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Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshops

The Rackham Graduate School sponsors an ongoing program of interdisciplinary workshops, which is overseen by Associate Dean Arthur Verhoogt. This program has two goals. First, it is designed to encourage exchange and collaboration among graduate students, faculty, postdocs, and staff who share intellectual interests but do not necessarily have an easily available forum in common because they have different academic affiliations. Second, it is designed to help advanced doctoral students form working groups that support the development of research projects and dissertation-writing.

Information Regarding Changes for the Academic Year 2020-2021

Effective Immediately, Rackham Interdisciplinary workshop (RIW) budget proposals submitted for the 2020-2021 academic year will only be reimbursed for the following expenses:

  • Coordinator stipends (with the usual maximum of $1,500 for the full year)
  • Faculty mentor contribution to research account (with the usual maximum of $500)

Even with these constraints, we strongly believe that the goals of this program can fully be achieved. We invite RIW proposals for the 2020-2021 academic year that focus on supporting the development and continuation of intellectual interdisciplinary communities and welcome proposals that describe activities which can be done remotely and/or are consistent with the mode of instructional activities that will be decided upon for the Fall and Winter semesters. For example, activities may focus on discussion of literature and RIW members writing samples.

The groups to be supported should be self-organized by the participants, have an ongoing core membership, and meet regularly throughout the academic year. There should be 1) opportunities for members to receive feedback on their work in progress and 2) an interdisciplinary goal or end product. As examples, you might consider increasing knowledge in a specific targeted area with the goal of developing a publishable paper, a grant proposal, or a research project. We expect that most groups will also read scholarship on relevant topics and they may include other activities which may be proposed as appropriate.

Graduate students interested in forming such groups may apply for up to $1500 in stipends and up to $500 in research contributions for their faculty sponsor(s). Proposals may be submitted twice during the year: by July 21 or January 4. Workshops will receive funds at the end of the year after successful submission of the year-end report. Funding is for one year only, but continuing workshops may apply for renewal. Funding not used by the end of the academic year cannot roll over to the next academic year. Notice will be posted here if funds are exhausted and proposals are no longer being accepted.

Structure of the Program

Graduate students wishing to form a workshop will be asked to describe both the specific topics to be addressed by the group and the distinctive nature and value of the interdisciplinary exchange that will be undertaken in the group. The groups to be supported should have an ongoing core membership and meet regularly throughout the academic year. They must be self-organized by the participants and not be part of a credit-bearing course. We expect that most groups will discuss members’ work in progress and published scholarship on relevant topics, and other activities which may be proposed as appropriate.

Groups may be composed of any combination of graduate student, faculty, postdoc, and staff participants, or the group may be primarily graduate students with a faculty sponsor. (Faculty groups that exclude students and staff, and student groups not affiliated with at least one faculty member, are not eligible for funding under this program.) One or more graduate students, one of whom should be a candidate (RIW coordinator), and one or more faculty members (RIW sponsor) should apply on behalf of a group. Committed participants at the time of application must number at least six, with others joining as the group begins its activities. We expect that most groups will have from 12 to 25 participants, but smaller and larger groups may be proposed. Because workshops are expected to require substantial commitment, joining more than one is discouraged.

The membership of a workshop will in most cases be drawn from two or more academic units. The Graduate School recognizes, however, that disciplinary and departmental affiliations are not necessarily congruent, and that disciplinary and interdisciplinary dialogues are often intertwined. It is not required that the individuals submitting the application be from different units, nor is it expected that workshop participants will be evenly or widely scattered across many units. Groups based in interdisciplinary units or strongly anchored in a discipline are eligible to apply so long as they will be open to individuals who are affiliated elsewhere. Established groups whose activities are appropriate for the program are eligible to apply. Groups that have sponsorship from other units may also apply for this program; any funding or other resources already allocated to the group, or applied for, should be specified in the proposal. This program is also designed to ease the isolation that can characterize dissertation work in some fields. However, we encourage proposals from those whose research takes place in a laboratory or other collaborative setting, as well, recognizing that they may benefit greatly from an alternative forum for discussion.

All RIWs should designate at least one graduate student coordinator who has reached candidacy and are in their third through sixth years of study. A student may serve as a coordinator or co-coordinator in one RIW only. Coordinators are expected to be in residence in the Ann Arbor area. Coordinators will:

  • Work with the faculty sponsor to confirm with the appropriate department administrator(s) that the requested department is the best administrative home for the proposed workshop. This is especially important for continuing RIW’s.
  • Collaborate with the faculty sponsor(s) to prepare the proposal and plan the group’s program.
  • Arrange and publicize meetings. Arrange for readings to be available
  • Establish and maintain the group’s membership list and keep records of attendance and activities
  • Create and maintain a web page, linked to the Rackham site, for the group
  • Prepare the group’s year-end report to Rackham

Faculty sponsors and the RIW staff contact within the unit should, minimally:

  • Collaborate in the planning of the workshop
  • Consult regularly with the coordinator about its activities
  • Review the final report before it is submitted

We hope that in most cases faculty organizers and other faculty members will also participate actively and consistently in workshop meetings.