Activation: Fall Semester Recap

Teresa Datta, Danny Wilson, David Xiang

December 7, 2020

This session was a cohort-wide discussion of the fall semester in Assembly. The goal of our session was to reflect on the topics we had covered in the first three months of the Fellowship, and to allow Fellows to consider how the program had influenced their own intellectual and professional objectives. 

Prior to the session, we asked Fellows to review their application materials for the program. We then asked them to consider their original goals for the Fellowship and to evaluate which of those goals they had met; if their goals had changed; how their understanding of disinformation had deepened; and how the first semester of Assembly had reshaped their perspective. We were particularly keen for Fellows to grapple with how their political and moral commitments had changed as a result of Assembly, and to consider if how they consume information had shifted.

We launched breakout rooms of four Fellows each, to allow for more intimate discussion. In this setting, students were able to share details of their applications and openly discuss how the Fellowship had shifted their individual aspirations. With these discussions in mind, we then invited each Fellow to create a Mind Map.

The Mind Maps:

The Mind Map includes a broad topic as the central node, with branches determined by each creator. We offered two prompts: (1) what questions about disinformation do you still have and (2) what do you want to continue to explore?

Our example Mind Map is below:

We were thrilled with some of the responses we received: 

Olivia Graham
David Stansbury
Valentina Vargas


  • Objectives shift. Some of our Mind Maps were closely tied to our initial application goals; in many other cases, Fellows had many newfound priorities. 
  • Reflecting on our applications allowed Fellows to grapple with just how rich the field that seeks to address disinformation is — and that Assembly has done a great job of exposing us to it. 
  • Seeking to address disinformation is a professional objective for many of us, but its effects are so varied and deep that countering it is also a political and moral goal. 


With more time, we might have encouraged Fellows to use a drawing tool for their Mind Maps (rather than pen and paper) to maximize legibility. We also wish we had designed a mechanism to follow up with Fellows throughout the Spring semester, to encourage them to act on the new paths they set during mapping. 

The breakout rooms were a way for Fellows to engage with one another — particularly important after a remote semester. They also served as an easy reminder of how different our goals for Assembly were, and how we could use that variety to our own advantage in learning more.