Working Group Models

Models Illustrating Different Working Group Structures & Activities
 
For those who may be newer to the Corridor or those seeking models of Corridor collaborations, we provide some thumbnail sketches of various Working Group structures and activities.
 
For established Working Groups shifting gears, to collaborate digitally in the context of the pandemic, these snapshots may help you consider how Corridor funding can suitably be used for online activities. For instance, funding may be proposed for honoraria for online engagement (for experts, workshop or retreat facilitators, authors, etc.); for accessible online formats (e.g., captioning, transcriptions); for campus IT support; for books or e-books; for consultant or vendor fees; and more.
 
While not exhaustive, the models help illustrate possible ways of working and collaborating we hope you find useful.

This workshop was developed by the Corridor working group Gender and Class in the Novel (LLC25) with the idea of supporting contingent/junior faculty and graduate students, but it can be adapted to any level. If adapted for, say, associate professors seeking feedback toward promotion to full, then participants should be at the same rank/level to avoid hierarchies.

This workshop is intended to provide feedback on shorter-form manuscripts, such as a book chapter or a journal article. In addition, this model does not, as described here, include compensation, since everyone involved is from Corridor institutions and it is based on a give-and-take collaborative ethos and focuses on mentoring relationships. However, it could be adapted to include an outside specialist, to participate in the feedback and workshop and, in this case, a modest honorarium for their contribution to the workshop could be feasible.

Procedure

  • Six participants total (we have been using three grad students and three junior [contingent or tenure stream] faculty prior to publishing their first book).
  • Read pre-distributed drafts of articles or the core piece of a dissertation chapter (20 pages max) from each person the night before, and come up with one question, the key question for each (the brevity of the question is important).
  • In one three-hour session (a Saturday) afternoon, each presenter has 30 minutes total: 5 minutes to set the paper up, followed by one minute for each question.
  • THEN: Instead of the usual Q&A, in which every question, no matter how good or bad, has to be entertained, the remaining 20 minutes is dedicated to discussing what the presenter feels are the crucial questions for developing the paper (usually 2-3 questions). Everything is organized around improving the essay for a possible publication or the chapter for articulating its core point.
  • If this workshop happens in person, and money allows (or each paying on own), one can hold a group dinner after – this can be very casual, since it is about ongoing discussion. The real cost of this model is time (pre-reading, workshop itself, and transportation if in person) + potentially some money for food (in person).
  • Note: this model could adapt well to an online format as a way to continue to connect with one another and keep up research community and momentum.

The Benefits of This Model

  • For all participants:
    • Drawing readers/feedback from the Corridor’s regional neighborhood has the real advantage of stepping outside the usual colleagues, comments, pressures, expectations, etc.
  • For grad students:
    • Learn to write toward publication: Unlike an MLA conference session, where they might have time for one question for their paper, 25 minutes are dedicated to their work.
    • Gets students outside of their department and their usual faculty feedback.
    • Learn from junior colleagues at a liberal arts college (i.e., those at a similar career stage, just other side of divide).
    • Opens them to the 'world out there,' including the lives and perspectives of contingent / junior faculty and everything junior faculty need to balance.
  • For contingent faculty or early career junior colleagues: gives them deadlines to have a draft ready (often from work started in grad school); jumpstarts research in the midst of new, higher teaching load (than in grad school); gives them immediate feedback; helps them balance this new life of more teaching, new service demands, the need to publish, and (for contingent faculty) still being on the job market.

This workshop was developed by the Corridor working group Critical Theory (PCT6) to host a small-scale undergraduate research workshop over the course of one full afternoon.

Procedure

  • Students are drawn from those enrolled in related coursework across two (or more) campuses (here: respective versions of "Introduction to Critical Theory").
  • At the end of spring term, we select three students from each class to present their final ten-page paper (20 minutes); each paper has a grad student respondent (5 minutes); + 15-minute discussion (40 minutes per paper).
  • One campus hosts (alternating each year) and invites all the students in class to attend, ask questions, etc. Audience = 6 undergraduate presenters, 6 graduate student respondents, other members of the undergraduate class at the host campus (25+ people total).

Student Selection

There are many methods of selecting students for this type of mini-conference, but this working group’s method is outlined here. Students can be chosen by:

  • First, asking who would be interested (self-selection often removes half).
  • Then, once we have the day and time set, ask who is available that day.
  • Of these, the choice is based on diversity and quality of papers.

Other Possible Models to Maximize Undergraduate Participation

  • Skip the graduate students and have a fellow undergraduate respond.
  • The presentations could be shortened to 10 minutes each, with a 3 minute (UG response) + 10 minutes of questions (25 minutes per paper).
  • The presentations could be 10 minutes each with 10 minutes of Q&A (20 minutes per paper).

The Benefits of This Model

  • For graduate students (if involved):
    • Learn to respond on the spot gently, positively and productively to early-stage undergraduate research; no demolishing a paper, no showing how smart they are, but rather to enter the role of early career professors + how to mentor students.
  • For undergraduates:
    • They are aware of and comment on how few opportunities they have to present their own work. It is important to them to be taken seriously as scholars and knowers (we also want to broadcast this to colleagues and the administration). Here they don’t simply present, but also have Q&A dedicated to their paper; this is a real challenge.

Versions of this type of site-specific writing retreat have been implemented by two Corridor working groups: Sound and Media (LLC10) and Critical LGBTQ+/ Sexuality Studies (ISD2). Adaptations for online formats are also outlined here.

