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Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshops

Rackham offers Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop (RIW) grants to sponsor an ongoing program of interdisciplinary workshops, which is overseen by Associate Dean Catherine Sanok. This program has two goals. First, it is designed to encourage interdisciplinary research by supporting workshops for 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, RIWs are designed to advance graduate student research by providing opportunities for them to develop and present research in an interdisciplinary forum.

Graduate students interested in forming such groups may apply for grant funding to support workshop activities and to compensate coordinators. A maximum grant award of $5,000 may be requested if the application is submitted by August 1, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. (EDT) for the upcoming academic year. Workshops will receive grant funds at the end of the year after successful submission and approval 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. Please note: The RIW program no longer has a second application cycle for winter semester workshops. Groups, however, may still apply for grant funding for one semester only and must submit applications by the August 1 deadline.

Groups who would like to form a workshop should:

  • define the interdisciplinary question, approach, or project that will be addressed by the workshop, and
  • establish a core membership of graduate students who commit to meeting regularly throughout the year (a minimum of six graduate student members, who should come from two or more graduate programs).

Organizers should design an ongoing forum focused on collaborative research, discussion, and projects; RIWs are also encouraged to advance interdisciplinary research by providing opportunities for members to receive feedback on their work in progress. An RIW may seek to collaborate on a publishable paper, a grant proposal, or a research project, or it may primarily seek to explore an interdisciplinary research question, method, or topic and foster the research of its members. The RIW program is not designed to host a series of talks by external speakers or to provide funding for a conference, though limited RIW funds may be used to host a speaker whose work is closely related to the workshop’s focus.

Program Specifications


Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshops are led by one or more graduate students, one of whom must be a candidate in the third through six years of their studies who serve as the RIW coordinator. (Further guidelines about this role can be found below.) One or more faculty members serves as the RIW sponsor. Together, the RIW graduate-student coordinator(s) and faculty sponsor(s) submit a RIW grant application on behalf of the group. RIW should provide a distinctive forum for interdisciplinary inquiry, research, and collaboration that brings together members of different programs or departments. They cannot be part of a credit-bearing course, a department or program-level workshop, or a program’s speaker series or seminar. Groups based in interdisciplinary units or strongly anchored in an established discipline should explain how the RIW provides an opportunity for interdisciplinary research that is not otherwise available.


Workshops must meet regularly across the funded period: typically, four to eight meetings each semester, in addition to any organizational or social meetings. Workshops meetings may include presentation of members’ work in progress, discussion of published scholarship, collaborative activities, and presentation by an invited scholar, as well as other activities as appropriate. Many groups have found success with hosting a social event at the start of the fall term to gather ideas and garner interest. RIWs should not function as social clubs, but coordinators are encouraged to incorporate these types of events into their planned activities.


At the time of application, RIWs should have a minimum of six members who commit to regularly participating during the period for which funding is requested, with others joining as the group begins its activities. We expect that most groups will have from 12 to 25 members (those who attend more than half of the RIW functions/meetings/events), but smaller and larger groups may be proposed. In accordance with the program’s core goals, workshops should include members from at least two graduate programs. Groups can be composed of a combination of graduate students, faculty, postdocs, and/or staff, 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. Because workshops are expected to require substantial commitment, joining more than one is discouraged. While faculty at all levels are eligible to serve as sponsors, due to the expected level of time commitment, coordinators are discouraged from seeking first year faculty as sponsors.

Membership in an RIW should be open to all Rackham graduate students, and organizers are required to advertise the RIW at the beginning of the period of funding and to post all events to the RIW calendar within Sessions. RIWs are also encouraged to announce their events, especially those taking place early in the terms, in the Rackham graduate student newsletter. RIWs that plan to apply for continued funding will be asked to provide a list of students who have committed to participate as members the following year. RIWs that do not meet regularly and publicize their meeting schedule will not be renewed.


Groups that have sponsorship from other units may apply for this grant program; any funding or other resources already allocated to the group, or applied for, must be specified in the grant proposal, which should explain how the RIW complements the other activities.

RIW Coordinators

RIWs have at least one graduate student coordinator who has reached candidacy and is in their third through sixth years of study. Exceptions are rarely made for students beyond the sixth year to serve as coordinators and require a statement from the student’s faculty supervisor, as well as the faculty sponsor of the workshop, that the student is making good progress towards completion of the degree and that this responsibility will not impede their progress.

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.

When the members of a workshop wish to continue their activities over several years, it is advisable for the RIW coordinator(s) to work actively during the academic year to identify and mentor potential successors. A pattern in which there is one continuing and one new coordinator each year can ensure a smooth transition.

RIW Coordinator Responsibilities

  • Collaborate with the faculty sponsor(s) to prepare the grant proposal and plan the group’s schedule of meetings and activities.
  • Arrange and publicize meetings. Arrange for readings and other materials to be available.
  • Post all RIW-sponsored meeting information to the RIW calendar within Sessions.
  • Establish and maintain the group’s membership list.
  • Keep records of events, including a list of attendees’ uniqnames.
  • Track budget and expenditures.
  • Prepare and complete the group’s year-end grant report to Rackham on time.

RIW Faculty Sponsor Responsibilities

  • Collaborate in the planning of the workshop.
  • Consult regularly with the coordinator about its activities.
  • Review the year-end grant report before it is submitted, and approve it after Rackham administration reviews and approves it.

RIW Administrative Support Staff Responsibilities

  • Advise the graduate student coordinators regarding the budget, tracking expenses, and any relevant university policy.
  • Create a Project Grant specific to the workshop.
  • Review the year-end grant report before it is submitted, and approve it after Rackham administration reviews and approves it.

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