Establishing an intellectual safe space

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A panel discussion on the formation and function of an interdisciplinary scholarly community for doctoral students

Peter A. Bacevice  Lisa C. Guzman  Danielle K. Molina
Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education
University of Michigan


Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity in Education March 30-31, 2007

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Establishing an intellectual safe space

  1. 1. Establishing an “Intellectual Safe Space” A panel discussion on the formation and function of an interdisciplinary scholarly community for doctoral students Peter A. Bacevice  Lisa C. Guzman  Danielle K. Molina Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education University of Michigan Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity in Education March 30-31, 2007
  2. 2. Goals for Today’s Presentation <ul><li>Share our story of creating a scholarly community to mediate graduate school challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Link these reflections to scholarship on the graduate experience and scholarly communities </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss the ways in which we all resonate with this topic </li></ul><ul><li>Share ideas on how developing scholarly communities might aid in your graduate experience </li></ul><ul><li>Generate ideas for future research </li></ul>
  3. 3. The Graduate School Experience
  4. 4. As a Graduate Student… <ul><li>What are some of the academic challenges that you have encountered or expect to encounter? </li></ul><ul><li>What strategies have you used to mediate these challenges? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Three Graduate School Experiences <ul><li>Danielle </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not so subtle cues: who’s “in” and who’s “out” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Faith in your abilities and a sense of belonging </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pete </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How to ask or not to ask: THAT is the question </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Academic grandstanding </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Lisa </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Testing boundaries but staying within the lines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Standing to the right on a moving walkway: watching fast-track students fly by </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Finding a safe space between challenge and support </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Challenges to Graduate School Success
  7. 7. <ul><li>Role-Models: mentoring affects research agendas and success </li></ul><ul><li>Purpose of research: meaningful/ developmental or to check another accomplishment off the list (publication, vita, satisfying others’ expectations) </li></ul><ul><li>Professional knowledge and skill: ‘feel’, ‘judgment’, knowing when to act, ability to frame problems, using new approaches </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Frost, 1989; Green & Bauer, 1995; Paglis, Green, & Bauer, 2006; Pearson, 1996 </li></ul></ul>Academic Challenges
  8. 8. Organizational Challenges <ul><li>Socialization: gaining entry </li></ul><ul><li>Structure: social networks </li></ul><ul><li>Culture: language of the discipline </li></ul><ul><li>Integration: Commitment to department and goal of finishing </li></ul><ul><li>Identity: sense of belonging </li></ul><ul><li>Baird, 1990; Cooke, Sims, & Peyrefitte, 1995; Corcoran & Clark, 1984; Fields, 1998; Golde, 2000; Lango, 1995 </li></ul>
  9. 9. Psychological Challenges <ul><li>Confidence </li></ul><ul><li>Emotional Well-Being </li></ul><ul><li>Stress </li></ul><ul><li>Anxiety </li></ul><ul><li>Coping </li></ul><ul><li>Hyun, Quinn, Madon, & Lustig, 2006; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Munir & Jackson, 1997 </li></ul>
  10. 10. Add concerns faced specifically by underrepresented students… <ul><li>Lack of mentors from underrepresented groups </li></ul><ul><li>Devaluing of scholarship on race-related topics </li></ul><ul><li>Being stereotyped or encountering prejudice </li></ul><ul><li>Unspoken assumptions about race and status </li></ul><ul><li>Exclusion from scholarly discourse </li></ul><ul><li>Carter-Obayuwana, 1995; Cheatham & Phelps, 1995; Chism & Pruitt, 1995; Davidson & Foster-Johnson, 2001; Dowdy, Givens, Murillo, Shenoy, & Villenas, 2000; Fields, 1998; Gasman, Gerstl-Pepin, Anderson-Thompkins, Rasheed, & Hathaway, 2004; Lango, 1995; Steele, 1999; Willie, Grady, & Hope, 1991 </li></ul>
  11. 11. Mediating the Challenges of Graduate School
  12. 12. Blaze Your Own Trail <ul><li>However… </li></ul><ul><li>Scholarship is a social endeavor in which ideas grow out of social interaction rituals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Competitive quest for cultural capital </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Community allows scholars to have the power of ideological influence </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Collins, 1998 </li></ul>
  13. 13. Find Others to Share the Journey <ul><li>Yet… </li></ul><ul><li>Students generally engage with departmental colleagues </li></ul><ul><li>Students who perceive themselves as marginalized look for niche groups </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pallas, 2001; Pearson, 1996 </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Problem with Homogeneous Social Spaces <ul><li>Consensus, alone, does not advance knowledge. Too much agreement isn’t necessarily a good thing (Pfeffer, 1993) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Actions that strengthen the community weaken the scholarship. And actions that strengthen the scholarship weaken the community” (Weick, 1983) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Designing Scholarly Communities that Mediate Graduate School Challenges
  16. 16. Develop Interdisciplinary Communities <ul><li>Strength of weak ties (Grannovetter, 1973) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gain from the knowledge of others who have different information than yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sensemaking (Weick, 1995) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to mediate evolving events by drawing upon diverse perspectives and expertise </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ complicate yourself” </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Create Intellectual “Safe” Spaces <ul><li>Groups with weak ties are beneficial when trust is present (Levin & Cross, 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>Create environment where epistemological experimentation is safe and encouraged (Pallas, 2001) </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage a sense of belonging: positively related to persistence, participation, and engagement (Cooke, Sims, & Peyrefitte, 1995) </li></ul>
