CYGNA: REF and Christmas during a pandemic

Since founding CYGNA in 2014 we have had 30 physical meetings. When COVID-19 hit we moved the meetings online, holding meetings in May and June on Coping with a Pandemic and MBTI & Stress. For the 2020-2021 academic year, we decided to offer a full year of monthly online meetings. The September meeting was on Female leadership in Higher Education, while in October, we decided to tackle the "hot potato" of job losses in higher education in How do I keep my job (in academia) in uncertain times?. In November we returned to a non-Covid topic: CYGNA: The wonderful world of book publishing.

In December it was time for our Christmas celebration with 31 participants, 29 of which are shown above. Given that we met in the afternoon instead of an early morning session, we missed our Asia-Pacific members for whom it was the middle of the night. However, it did give new member Danielle Taylor, located in the USA a chance to join; she is highlighted above. We had more UK participants than in previous meetings, probably because of the REF theme, but even so nearly a third of the participants came from outside the UK.

The UK REF: What does it mean for you?

We are academics, so of course we couldn't just have a 2-hour social meeting. At the request of some of our junior members, I therefore gave a short presentation on the REF (Research Excellence Framework). Here are the slides: The UK REF. What does it mean for you?. The full presentation can be watched below.

Secret Santa

In the second half of the meeting, Shasha played some Christmas music and we got to know each other a little better through a Secret Santa game that Shasha had prepared. Each of us had to - anonymously - share something interesting about our non-work lives that others would be unlikely to know. It was great fun and we all enjoyed getting to know a bit more about each others' lives beyond work. Our idea for next time is to have virtual backgrounds that depict our birth country or another place special to us.

What amazed me is how many had shared something related in one way or another to artistic expression such as: winning a national dance competition at 6, having been a professional ballet dancer, a student job as a wedding singer, painting & creating collages, competing nationally in ballroom dancing, acting in the theatre, being a TV anchor, but also sewing clothes and baking.

I found this really interesting as what I had thought of sharing is that I am part of a family of artists: both my grandfather and my father were sculpturers (see this book I created for my father's 80th birthday in 2013) and my mother, middle brother, and his daughter have artistics interests too. I am actually the odd one out in our family. Then again, maybe the arts and research are not so different after all: both are about choosing your own path and realising your own passions and visions. Fortunately, when compared with artists, academics are (still) blessed with a lot more job security and higher salaries!

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