Principal’s Check-Ins and Townhalls

I have developed “Principal’s Check-Ins” because I value both communication and conversation, both modern technology and old-fashioned talk. The same commitment to transparent conversation animates our campus’s townhalls, which occur intermittently at least three times throughout the academic year.

One night in August 2020, as I was settling down to sleep, I started reading a book by the sociologist Sherry Turkle: Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. The book argues that modern technology has generated more methods of communication than ever before: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. In the process, as Turkle continues, we have sometimes ignored the more basic technology of talk—of deep, engaged, empathetic conversation.

UTM staff gather in conversation in a UTM atrium balconyEvery other week, in “Principal’s Check-In,” I invite a small group of faculty, librarians and staff to join me for a casual conversation about, well, anything. We might talk about a research project you’ve developed; a success you enjoyed in the classroom; an idea you have for the campus’s future; a book you recently read; a frustration you felt over a university policy. You might ask about my priorities as Vice-President & Principal; my ongoing scholarship on the poet Chaucer; my amateur fascination with insects and fungi; my past experience as a champion debater; my healthy obsession with David Attenborough’s Life. My only requirement is your desire for a spirited, spontaneous conversation; my only goal is to learn more about the different people who make our campus great.

The same commitment to transparent conversation animates our campus’s townhalls, which occur intermittently at least three times throughout the academic year. Often organized around a specific pressing topic, the townhalls provide a dedicated forum for our community to:

  • ask questions
  • raise ideas
  • strengthen a productive dialogue with UTM’s senior leadership team

In 2021-22, as we strive to balance in-person and online events, our discussions might address the campus’s process for strategic planning, our focus on COVID-19 recovery and our commitment to holistic student wellbeing. 

Our most recent community-wide town hall was held on September 3, 2021. More details about upcoming townhalls will be shared on this page, along with the UTM social media networks.