Graduate Students: Start a Tea Time at Your institution

At @jhubiostat, we have a tea time every week the day after our weekly seminar.  This is a tradition that started before my time (which is a bit of time) with @kwbroman.  It is one of my favorite events in our department.

We have faculty and students come, have tea and baked goods (baked by them!) and discuss things.  The formal purpose is to discuss the seminar from the day before.  Such things discussed are methods, slide choice, table presentation (if any), too many formulas, speed, applied dataset of stat method (or lack thereof).  Most discussions are positive and fun, and each person gives a good point of view.

Many times though, we discuss the seminar for a short period of time, and then it becomes a more social discussion divulging into: cool articles, Twitter points, discussion of our department’s social media, etc.  

So my overall message to other graduate students: start a tea time.

Here are some qualities that are good for a room choice:

  1. Be a place where people normally walk by.  No one wants to walk a mile to grab some tea.
  2. Have a window in the room – or at least open door.  Many times people walk by and look in and think – “Hey, what’s going on?”
  3. Publicize it on list-servs for your institution
  4. Ask your department for a small amount of funds to buy tea/big kettle.  It’s worth it.
  5. Bring delicious treats.

Overall, new (and more veteran) students get to meet interact with faculty that they would not otherwise.  Also – faculty get to present some topics to students without the formality of a faculty meeting or a departmental list.   It boosts morale and you usually can connect to people in much more interesting ways than just being in an office/on a computer.