Stearns Center-Connects

Stearns Center Connects: Coffee and Conversation

Are you

  • a new faculty member looking to build a community of teaching colleagues?
  • a conference or workshop participant hoping to follow up on a teaching strategy?
  • a small cross-disciplinary group trying to nurture a teaching collaboration?

We would like to help you strengthen your connections to the Mason faculty community.

With Stearns Center Connects, you can meet more people like you who are interested in teaching and learning issues, connect with interesting teachers and scholars outside your program, and/or follow up with someone about a workshop, presentation, resource, or project.


Stearns Center Connects is designed particularly to support new and continuing Mason faculty in meeting and building relationships with people outside their own departments. We can support you in meeting with faculty you have already identified as having similar interests—or put you in touch with someone you might not know yet who also wants to build their teaching-and-learning network at Mason.

When you fill out our request form, we’ll reserve a gift card for you that you may use to help motivate and enliven your conversation, either one time or for multiple meetings this semester.


You can participate in any of these Stearns Center Connects options, as a new or continuing faculty member, full-time or part-time:

Connect Peer-to-Peer: Schedule a one-time connection with a designated CTFE mentor or presenter, or with a colleague from another program

Connect to New Faculty Friends: Join a group of three to four new-faculty peers from at least two departments and arrange to connect two or three times during the semester

Cross-Disciplinary Project Connection: Join a group of 3-5 faculty colleagues, including faculty from at least two different departments, and arrange to connect two or three times during the semester to discuss a common project, practice, or inquiry

Please note that Stearns Center Connects is not “”: we do not have the capability to link you to your “one true mentor,” nor do we expect that you will automatically form a lifetime bond with your colleague(s). It’s just coffee! If your Connection is productive and you all agree you want to continue meeting together on your own, of course, that would be wonderful; if you have a good conversation and are ready to go on to other projects, that’s also an excellent result.


Stearns Center Connects: FAQs

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Who can participate?
All Mason faculty of all ranks and categories—adjunct, term, tenure-line, administrative—are invited to participate. (If you’re a graduate student who wants to participate in a conversation about a presentation or project, please email us directly for more information.) In semesters when the Stearns Center Connects budget is limited, we will sponsor Connections on a first-come, first-connected basis, except for the following preferences:

  • Preference is given to new faculty and to those who are following up on a Stearns Center-sponsored event such as the Innovations conference or a workshop.
  • Preference is given each term to faculty who have not participated in the previous term.

How do I sign up if I already know which person/people I want to Connect with?

Fill out our online form to give us some initial information. (Only one person in the Connection needs to fill this out, as long as all members’ names and emails are included.) We’ll leave it to you and your colleagues to work out the time(s) and place(s) of your meeting. Usually we’ll be able to get back to you within a week; it may take another 5-10 business days before you can access your gift card(s).

How do I sign up if I don’t know who I might best Connect with?

Fill out our online form to give us some initial information. We will try to match you with a colleague whose schedule and/or interests are a good match for your own, but our main goal is to get you Connected as efficiently as possible rather than searching for your “perfect match.” Usually we’ll be able to get back to you in a week or so; it may take another 5-10 business days before you can access your gift card(s).

Once I’m Connected to one or more colleagues, what do we do?

First, one of you will need to pick up your gift card at the Stearns Center office in 241 Johnson Center. (If you’re on another campus, we can send it through campus mail.)

Next, you’ll need to set up a time and place to meet. We recommend giving yourselves 30-40 minutes, but you might find that you prefer a longer or shorter time. If you haven’t yet met your colleague(s), this could be a good time to see if there’s a picture on their department or office page so you can recognize each other easily.

What should we talk about?

You’re welcome to talk about anything you think will help you as a faculty member at Mason! That could be a very focused discussion about a strategy presented at a workshop, or a wide-ranging discussion about teaching, researching, or thriving at Mason.

If you’re meeting a colleague for the first time and aren’t sure what to talk about, you’re welcome to borrow a question or two from the list below (some of us are introverts, too, so we appreciate having some prepared ideas!).

  • What’s something you’re trying new this semester, and how is it going?
  • What’s been your biggest surprise in your teaching recently?
  • What communities are you part of, on or off campus? Do they connect to or support your professional work?
  • What do you think was your best moment / class / student project last semester, & why?
  • What program / app / resource / approach are you using now that’s most helping you with your teaching or scholarship?
  • Do you have favorite places to go (or activities to try), on or off campus, when you need to recharge?
  • Who do you talk to at Mason when you have questions, ideas, or projects to investigate—especially people outside your department?
  • What are you doing this term to try to maintain your teaching/scholarship and/or work/life balance?
  • Have you taught a course recently that involved (a) active learning or a “flipped” model, (b) undergraduate research projects, or (c) an online-learning component?

After we've finished our Connection, what do we do?

After you’ve picked up your coffee card, had your meeting(s), and strengthened your connection, please remember to fill out our 90-Second Survey. This is a new program, so it’s important that we hear back from you about what you liked and what you’d suggest.

Your gift card is yours: if there’s a balance left, you can flip a coin, draw straws, or choose to give it to the newest / most upbeat / most sleep-deprived person in your Connection.

If all members of your Connection agree, you can make plans to check in later by email, to meet again in the future, or to pursue additional projects. Since Stearns Center Connects is designed to support short-term Connections, it’s also just fine to say “Thank you!” and move on.

And finally, please make a plan to check back on our Special Events page to see what other events or opportunities you might want to participate in!

What if there's a larger group of faculty I want to Connect with, or a longer term project?

See our Faculty Learning Circle page.