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Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshops

On behalf of the Rackham Graduate School thank you for your interest in the Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop (RIW) program. Rackham sponsors an ongoing program of interdisciplinary workshops, which is overseen by Associate Dean Arthur Verhoogt. At this time, Rackham is following guidelines which are aligned with university policy to ensure a fiscally responsible running of the Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshops. With the expectation that current university spending restrictions will be lifted in the new fiscal year which begins July 1, 2021, Rackham will allow proposed budgets for RIWs not to exceed $5,000 for proposals submitted by July 21 and $2,500 for proposals submitted by January 4. If restrictions are not eased, the RIW will not be reimbursed for any portion of the award on categories that remain curtailed.

The Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshops which will be supported should have an ongoing core membership and meet regularly throughout the 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 some groups may include activities which when proposed in their application may be deemed as appropriate.

Graduate students interested in forming such groups may apply for up to $1,500 in stipends and up to $500 in research contributions for their faculty sponsor(s). Proposals may be submitted twice during the year, either by July 21 or January 4. Workshops will receive funds in deficit at the end of the year after successful submission and approval by the Associate Dean 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. 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 should 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 is 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 RIWs.

  • 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 year-end 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.