Hosting Visitors

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PhD students are often asked to help host visitors to the department. Usually, they're asked to put together, or help put together, one-on-one meeting schedules. However, students are often unsure how to do this, or how to do it well, the first time (or more!) that they're asked. This page is the result of a discussion at cornellcis.slack.com's #advice channel.

None of this advice is at all binding! Please, if you have reason for doing things differently, do so. However, you might want to talk to the faculty host and the hiring committee chair first.

Principles

The overarching goals of having meetings with a visitor are twofold:

  • Have them go away thinking Cornell CS is a fantastic place with lots of great research
  • Gain maximal information about how that person is likely to be as a researcher or colleague

The second is much more important with visitors that are here for a job position than other visitors. However, it is important with all visitors; after all, these are people we may try to hire in the future.

When hosting a visitor, keeping these two goals in mind is incredibly important. They should underpin the decisions you make in how to go about scheduling one-on-one meetings, and more.

Scheduling Meetings

Soliciting Meetings

Your goal in scheduling student meetings to collect a small group of students who will be able to evaluate the visitor and also to impress the visitor. You want students from the area of the visitor's research and you should aim to get representation from multiple research groups. However, a group of more than 4 students will be too large for a half-hour conversation. The best bet is to ask students directly if they would like to be involved. You can also ask faculty if there is a student from their group that they would recommend. If you are having trouble drumming up interest/availability, you can send a wider solicitation to, e.g., phd-social. But first try to collect the "right group" directly. When contacting people you'd really like to be involved, do it face-to-face or email people personally! This is much harder to ignore, and much better practice. Wider solicitations are likely to get lost in the noise of department emails.

Creating a Schedule

The time that you meet the visitor may already be fixed. Otherwise, you should solicit times from people who have expressed interest in meeting the visitor. There are several good tools for doing this, including when2meet and doodle are popular choices. when2meet tends to work better when the entire day is free, and you need to schedule freeform meetings. Doodle works better for scheduling blocks of time.

When you have collected times that people can meet with the visitor, you need to reconcile this with the visitors schedule, which is typically managed in Doodle.

Groups versus Individuals

While these meetings are usually one-on-one, having groups can be helpful. Advisors might want to have groups of their students meet a visitor at one point, or several collaborators might wish to meet a visitor at once. You might also have a group of people who are interested in meeting a visitor, but who maybe work in different areas, if you have a group of such people. Don't be shy of scheduling groups for these meetings!

Feedback

Your feedback will be taken seriously in hiring conversations. Please email the host and the chair of the department as soon as possible when hosting a visitor here for a hiring position, and encourage those meeting with them to do the same. A kindness might be to collect feedback from those meeting with the visitor throughout the day and sending a digest to the faculty host.

For Non-Hosts

If you are not the host of a visitor but are interacting with them in some capacity, remember that you're representing the department to them. If you are interested in meeting with a visitor but don't know where to start, the best place to start is the faculty host, as they should know the schedule and who's hosting the student meeting. You can typically find out the faculty host from emails about the visitor or the CS colloquium website. If you're in doubt, usually Megan McGrane is a good source of information.