  18. 18. The Story Behind Creating Our Interdisciplinary Scholarly Community
  19. 19. The Coordinators <ul><li>Team of 6 Doctoral Students </li></ul><ul><li>Doctoral Students in the Schools of Business, Information, and Education </li></ul><ul><li>All Members of Weick’s Social Psychology of Organizing Class </li></ul><ul><li>Each have participated as members of other homogeneous and interdisciplinary academic groups (e.g., summer institute, ICOS) </li></ul>
  20. 20. The Resources <ul><li>Rackham’s value in interdisciplinary study </li></ul><ul><li>Pre-existing program to support the development of interdisciplinary work-groups </li></ul><ul><li>Financial Resources </li></ul><ul><li>Personal Commitment </li></ul>
  21. 21. Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshops <ul><li>http://www.rackham.umich.edu/Events/interdis.html </li></ul><ul><li>Ongoing program of interdisciplinary graduate student and faculty workshops. The groups to be supported should be: </li></ul><ul><li>Self-organized by the participants </li></ul><ul><li>Have an ongoing core membership, and </li></ul><ul><li>Meet regularly throughout the academic year </li></ul><ul><li>Goals </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage exchange and collaboration among students and faculty who share intellectual interests -- but do not necessarily have an easily available forum in common, because they have different academic affiliations. </li></ul><ul><li>Help advanced doctoral students form working groups that support the development of research projects and dissertation-writing. </li></ul>
  22. 22. UM Graduate Interdisciplinary Groups <ul><li>A&D Life: Creative Engagement of Contemporary Art and Life Science </li></ul><ul><li>Advanced Media Studies </li></ul><ul><li>African History Workshop Series </li></ul><ul><li>American History Graduate Student Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>American Politics </li></ul><ul><li>The Black Humanities Collective </li></ul><ul><li>Boundary Crossing and Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe and the Near East </li></ul><ul><li>Caribbean Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>Circulo Micaela Bastidas </li></ul><ul><li>Classics and Architectural History </li></ul><ul><li>Complexity in Industrial Ecology Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>Complex Systems Advanced Academic Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>Consumption Junction </li></ul><ul><li>Conversations Across Social Disciplines (CASD) </li></ul><ul><li>Development, Conservation, and Sustainable Livelihoods </li></ul><ul><li>East Asian Gender Forum </li></ul><ul><li>Experimental Approaches to Understanding Vertebrate Neurogenesis </li></ul><ul><li>The Future of Performance Studies </li></ul><ul><li>Interdisciplinary Group Seminar (IGS) </li></ul><ul><li>International Macro Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>Judaic Studies Reading Group </li></ul><ul><li>K-16 Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>Language & Rhetorical Studies Group </li></ul><ul><li>Middle East and North Africa Scholars Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>Michigan Student Symposium for Interdisciplinary Statistical Science 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Microfluidics for Biology </li></ul><ul><li>Music of the Americas Study Group </li></ul><ul><li>Networks Across Disciplines </li></ul><ul><li>Pacific Island Studies Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>SNRE Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Interdisciplinary Workshop and Seminar Series </li></ul><ul><li>Sensemaking Interdisciplinary Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>Socio-Technical Infrastructure for Electronic Transactions </li></ul><ul><li>South Asian Reading Group ( Kitabmandal ) </li></ul><ul><li>Spiritus Aevi -An Interdisciplinary Workshop for Medievalists </li></ul><ul><li>Statistical Methods in Molecular Biology </li></ul><ul><li>Statistical Learning and Data Mining </li></ul><ul><li>Statistics/Biostatistics Student Seminar Series </li></ul><ul><li>Trans/Formation of the Disciplines: Evaluating the Project of Anthropology and History </li></ul><ul><li>Visual Archives: Narrative and History in Film and New Media </li></ul><ul><li>Workshop for Integrating & Discussing Topics in Healthcare/WIDTH </li></ul>
  23. 23. Sensemaking Interdisciplinary Forum (SIF) <ul><li>http://webuser.bus.umich.edu/organizations/sensemaking/index.htm </li></ul><ul><li>Objectives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Broaden the knowledge of graduate students and professors alike beyond the scope of their chosen disciplines.    </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Generate high-quality professional connections that will cultivate vanguard interdisciplinary research projects.    </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engender high-quality personal connections that provide support to graduate school students and faculty members.   </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide students with experience in presenting their research and opportunities to work on dissertation ideas as well.   </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Website </li></ul><ul><li>Activities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research Incubators </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Firesides Talks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Annual Conference </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Personal Reflections on the Creation and Impact of SIF <ul><li>Danielle </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Building a web of resources across different scholarly communities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning from both shared and divergent perspectives, paths, and experiences </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pete </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Collaborating on projects that are personally meaningful </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discovering what type of scholar you want to be and the tradeoffs of pursuing different paths </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Lisa </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Freedom to explore and experiment with ideas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Developing a unique and authoritative voice </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Your Thoughts on the Matter
  26. 26. Discussion <ul><li>In what ways does this topic reflect, or not reflect, your experiences as graduate students? </li></ul><ul><li>What are your thoughts on scholarly communities and the ability of graduate students to develop “intellectual safe spaces”? </li></ul><ul><li>What do you find to be compelling questions for future research? </li></ul>
  27. 27. Thank You!

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