COVID has led to many changes in the way we work and communicate. Many of us are working and teaching from home and rarely, if ever visit Oxley Hall. In fact, Oxley’s density is carefully controlled, so we need to sign up in advance if we plan to work in the building. Masks have to be worn in all public spaces in the building and when interacting with other people, but can be removed while working alone in a closed office. However, for those who do regularly work in the building, it’s rare to see other people: students who are regularly in Oxley report that they interact with others once or twice a week at most.
Although we miss regularly seeing each other face-to-face, moving to primarily virtual interactions has had at least one benefit: we’ve hosted numerous speakers in discussion groups this semester. Since discussion groups have traditionally taken place in person, the switch to a virtual environment has provided a lot of flexibility in terms of how often we can invite outside speakers, and who we can invite.
The pragmatics discussion group hosted Andrea Beltrama (Penn) and Eric Acton (Eastern Michigan) this fall, and has visits with Elin McCready (Aoyama Gakuin University) and Heather Burnett (Université de Paris) scheduled for the Spring semester. The historical linguistics discussion group, Changelings, hosted numerous visitors: Rich Janda (Indiana), Pavel Iosad (Edinburgh), and alumni Tracey Weldon (PhD '98, University of South Carolina), Shelome Gooden (PhD '03, Pittsburgh) and Robin Dodsworth (PhD '05, North Carolina State University). In addition to invited outside speakers, the virtual sessions have allowed others to participate in meetings who don’t live in the Columbus area. Professor Emerita Craige Roberts has been a frequent attendee in the Pragmatics discussion group, and alum Abby Walker (PhD '14, Virginia Tech) regularly participated in the Social Meaning discussion group SoMean this semester.
While COVID has created many challenges, we’ve also learned a lot about how to leverage technology to enrich our community and our work. Even after the pandemic is over and we can return to working together in person again, we will undoubtedly continue to consider how the strategies we used during COVID can benefit us.