While I have attended a few “first meetings since…”, this was the MAA New Jersey Section’s first in-person meeting since the start of COVID. They were planning for in-person last Spring but Omicron subvariants threw a wrench in the plans. Spring pivoted to virtual.
As with many of the first meetings back, attendance was lighter than usual. But the folks that were here, were so happy to to see one another. Hugs were shared.
And the program was delightful. Gary Gordon and Liz McMahon opened with a dynamic joint presentation on The Joy of Set. I have known Gary and Liz for many years—since I was an undergraduate and they were fresh assistant professors. Yet, this was the first time I have seen them give a talk together. Gary’s wry humor was the perfect foil for Liz’s irrepressible enthusiasms. Why did it take so long for me to experience this mathematical joy? If you have the opportunity to see them talk together, take advantage of it. It is not to be missed.
The second invited speaker was supposed to be Pat McFarlane, sports data scientist for the Philadelphia Phillies. Depending on your loyalties, it was either fortunate or unfortunate that the talk was cancelled due to the speakers “obligations related to the Major League Baseball playoffs.” A last minute pivot put Amanda Beecher, section chair, moderating a panel on math in a post-pandemic world. I was joined on the panel by Jonathan Weisbrod, Dawn Nelson, and Aisha Li.
I did live tweet this pearl of wisdom:
I was so thoroughly engaged in the rest of the meeting, I barely took pictures. I hosted a lunch table discussion ostensibly about math outreach but we always seemed to return to the effects of the pandemic. I participated in a hands-on SET workshop led by the aforementioned dynamic duo, and finally I gave my own talk about humanizing assessment.
This was a variation of a talk that I originally wrote as a virtual presentation. The question I struggled with was how should I structure the audience engagement? I could ask people to pull out an electronic device and join a Desmos activity—either on their phone or a laptop—or we could interact face-to-face.
Based on the attitudes and number of people in the room, I opted for face-to-face. I think it was the right call. Despite a joking grumble of ‘oh no, it’s going to be interactive,’ everyone participated, providing more opportunities for connection.
We closed the day out with a celebration of success! Speakers. Organizers. Steak. Seafood. Stories. Laughter. Fun.
Despite all the pivots that it took to get here, it was worth it.
Thanks for the invitation MAA NJ Section. I had a great time.
Cover Image: MAA-NJ Congress representative Karen Clark opens the business meeting.