Reflective Waves: Behind the Scenes of our Collaboration’s Newsletter

By Ashley Atkinson

With funding for The SEISMIC Collaboration being extended for another year, this is a great opportunity to reflect on past SEISMIC initiatives, synthesizing what we’ve learned and thinking about what we want both SEISMIC 2.0 and our last year of SEISMIC 1.0 to look like. To take advantage of this time, SEISMIC Central is beginning a “Reflective Waves” article series where previous SEISMIC efforts are revisited and explored. The goal is to interview members tied to these efforts to gain additional perspectives on projects. We are hopeful that this series will cover a variety of SEISMIC initiatives including the Working Groups, the Office Hours Podcast, SEISMIC Scholars, the Weeks of SEISMIC, and the Collaboration Council. The first and longest standing SEISMIC initiative we are reflecting on, however, is our Newsletter.

SEISMIC Project Manager Nita Tarchinski

Currently, the SEISMIC Newsletter has 726 subscribers and has released a total of 57 monthly issues. For almost five years, members of SEISMIC and other interested individuals have been receiving information about current Collaboration happenings including upcoming events, featured participants, and project updates. However, the SEISMIC Newsletter had humble beginnings: the first issue published in March of 2019 had just 64 recipients.

SEISMIC Project Manager Nita Tarchinski has been in charge of creating the monthly Newsletters since the beginning. She recalls that it was originally SEISMIC Director Tim McKay’s idea for a Newsletter in order to provide the collaboration with a regular communication mechanism. “No matter what, you were going to hear from us once a month, and that seemed like a good frequency to keep people engaged,” Nita explains. SEISMIC’s Newsletter is also open to those who are not at participating institutions but are interested in the type of work that SEISMIC does. Many of SEISMIC’s virtual talks are open to the public, welcoming those from outside the 10 member institutions.


Aside from regular updates related to the Collaboration itself, another regular component of the monthly Newsletters is the SEISMIC Voices series. Since the beginning, SEISMIC Voices has aimed to both help bring the community together and make members feel valued. “We were starting the community from zero. We were trying to make people feel seen,” Nita says. “Every month you’re seeing someone new and seeing another way that people have been involved.” Nita has been intentional about featuring a diverse set of voices, inviting people from different universities and disciplines, people who have held different institutional roles, and people who have been involved in SEISMIC in different ways. She has also tried to ensure that the Voices highlight SEISMIC’s gender and racial diversity.

In addition to showcasing SEISMIC’s members, Nita hopes that participating in SEISMIC Voices can act as a recommitment to the Collaboration: “It’s like this affirmation to them that we see them as a contributing member,” Nita explains. She hopes that by reflecting on their experiences, featured members are reminded of what they’ve enjoyed about the collaboration, and hopefully want to do more.

The SEISMIC Newsletter also has other uses, such as allowing members to share their own events and advertising swag created by SEISMIC Central. Moreover, the Newsletter has been used to gather feedback, both formally and informally. There have been times when members have replied to the Newsletters Nita sends out, cheering SEISMIC on and celebrating accomplishments that have been shared. “I’ve been so touched by that,” Nita says. Additionally, last month’s Newsletter featured a poll allowing members to vote for how SEISMIC should use its remaining funds. While the results didn’t show an immediate “winner”, members’ opinions will be considered when discussing plans for SEISMIC 2.0.

With many of SEISMIC’s projects winding down, Nita believes that next year could be a great opportunity to share lessons learned from SEISMIC 1.0, especially as SEISMIC Central and The Collaboration Council discuss what SEISMIC 2.0 will look like. This would involve a shift in the balance of content, involving less updating and more learning. While the Reflective Waves series supports this, Nita is also interested in sharing lessons directly from Working Groups and other teams.

Moving into our final year, the Newsletter continues to be a vital part of the SEISMIC community. Nita has done a fantastic job of managing and developing the Newsletter, and she has solidified its status as SEISMIC’s most popular way of sharing information. Going forward, SEISMIC Program Assistant Ashley Atkinson will be in charge of developing content for the Newsletter and hopes to continue the momentum that Nita has built. Ashley is welcoming new ideas for the Newsletter and can be reached at She hopes that subscribers are excited for the Reflective Waves series!



Ashley Atkinson

Ashley Atkinson is a Program Assistant for SEISMIC Central, ensuring that SEISMIC initiatives have the help they need to run smoothly. Her primary responsibilities include maintaining the SEISMIC website, managing the Newsletter, and supporting projects. As an alum from Michigan State University, Ashley is passionate about equity and inclusion in STEM alongside science communication. She is currently pursuing an MA in Science Writing and Johns Hopkins University.