Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

CSDE Trainees are encouraged to meet with CSDE out-of-town guest speakers one-on-one and as a group after the seminar. The informal group lunch is an opportunity to learn  more about the speaker’s professional experiences and research, as well as to ask for professional or research advice.  A  Trainee serves as a moderator of the group discussion.

The Moderator’s Tasks

The moderator is responsible for several tasks prior to the day of the seminar

Check List

  • Two Weeks before the Seminar: Moderators are encouraged to contact the speaker in advance to ask them if they have something helpful to share about their career and current research. Are there professional topics they would like to discuss at the post seminar meeting? This will set the stage for a more interesting and informative seminar based on the strengths of the speaker or knowledge the speaker can provide that will be different from information provided by other speakers. This contact also provides the moderator with an opportunity to strengthen the networking benefits of serving as a moderator.
  • By Thursday in the Week before the Seminar: Prepare an announcement inviting students to participate in the post-seminar discussion. Email the announcement as a Word Document to CSDE’s Training Program Coordinator by the Friday before the seminar. The announcement is based on a template.
  • The Announcement:
    • Include information about the speaker and you.
    • Mention the speaker’s position(s) (e.g., Chaired Professor, Director of a center, etc.), their important honors and awards, their research, and interesting and distinctive experiences that could be discussed in the meeting (e.g., work outside academia, collaborations with organizations and governments overseas, career development grants, etc.)
    • Ask students to send you the following:
      • Dietary restrictions
      • A Head Shot.
      • Their status in graduate school (e.g., Doctoral student, Doctoral Candidate, MPH/MPA/MUP student)
      • Degree Program (i.e., their degree title)
      • A 2-4 sentence bio to introduce themselves and the research they are working on, and have recently published. If they are not currently working on research, they should describe research topics that they are interested in working on.
      • List their 2-4 primary research areas (e.g., . health inequalities, international migration,  residential segregation, indirect estimation, computational demography, etc.)
  • After the Announcement is Sent to Students: Collect the RSVP’s,  and other information about the students who sign up.
  • Recruit students individually. If fewer than four students RSVP by Wednesday at noon, reach out to individual students and inform CSDE’s Program Coordinator about the low  turnout so they may suggest additional students to reach out to.
  • Thursday at Noon: Provide the CSDE Program Coordinator with the number of students who will attend and the specified information about each student by Thursday at noon before the seminar so that they may order the food and put together the information for the speaker.
  • Before the Start of the Seminar: Ask the person who introduces the speaker to remind students to stay after the seminar for the group discussion, and to ask other attendees to hold further discussion and questions for a meeting later in the day. Escort the speaker to the group meeting so that they are not held up by seminar participants wanting to talk to them.
  • During the group lunch: Introduce the format of the group meeting to students who have not previously attended, ask everyone to introduce their names, discipline, and say something about their research. Initiate and maintain an interesting and productive discussion.


Moderators read through the speaker’s CV and webpages, and read a recent paper or the research paper presented if it is available so that the announcement will be informative and so that they may prepare thoughtful and relevant questions in advance that address career development and research issues that may be unique to the speaker.

The announcement should contain specific information about the questions the moderator would like to discuss so that students can think about questions ahead of time, rather than asking the same types of questions for each visitor. The moderator should determine what is interesting or distinctive about the speaker’s career path and would be instructive for the trainees. Suggestions for questions include asking the visitor how they got into demography and chose the research topics they study. Ask them about areas in which they have experience (e.g., postdoctoral fellowships, an early career award, collaborations with international organizations, non-academic employment, etc.). The announcements also includes important honors and awards, and current affiliations, as well as a concise statement of the visitor’s research agenda, as well as information about the moderator.

The moderator is welcome to come up with a different plan that they may propose to the Training Program Coordinator.  For example, they could ask the visitor to read their paper and ask students to read their paper, for example

Tips on Moderating

To ensure a successful meeting, the moderator is expected to do the following:

  • Initiate and maintain an interesting and useful discussion.
  • Ensure there are no lulls or inappropriate content in the conversation. Encourage students to ask the speaker questions that will inform their own research, especially students whose research overlaps with the speakers.
  • Create space for other participants to ask questions and speak. Redirect conversations when they become unproductive or move far off topic.