Newsletter promotes community with soup

By Connor Carynski, Campus Editor

Erin Brown
A recipe for baked potato soup was included along with the second “Letter from Ames” with a narrative about being a teaching assistant at Bowling Green State University.

There are fewer things with greater contrast than a homey bowl of soup and a stark office newsletter, but the two have blended in a fresh take on a tired practice.

Ames Hawkins, Associate Provost of Faculty Research and Development and Associate Professor in the English and Creative Writing Department, has taken an unconventional approach to business communication by incorporating short stories and recipes in her office’s newsletter. 

The monthly “Letter from Ames” email incorporates Hawkins’ personal narratives that range from losing a wallet to the flowering of a forsythia plant. Each newsletter ends with a recipe, which she said comes from owning countless recipes and a brief stint writing food columns for the Windy City Times.

Past recipes have included Scotch broth, chicken and sausage gumbo and curried corn chowder.

Hawkins said she decided to personalize the newsletter after receiving results from a faculty survey distributed in fall 2016, which indicated that faculty wanted clearer and more frequent communication with the college’s administration. 

After stepping into her position Jan. 3, members of the Strategic Marketing and Communications Office suggested she start a newsletter. Hawkins decided rather than simply listing events, she would write a monthly letter to her audience that had personal content along with information about educational opportunities at the school.

Hawkins said she wanted to use the letter to create a space for community, noting the traditional newsletter format would not have had the same effect. 

“A letter opens with some thoughts that you have and are communicating to people, and I really do think about it as me talking to a faculty member about their work as an instructor,” Hawkins said. 

Associate Professor in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department Andrew Causey said the letter is the first time someone had made a concerted and regular effort to keep faculty informed about the college’s academic developments since he started in 2001.

“I like it because you don’t get too many emails in your inbox that are not asking for anything but are just upbeat and informative,” Causey said. “It’s fun and it feels like we are in contact.”

Associate Professor in the Communication Department Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin said she enjoys how the letter creates an ongoing conversation about the work in the Faculty Research and Development Office. For faculty and staff throughout the college who are unaware of Hawkins and the work she does, Bloyd-Peshkin said the letter makes it possible to understand what she and her office are working on.

“[Hawkins] is connecting with her readers personally and professionally all in one, and I like that because our jobs are both personal and professional,” Bloyd-Peshkin said.

Hawkins said about 25 percent of letter recipients open the letter. Although responses to the letter were higher when it first launched, she still continues to receive five or six emails after sending out the letter asking questions or thanking her.

“I do take very seriously that part of my job has to do with supporting that community of a really healthy, forward-thinking learning environment,” Hawkins said. “One newsletter is not going to solve [communication issues] but it does signal that we are thinking about those kinds of things.”