“Hello! My Name Is …”

People love talking about their work. I remember when Dr. Samantha Christiansen told me that. As usual, she was right.

During my doctoral program, I have hunted e-mail addresses for people whose work I admire. With Google’s assistance in locating people through various means (publishers, social media accounts, faculty listings on university websites), I eagerly reached out to a variety of researchers to express my admiration at their work and sometimes ask a question or two. The results were thrilling.

One of the researchers (who is heavily referenced in my dissertation) wrote back to ask questions about my work as well, and she went so far as to say, “Hey … if you’re ever looking for a research partner on a future study, let me know.”

Yet another researcher answered my e-mail with suggestions on other authors’ journal articles, then proceeded to send me a link to 93 articles that she had authored or co-authored. Ninety-three! I was blown away.

Fueled by good responses, I’ve become a proponent of networking with people who share my interests. When I was awarded the Fulbright-Schuman grant, I was provided with a list of other grantees, including their contact information. Immediately, I sent out e-mails to all of them to virtually introduce myself and start a conversation. It was great! By the time we met in person this past August, we had a lot to discuss.

Since that time, I’ve had lunch with a Fulbright scholar who works with first-generation college students. I’ve learned about a program for inclusion of people who have disabilities in faculty positions to advance understanding. I spent two hours learning about environmental concerns from an Irish professor who is headed to North Carolina this summer. Another Fulbright grantee with a passion for art therapy is often at my side during social events. With each conversation, I make deeper connections and learn new things.

This week, as I plan my first trip to Romania as part of my research, I repeated the process with the grantees who are in Romania. I sent them an e-mail to introduce myself, let them know a little bit about my research interests/background, describe my Fulbright project, and ask if anyone would be interested in meeting while I’m in town.

Responses came in within 15 minutes! This week, I will have dinner with a Romanian family in their home. The invitation was extended by an advertising professor and Fulbright scholar who opened her home to me – what a fantastic opportunity to get to know someone!

Next, a Fulbright scholar from Switzerland responded to say that she would love to talk about my work. She earned a doctorate in intercultural and media communications (she used to work for the United Nations), and her response said that her sister (who has a doctorate in public health with a focus on diabetes) would like to meet me, too. Unbelievable.

A third response came in quickly from a professor emeritus of history whose research interests are focused on the role of religion in American and European politics. Traveling from San Francisco, he won’t be arriving in Romania until early 2018. No problem with your arrival date, I explained. I’ll be back in Bucharest at least twice before the end of the summer. He is a Fulbright scholar and his wife is a physician who is a former clinical director of a pediatric mental health program. Both he and his wife are eager to share information, and we are coordinating schedules to have lunch together.

My first appointment in Romania is a very special one. I have plans to meet Rodica Zaharia, who was a visiting Fulbright scholar at Marywood University in 2014. She is on faculty at the University of Economic Studies, Bucharest. While she was at Marywood, I got to know her a little bit. Her kindness and intelligence were very memorable, and I really look forward to seeing her again.

I’m grateful that I got to know Rodica a few years ago, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had this year to meet people from all over the world. In spite of differences among people, it’s easy to find similarities.

My challenge to you today is to reach out as I have. You don’t have to go to Romania to do it. Ask a student whose work you admire if you can talk with him or her about it. Look on Marywood’s website to see what faculty members’ research interests mirror yours, and request a chat with them to learn more. Join a group that intrigues you, or attend an event and get to know more people.

It’s easy. It starts like this, “Hello! My name is …”.

Photo credit: pexels.com

Tricia Richards Thumbnail-Head Shot

Tricia Richards-Service is an adjunct faculty member of the Communication Arts Department at Marywood University and a doctoral candidate in health promotion. A 2017-2018 Fulbright-Schuman student research grantee, she is now in Europe, where she is conducting research on breast cancer in Ireland and Romania.

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