Procedure

  • Scholars in similar fields or disciplines come together for a focused writing retreat outside their usual home/office setting.
  • For a site-specific, overnight retreat, working groups need to find a host location. Rates may be negotiable with area inns or bed & breakfasts, and Corridor working groups can often receive internal lodging rates at Corridor campus retreat facilities (such as Colgate's White Eagle Conference Center or Syracuse's Minnowbrook Conference Center).
  • Organizers set a schedule for all participants that includes designated time for focused writing, check-ins with each other, and social time over communal meals.
  • Groups may discuss successful writing strategies, approaches to revision, individual research and scholarly projects, or pedagogical and curricular challenges.
  • Groups may also choose to share participants' works-in-progress for feedback, allowing participants to situate and contextualize their own positions within the field.
  • Whether in person or online, the retreat can, if desired, be led (at least in part) by an outside facilitator, e.g., if the group wants guidance from beyond their circle about key obstacles they're facing, or strategies for writing, etc.
  • For an online approach to a writing retreat, shorter periods of time may work better (e.g., half days).
  • If online, we encourage you to imagine ways to retain some of the social aspects of "getting together" when writing/working online, since informal ways of connecting with one another are so valuable.

The Benefits of This Model

  • As with the manuscript workshop model, above, the writing retreat model helps build a strong sense of research community beyond one's own campus and opens up new (and different kinds of) mentoring relationships and networks.
  • Focused time working with others helps cultivate writing strategies, spark new ideas, and face challenges or obstacles to research/writing in a supportive and reciprocal environment.
  • For an in-person retreat, the cost of accommodations and meals can be incorporated into a Corridor working group proposal, which greatly simplifies fiscal planning.

Scholars (in the same field/discipline, or not) interested in building research community and maintaining writing momentum in a collegial setting choose a designated weekly 1.5- or 2-hour time slot to check in with each other and write together online. The weekly period can focus on accountability check-ins and goal-setting, and/or be used as active co-writing time where people briefly touch base, but then spend the bulk of the period delving into their own writing while being connected to others. These[VMM1]  types of writing groups would not require Corridor funding unless the group wished to invite an external facilitator for one session to provide some coaching on writing strategies, for example.

The Benefits of This Model

  • The main benefit of this model is that it supports carving out time each week to focus on writing, and incorporates others into a weekly practice, which provides a layer of accountability to yourself and to others.
  • The shorter weekly time commitment, combined with its regularity, offers flexibility while sustaining regular writing habits and building community.
  • As with the Writing Retreat model above, focused time working with others helps develop new networks and relationships beyond the bounds of your home institution, cultivate writing strategies, spark new ideas, and face challenges or obstacles to research/writing.

A group of scholars working on a particular project or in a particular field invite an external scholar to visit with their working group (online or in person) to help them work through a problem or to challenge them to think about their work in different ways. In this model, a Corridor honorarium could be paid to the external collaborator visiting the working group. If the activity is on campus/in person, Corridor funding could also go toward the visitor’s travel and lodging expenses, and a group meal.

The Benefits of This Model

  • The outside expert/collaborator can help bring new ideas to the table, for the group to engage with.
  • This model can help develop or broaden scholarly networks, nationally and internationally, and provide important mentoring connections for junior faculty.
  • During the pandemic, when faculty travel and conferences are curtailed, this model can also help provide some more informal interactions and exchanges with experts beyond the region.

This type of Corridor working group is perhaps the most common model. Two current groups collaborating like this are Culture and Democracy in 19th-century New York (LLC30) and Feminists Without Borders (ISD1).

A group of Corridor scholars working on a particular project or in a particular field meet as a working group to discuss their research (online or in person). The Corridor can provide funding for group meals and travel (if meeting in person) or event support such as IT fees, ASL and live-captioning services, facilitators, books/e-books, etc. (if meeting online or in person).

The Benefits of This Model

  • Corridor working groups often form around shared research interests, and they experience a variety of individual and collective benefits.
  • Such collaborations can bridge disciplines, genres, and time periods, or they can be highly specialized, within a disciplinary sub-field. Their shared interest may be tied to pressing cultural issues or contexts—and not to a field or discipline, per se. In short, the key questions or issues around which groups come together are wide-ranging.
  • During the pandemic, when faculty travel and conferences are curtailed, this model helps build regional connections and community and supports important kinds of informal interaction with colleagues across the region.

A group of Corridor scholars working on a particular project or in a particular field meet to discuss emerging scholarly trends in their field (online or in person). What the group "reads" can include written materials/texts, but also can include objects, artworks, audio/visual materials, films, musical scores, and more. The focus can be recent works by Working Group members, recent work by authors/artists/musicians/film-makers outside the Corridor, or, some of the rich archival materials available across the region. A facilitator, or an outside author/artist/musician (e.g., invited to join the group for discussion of their work), could be paid a modest honorarium. Working groups could apply for funding for the bulk purchase of books (or e-books) for all participants, if relevant. If meeting in person, the group could also apply for funding for group meals.

The Benefits of This Model

  • Reading circles help build intellectual community and networks across the Corridor.
  • If the group invites an author/artist/musician from outside the Corridor to meet with them, to discuss their own work being read/discussed by the group, this can help facilitate scholarly networks and also help develop mentoring relationships beyond the region.