive environment at D.C. Language Immersion Project. And for my graduate research assistant position with Anne, it is sort of like a strictly one-on-one setting in my position. So three totally different workplace cultures. So from my experiences, there are indeed a lot of challenges working in multiple virtual teams at once. The first, like Melissa has mentioned, is trying to not mess up time zones. It’s also harder to trust your co-workers sometimes when you have never seen them in real life and most of the time, you just don’t really know what they’re up to. And because of this, the relationship building between coworkers might also take a little bit longer, because, well, you don’t get to be in the same space and you don’t get to converse spontaneously with them. There’s also some level anxiety, associated with occasional tech issues, I think most of you can relate to that. There’s also Zoom fatigue again, most of you can relate to that, where you get like super tired after video chatting for an hour or more. And last but not least, for those of you who plan to work in program design administration, just FYI, engaging and recruiting people during a pandemic is very difficult and it’s for reasons that are mostly beyond your control and I will talk more about that. So here are my tips as your fellow student in regards to managing virtual teams and managing the potential difficulties with working, not being physically in an office. So, to manage your work across different time zones, personally, I would make it a habit to add your time zone every time you schedule meetings. So for example, you can email your colleagues and be like, hey, let’s meet at 3 p.m. Central Time, be really clear. And just bold it, 3 p.m. Central Time, bold it, highlight it, whatever. And always make sure to send calendar invites. This task seems a little minor, but trust me, it is a great way to use technology to double check time zones with people. To facilitate trust between coworkers, always make sure that your team has an agenda for every meeting. Your team should also set up policies that mandate everyone to provide constant follow up and updates. It’s always good to know that your workers are trying their best to complete their work and not neglecting you, just because you don’t see them. You should set deadlines for yourself and for others, maybe just like try dropping a project management timeline before the start of every project, I personally found it really helpful. To enhance understanding of your coworkers and the workplace dynamics, I would suggest doing small icebreakers during team meetings to get to know your colleagues better. You can google icebreakers for Zoom meetings, there are plenty online. Always make sure to ask how are you before diving into work-related stuff. And make sure to organize virtual social hours every now and then, it really keeps the spirit going. To mitigate the stress associated with tech problems, I have no other advice other than, make sure you have a backup communication tool, maybe like you can ask your coworkers for their phone numbers, maybe just make sure that you have a neighbor with strong Wifi or a nearby coffee shop that you can visit in case you don’t have strong Internet connection on some days. If you can, also designate a coworker, as someone who can take over your project in case you have an emergency or you’re not available. To combat Zoom fatigue, I personally prefer having some amount of text-based communication before every meeting to lessen talking time. An agenda, again, will come in handy. Make sure to schedule Zoom-free days, like you must have days where you don’t do any video chatting, just do not have video meetings like every day, especially if you’re an introvert like me, it can be really exhausting. I also recommend setting a default limit to every meeting and try to stick to it. So my current limit is 30 minutes per meeting, so 25 maximum for talking and five extra minutes to do a quick break before returning to the screen. So that’s like how I manage my time, but I know that you guys will have like different ways to manage your time. To overcome obstacles with engaging and recruiting people during COVID, I will say I learned this over the course of the summer, but please make sure to acknowledge the reality that all communities out there are mentally occupied with issues other than your programs and your projects. And the sooner you adjust the standards to respond to that reality, the less stress there will be for your team and the more productive and collaborative your team will be. I found that at the end of the day, the well-being of your team matters a lot more than just achieving some target. And programs have ups and downs and they come and go especially during a pandemic, like you can’t really expect your program to achieve the same performance as it can during usual years. Yeah, programs have up and down, but your team must stay sane and that’s like the number one priority. Be sure to thank your colleagues for all the hard work that they’re doing, despite all the 2020 hardships. Make sure that workspace, even if it a virtual workspace, like make sure it is a safe space for everyone. And last but not least, be sure to put extra effort into nurturing people who are interested in your programs, even if your programs are usually supposed to be competitive or selective. For example, you can make the time to get to know your participants better on a personal level. Make sure maybe, if you don’t have the time for, that you can also try your best to personalize your communications, like your emails and stuff like that, try to personalize them in any way you can, it can make a big difference in the end. So those are my insights and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have or provide more specific examples. And thank you all for listening. And on behalf of the panel, I will now open the floor for Q&A.

