Week 3: Creating Meaningful Connections

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Sunday, June 20, 2021


Hannah Wistrand

This week seemed to go by fast! It was mostly spent in meetings, webinars, and brainstorming sessions, but ended with me going home to Washington for the weekend. That was the theme for this week - exploring the different types of meaningful connections in my life. I have not been home since last June and having the opportunity to be with my parents, get caught up with childhood friends, and be inspired by the nature I grew up in was the most personal connection I had this week. I was able to see my family and hometown for the first time in months, as well as visit the newly renovated waterfront in Vancouver, WA - absolutely worth the visit if you’re in the area.

While these comfortable connections left me feeling refreshed and ready to head into the next week, they were also a reminder of how important it is to give yourself the time and space to make new connections. It can be a little scary at first, especially given the social minefield of media and controversy. I know that as someone who values strong beliefs and factual information, it is difficult for me to discuss important topics with old and new connections alike when I feel like I do not have all the information. But I also realize there is a distinction between a discussion and a debate, as the former lends itself to being able to admit what you don't know or understand in a safe environment conducive to learning. This week was really all about exploring this idea more - figuring out how to hold productive and meaningful discussions with your neighbors on important, and sometimes controversial topics. Throughout the week I was encouraged to face this insecurity of mine in order to determine how to guide other science-driven members of our community to have those important conversations and make those meaningful connections.

I worked on getting a survey together to gauge how interested our members were in being trained to have these conversations and how important they felt this issue was. I also worked on analyzing the social media accounts of Physics Central to determine how we might improve engagement. Physics Central is this super cool offshoot of APS dedicated to connecting physicists and physics enthusiasts through meaningful connections online, hoping to facilitate discussions about how to better the physics community so our engaged membership can make a difference in the general and science communities.

Relevant to this week's theme, I would like to bring attention this weekend as a perfect example of when and how to practice societal productivity through meaningful connections. This Saturday was Juneteenth. While I don’t feel qualified to discuss the day in depth here, I would encourage anyone reading this to take some time to educate themselves and practice having those meaningful discussions about what you learn with neighbors and friends. My work this summer has shown me that this is where the most productive conversations happen - at home or in the neighborhood with those people you trust. There are lots of amazing organizations that exist to help facilitate these conversations as well as your own learning, too - including Black in Physics, a group I have had the opportunity to learn more about this summer. Just remember to keep a compassionate and open heart, and understand that we all come from different backgrounds with different definitions of “meaningful” and “productive”. From a scientific perspective, be willing to question your beliefs when new evidence is presented.

So get out there and find some meaningful connections - with family, friends, new members in your community, or by following Physics Central.


Stay curious, everyone

Hannah Wistrand