Sharing, discussing ideas helps learning at meetings

Duane Dailey

Meaningful meetings keep coming my way in a flush of good luck. Not all meetings are good. With so many meetings here, some hit snooze.

Meetings remain vital. The Internet can’t haul the whole teaching load. Face-to-face, we can teach and learn. Some folks don’t know those two go together. Some bureaucrats talk, but don’t teach.

There are big meetings, such as the MU Farm Bill Summit last week. That was vital for Missourians. Conversations started on what U.S. Congress needs to hear from us.

Before that, I was invited to a small gathering to revive the Forage-Livestock Seminar. Seminars are foundation stones for deep learning at a University. Some shoot over my head, as scientists and extension specialists debate ideas and research.

This one went deep quick. But, I learned from being part of the process. Scientific jargon to define plant cell wall structures, used words I never heard before. Scientists and specialists were in their element.

A young faculty member had written a grant proposal that might help move a southern grass used by beef herds further north across Missouri. Adding winter hardiness could make Bermudagrass an alternative to our most common forage, toxic fescue.

The grant proposal was ready to go, the writer thought. After presenting the plan, the questions began. From the dozen other participants came questions and suggestions. Many started: “Have you thought about this…”

Potential problems were pointed out as researchers cited previous work. Whirlwind brainstorming took place. I understood some of that. But, I learned seeing the process take place. Collaboration before action helps fresh ideas.

I wish diehard bureaucrats, who’re top-down thinkers, could see a seminar in action. Often bureaucrats don’t want to share decision making, but give commands. Their ideas, not subjected to free-for-all discussion before sending, would improve with shared thinking.

An op-ed in The New York Times this week describes why the University of Chicago ranks so high as a University. The newest Nobel Prize winner in economics comes from there. That makes about the 20th. How’s that happen?

It comes in part from the process I saw in the forage seminar. But it’s more constant. Critiques are given and accepted. A back and forth between brilliant thinkers improves ideas.

Oh, yes. There was one other thing about Chicago, the writer shared. They gave up football. Not saying MU should, but some days I wonder. Money goes to expand a stadium while students sit on lecture-hall steps when classes overflow.

In other good meetings, MU leaders, who are not interims, now make themselves known. The agricultural Dean starts by seeking help. He even asks to hear from retired professors, wanting to learn what went before. What an idea!

At the MU Thompson Farm Field Day, Dean Christopher Daubert came to listen. When leaving, he asked me to come visit. When we had that meeting Friday, he seemed shocked when I said some MU stories sent out aren’t usable by newspapers. He didn’t slam the door, it remains open, he said.

We’re hearing big time from new MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright. He’s talking and listening. The local Sunday Tribune, which came as I started writing, carries a page one story on Cartwright’s first three months.

Deep in that story he says he likes the Missouri Method as taught by the School of Journalism. I do to. That’s the way I was taught and the way I’ve taught some outstanding journalists. Teaching brings its own reward. But, it would be nice to be paid a decent wage. Cartwright will work on that, he says, as he did in New York state where he came from.

Finally, the best recent meeting: The Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame induction. Missouri produces great photo story tellers. In a time of gloom, my glass remains half full. Meetings show me brightness.

Write or 511 W. Worley, Columbia, Mo., 65203. Your words carry power.