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Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshops

Information for Graduate Students in Response to COVID-19

When deciding to hold, move, or cancel Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop (RIW) events, RIW coordinators should connect with their faculty mentor and department administrator, and follow meeting policies developed for their department and the scheduled meeting location. Rackham will waive the requirement of having a culminating event this year. Unused RIW funds cannot be carried over to next year. However, it will be possible to repurpose assigned funding to another use with advance approval from Rackham.

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.

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 conference, a grant proposal, or a research project. We expect that most groups will also read scholarship on relevant topics and they may include discussion with invited visitors; other activities may be proposed as appropriate.

Graduate students interested in forming such groups may apply for up to $5,000 to support workshop activities and to compensate coordinators. 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—they may 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 they may include discussion with invited visitors; other activities 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 3rd through 6th 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.
  • Manage the group’s budget (make arrangements with your unit to receive statements of activity to track workshop expenses on a regular basis)
  • 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
  • Organize speakers’ visits, if applicable. Please plan no more than one (1) outside speaker for each academic year.
  • 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.

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