Arizona Summit 2017

Members of the Crow team standing in front of a classroom building
Crow Team Leaders from Purdue and University of Arizona, Collaborators from Northern Arizona University & University of South Carolina, Online Interface Developer, and Graduate Student Researchers

The Crow team recently held a research summit at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Faculty and students from Purdue and South Carolina gathered for two days, with Crow researchers joining from West Lafayette and Michigan as well. In this post, graduate researchers Adriana Picoral, Ashley Velázquez and Hadi Banat describe their experiences.

Participating in the Arizona Summit 2017 was an eye opening experience and a valuable professional development opportunity that does not replicate itself frequently due to the dominant nature of conferences as professional development venues in academia. We found this unique experience fruitful because we were involved in different phases of professionalization: planning and decision making, grant writing, institutional culture, research and pedagogical discussions, mentoring, and collaboration.

Graduate school offers a spectrum of experiences, but seminars, research, and conferences are not all what we need to become successful faculty members and engage in our discourse community of scholars. Graduate seminars do not prepare us to experience a real work culture and do not offer ample chances for building professional skills that help us survive the demanding and rigorous nature of academia as a profession.

What we found most helpful in this summit was recognizing the significance of rhetorical listening as a prerequisite skill for successful collaboration. We closely observed how the team leaders were giving chances to each other, to us as graduate students, to undergraduate students, to potential collaborators, and to institutional staff to talk and express various points of view. They were generously and attentively listening to figure out what takeaways would most help Crow grow and prosper in terms of data collection, site expansion, research methodologies, best infrastructure practices, interface prototyping and development, and winning grants.

Crow team members collaborating around a table
Round-table Studio Work, Planning, & Decision Making

The round-table type of discussions and workshop nature of the summit have placed us as equals i.e. all perspectives matter because a successful team is one that relies on different levels of expertise and a variety of skills. We have observed the purposeful choice of collaborators and how some partnerships are more effective than others when considering the long term plans of Crow. We have learned that setting priorities and meeting short term goals scaffold to achieve larger objectives and long term sustainability.

What was eye opening was the level of preparation that the team gets involved in prior to grant writing. The division of labor, calendar planning, team formation, and communication with institutional centralized administration prepare a team to win a grant. It is not the actual writing of the grant which is most challenging. It is the balance that we create in terms of team member expertise, the alignment between the nature of the project and grant, and figuring out all the pieces of the puzzle. This intricate process of grant writing is most successful when it is done collaboratively and mindfully.

We hope that Crow sets a model for different institutions to engage in collaborative and interinstitutional interdisciplinary research projects to engage undergraduate and graduate students in experiences that can help them grow professionally and prepare them better for the real challenges they will encounter on the job. Attending plenaries and conference presentations promote visibility and diversity of perspectives, but participating in summits involve graduate students in the elaborate bits and pieces of the life of a faculty on the job and its everyday practices.

By Hadi Banat, Adriana Picoral, & Ashley Velázquez

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