Graduate Seminars Enhance Scholarly Development, Research

Author: Shari Hill

Sociology seminar, 2009

Every week, graduate students in sociology have the opportunity to come together to discuss with faculty and each other their research and current issues in the field. These “training” seminars keep students focused on their projects and allow them to set weekly goals for themselves as they manage the many demands on their time.

While hearing constructive criticism during these sessions can be tough, Department Chairperson Rory McVeigh says it is necessary in order to make progress as an academic.

“Negotiating one’s way through a graduate program is difficult, and there is a lot to learn about producing research and publishing in journals that cannot be learned by reading a manual,” he notes. “It is instead learned through interactions with others who have already been through the process.”

The seminars were inspired by a group started in the department in 1997. Graduate students and faculty would meet to discuss ongoing research on social movements and contentious politics. Word of what was going on spread, and, over time, their numbers expanded.

The group proved to be so helpful for those studying social movements that faculty created seminars for students who had different research interests. One-credit courses, the seminars are now offered every semester, and graduate students are encouraged to participate as often as they can so they receive continuous feedback on their work, not to mention emotional support and encouragement. Many of them attend even if they have already fulfilled their course requirements.

Elizabeth Covay, a graduate student specializing in sociology of education, has participated in the seminar on social stratification for several semesters.

“I have found the feedback to be helpful in moving my projects towards completion and placing my work into broader stratification literature,” Covay says. “After presenting my work, I always leave with many ideas of how to improve it.”

Courtesy of Ted Fox, College of Arts and Letters.