IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars Report Back
This article was originally featured in the Fall 2015 issue of Genderscapes, IRWG's annual newsletter.
It was nearly twenty years ago when IRWG and the Rackham Graduate School joined forces to support student research on women, gender, and sexuality. Since then over 220 graduate students have participated in the IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars summer fellowship.
IRWG’s hallmark initiative for graduate students, the program provides full summer funding for research activities, coupled with a weekly seminar in May and June. Led by Professor Elizabeth Wingrove (Political Science, Women’s Studies), the 2015 weekly seminar offered students from disparate disciplines the opportunity to workshop their projects in a supportive and collaborative setting. In October 2015, the students reconvened to present their work at an annual symposium.
Recently, IRWG conducted a survey of Community of Scholars (COS) participants from the past decade. The respondents represented an array of scholars at different stages of their careers, the majority of whom are now in tenure-track positions at universities around the world. Of the respondents, 94% cited COS as useful in the completion of their U-M degrees, and 82% reported using what they learned from the COS fellowship in their present work.
In a ringing endorsement of the fellowship’s primary objective, 79% of respondents felt that COS fostered interdisciplinarity in their work. Many of the survey respondents provided specific examples of what they gained from the Community of Scholars program. Their feedback will prove invaluable in the continued development of graduate student support at IRWG and Rackham.
“My experiences as a Community of Scholars fellow helped me learn how to communicate across disciplines in productive ways. It was an empowering experience, and my students today are beneficiaries . . . It was an outstanding opportunity, and fundamental in my development as a critic, scholar, and teacher. Learning how to explain my work to non-experts was especially useful for grant applications, and I remain committed to fostering interdisciplinary exchange at my current institution.”
--Chad Thomas, Assistant Professor, English Department, University of Alabama in Huntsville (COS 2007)
“In the space of COS, I built connections with colleagues and mentors in other fields that sustain to this day and have had a really deep influence on my work.”
--Amanda Healy, PhD Candidate in English and Women’s Studies (COS 2013)
“I think the most important thing that I got out of the Community of Scholars program was a better understanding and appreciation for interdisciplinary differences, which has since helped me to communicate and collaborate across disciplinary boundaries. Talking about my dissertation project with fellow graduate students outside of psychology helped me understand what a gulf there is between disciplines, and how careful one has to be in how they communicate their work across disciplinary boundaries and to broader audiences more generally.”
--Laura R. Ramsey, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Bridgewater State University (COS 2008)
“I felt like I won the lottery. It was a godsend. It helped me to a produce a much better thesis paper and thesis gallery show, because I was able to spend more time writing and researching my topic."
--John Gutoskey, MFA, Art & Design (COS 2013)
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