- I guess I’ll start off by posing one to Thi while we’re letting people start to put the questions in. If you had to narrow it down to one big lesson, what have you learned about being a successful team member in this period? If you had to choose one.

- I would say like to be a successful team member during these times, means trying to be there for your team members. I think that’s like the biggest lessons that I have learned throughout my practicum period. And it’s not really something that I thought about coming to Middlebury. I thought, here, I’m gonna learn the skills in order to apply to the industry, to certify certain objectives, certain targets of the programs out there in my industry. But coming into the workplace and during this time, I think that a lot of the time, I suddenly felt like many bad things that we never expected they would happen, they were and I was just like, oh, they were bound to happen during this time. And so, I think that managing my expectations, managing my expectation on myself and on other people, it’s really important and I think that it can honestly, like I said, I mentioned my presentation programs have ups and downs, but your teammates are the most important people and like you have to stick to them, you have to push them, you have to keep that spirit up and you have to keep everyone positive. And I think that’s the key thing and the outcome seems less important now during this pandemic.

- Thank you very much. David, I’m gonna pose a question to you and this is about conflict. Do you have any advice or tips on how to handle conflict on a virtual team?

- Thanks and I see Dion, thank you for posing that question. It’s one that becomes potentially a little more sensitive. In person, we’re used to reading a lot of signs to know when someone’s experiencing discomfort, frustration, uncertainty. So one thing is, we do have to tune into more clues about behavior and really notice how people are showing up and how they’re participating. I find that with conflict, it goes back to some of the intercultural advice and I imagine the other panelists may have something to share here, but we often have to take extra time to reach out to individuals to find out how they’re doing, separately. So what this has meant for me is, if I notice changes in behavior, for example, in a classroom, I consider that potentially conflict and I make space to reach out individually by email, or text or voice, to make sure that we can connect and find out what’s going on. At other times when there are different aspects of power and distance involved, I may ask a trusted connection to the person who I perceive as having a problem or conflict, I may ask someone else to reach out and make the connection and offer advice or support. So it does feel to me like it takes some different things when we’re about to both identify conflict and also to find ways to unpack it and then create ways to that. I’m eager to hear what others think in relationship to that great question.

- Thank you and there is a follow up question that, Anne, I think I’m gonna ask you, because I know, this semester, while you’re taking a break from teaching and working on a variety of research projects, you’re working on a number of teams, with people around the world who you’ve never met before, so you’re living this practice right now. And how do you make sure that people are going to deliver on time or are carrying their weight on the team?

- Yeah, thanks and thanks for the other answers as well, I have been learning myself. I think two things that have really helped and this echoes, both Thi’s and David’s point, one is, assume the best. I think oftentimes, by default, we assume that if we don’t hear from people, that things aren’t being done and that’s not proven to be the case, so that’s the first. And then the second point is, I think a lot of times and I know some of us on the screen have talked about this, do you prioritize the relationship, or do you prioritize the results? And sometimes that can lead to conflict. As someone who historically has prioritized results, I am really working hard during COVID, to prioritize the relationships and that does take longer and it does mean that new projects are starting slower and that deadlines get pushed back. But we’re living in a global pandemic and if we were all doing our best and producing our best work at the fastest pace and getting incredible outcomes for our projects, something would be very wrong. So being honest with ourselves, giving ourselves the break, realizing it’s a marathon, not a sprint and to really understand how to build these relationships and think of that more central to what the work is in these virtual teams, I think that’s been very helpful. And also, I think others have mentioned this as well, but also just asking questions, having icebreakers, having ways to do what we could do when we were in an office together or a classroom together, which doesn’t happen naturally in the virtual space.

