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Tips for Building Community
in Regional Nodes

The following advice and ideas comes from many discussions before, during, and after Working Group A on ‘Best Practices for Building Community in Regional Nodes’ from the National GEP Faculty Workshop ‘23. Many people from across a variety of nodes contributed their experiences, advice, ideas, and feedback. 

Many diverse challenges face building community within Regional Nodes. We encourage the GEP community, especially Regional Node Leaders and Co-Leaders, to explore the advice and ideas shared on the next page to help build community within their nodes. 

We invite nodes to discuss the listed challenges and whether they resonate with your experience. For those challenges that resonate, discuss the tips others have shared here – what ideas is your community interested in? What further ideas do these tips generate? What isn’t addressed and should be? What do you or your node want to try out? 

Lastly, this is a living document – we invite further suggestions to support GEP members in building community – share your thoughts with the Regional Node Director and Co-Director! 

The following ideas were shared or generated during the workshop. While RN Leaders/Co-Leaders are natural organizers to implement ideas, we encourage node members to vocalize which ideas interest them, or even implement ideas themselves (we’re a distributed leadership model!), though we encourage checking in with the Node Leader so they can help out.

Google Doc Version

  • Recognize that informal gatherings don’t need to have an agenda – make it a happy hour
  • Power of delegating – ask others to help plan by assigning specific tasks
  • Remind members that contributions and participation in node activities can be included in GEP letters of engagement for promotion and tenure
  • Feel empowered to organize sub-node or internode meetings 
  • Consider inviting junior colleagues/faculty to give talks, with local GEP faculty/students participation
  • Bring in or become secondary node members – node boundaries are artificial!
  • Take advantage of Zoom for virtual/hybrid meetings
  • Discuss preferred mode of communication with node – options include email, Trello, Slack, online discussion board, etc. 
  • Develop a node webpage together with information on members shared
  • In larger nodes, develop sub-groups around school type 
  • Ice breakers – use these to get to know each other
  • Develop buddy systems, pairing/grouping based on interests (or randomly)
  • Read through the Regional Nodes website
  • Read the Handbook on Regional Node Events
  • Watch this video (TBA) on getting started
  • Talk to the RN Directors or other GEP members for advice
  • Give suggestions on improving organization
  • Reach out personally to low/non-participating members
  • Recognize everyone is busy and pulled in many directions – feel success even when reach is only to a few members
  • Survey your node members to see what would help them engage
  • Develop/suggest concrete activities
    • Do a difficult annotation together
    • Test a piece of curriculum
    • Explore the website
    • Share class materials
    • Guest lectures (esp. supporting junior faculty)
    • Journal club or discussion on topic, e.g., implementation challenges
  • Take a break! We love hearing about node activities, but only one RNM is requested per year
  • Consider asynchronous check-ins – e.g. share how you’re doing and ask how they’re doing
  • Consider programming with less ‘homework’ so there’s less buy-in to attend/participate
  • Identify what motivates members, e.g., student participation, mentoring, prof. development
  • Organize low maintenance informal gatherings to keep members connected
  • Make a regularly scheduled time, (i.e., node ‘office hr’) as a drop-in time to say hi to other node members