- Thank you. I’ll pose this to Melissa. This question came in from Samira and she’s asking about how do you keep people engaged in a virtual meeting? It’s so easy to multitask or nap or make lunch in meetings in ways that we could not if we were in a room together, so how do we keep people engaged in virtual meetings?

- That’s a great question, thanks for raising that Samira. So a couple of things come to mind for me. The first is that we were grappling with the same question in developing this presentation because we recognize that anytime people are joining a meeting in the virtual environment, even though it was a panel format, we wanted it to be a chance for you to engage and feel like you were present in the conversation as well. And so, part of that is thinking of something early on in the meeting that can get people kind of reset and present in the space. Sheila demonstrated that today by inviting us to participate in the word cloud activity. It’s something that really came through, especially in the survey feedback from our students, was that varied engagement opportunities are really meaningful. And so, whether that’s the chance to pop into a breakout room and have some discussions, whether that’s Q&A format like we’re doing now, a poll, an opportunity to chime in on the chat, but not just focus on engagement, but also focus on how can we keep that engagement fresh and add a little bit of variety? Thi and Sheila both shared visuals during their presentations. And so, knowing that the same methods don’t work for everyone, so variety can help us create spaces where multiple people can find a way to participate, but it can also keep the meeting fresh and hold everyone’s attention during our time together. Hope that got to your question.

- Yeah, thank you. And Sheila, I’m gonna ask you, it looks like the questions are kind of slowing down, so I’m gonna ask you the last question here. And I’m thinking ahead to a time when we’re not maybe all remote, when we’re more in a hybrid world, like you were talking about where maybe some people are working remote several days a week, or the work might shift as we go into the post pandemic and new normal. And you do this already for us as an organization, but how do we work with people in-person in one group and then also having virtual team members located somewhere else? How do we do that effectively, so that everybody feels included and valued?

- Great question. We were living that reality before COVID hit. First of all, I think the team needs to have the conversation, what are the challenges around the different types of work modes that people are engaging in? And being clear as to what the benefits of that are and what is the need to the individual to do that, because if you don’t have that conversation, you could build resentment on the team. Why is that person doing this, versus why is that person doing that? So Thi talked a lot about building trust and relationship, so just being kind of candid and having those conversations. We haven’t talked about virtual team leadership here, but I think that’s a very important aspect of inviting the team to have a conversation about, hey, we have this kind of complex working environment and then inviting people into come up with solutions and ways to deal with it. Also, being willing to maybe make some, I won’t call them sacrifices, because they actually end up being benefits, but I’ll use the example with Melissa being in California and the rest of the team being in Vermont. We used to meet six or seven of us in a room and then Melissa on the screen and quickly realized that that was not a helpful dynamic. And so, because the team really cared about that connection, we all went to the screen and so that worked for us. But we didn’t figure that out right off the bat, so try some things, talk about it. There might be some failures, there might even be some conflict that comes out of that, but inviting people into a conversation about how are we gonna make this work? And being really kind of clear about why we are in this situation and how it not only benefits individuals, but could benefit the team.

- Thank you. And I wanna thank all of you participants for being with us today. We are aware that Zoom fatigue is real and there are lots of demands on your time and things to do and we’re grateful that you joined us here for this lively discussion and really showing some interest on how we can all learn to be better virtual team members, that will carry us through now and certainly in the post-pandemic time. And thank you to all of our presenters for sharing your insights and your experience and your wisdom with us today. Just wishing you all a great day and thanks for joining us for preview days and we look forward to more engagement with you. Take care, thanks again. Bye everyone.

The U.S.-Russian Nuclear Predicament: Are We Doomed to Cooperate or Simply Doomed

For more than a half century, Washington and Moscow have worked to manage their nuclear competition and to cooperate in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.  But what’s the future of this often rocky relationship? Professor Bill Potter offers his insights into US-Russian nuclear dynamics and their implications for world stability.

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