GLCA colleges collaborate to enhance student experience

The Great Lakes Colleges Association, Inc., awarded the GLCA Expanding Collaboration Initiative Grant to four professors to collaboratively organize two summer institute workshops on Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Queer Studies. The first workshop will be held from May 23 to May 25, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the second workshop will be next summer.

Allegheny College’s Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Barbara Shaw first came up with the idea for the workshops with Denison University’s Associate Professor of International Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies Isis Nusair. According to Shaw, the grant is awarded to the pursuit of collaboration.

“The grant is intended for how to do work with each other across institutions,” she said.

The GLCA is a nonprofit and is a consortium of 13 private liberal arts colleges and universities. It includes three advisory committees, one of which is the Women’s Studies Committee. According to the GLCA website, the advisory committees “are also in regular dialogue with the Deans’ Council, and report its insights and ideas about strengthening consortial activity to that body.”

Although the GLCA used to simply encourage collaboration between institutions, Eric Boynton, director of grand challenges, said that the GLCA is moving towards requiring it. However, he said that there are few roadblocks in developing new and creative ideas for projects funded by the grant.

Shaw and Nusair are two of the four members on the Women’s Studies Committee who formed a planning committee to apply for the grant. They were joined by Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Laurie Finke, from  Kenyon College, and DePauw University’s Professor of English and Women’s Studies Meryl Altman.

Coming together will give us the chance to see how other institutions deal with this.

— Isis Nusair

According to Nusair, the idea for the project began around two years ago at a GLCA meeting.

“Dr. Shaw and I decided to take the little paragraph we wrote together and started to write a proposal,” Nusair said.

The grant was approved around April of last year, and Shaw said that the main focus of the first workshop will be introductory courses. She and Nusair said they hope to have a sharing method by the end of the workshops for participants to collaborate on ideas for things like introductory course syllabi and new focuses for their courses.

“We think student experience, faculty experience will be broadened with collaboration,” Shaw said.

One of the challenges both Finke and Nusair said the introductory course collaboration workshops could address is the issue of having too much content for one small class and having to pick and choose the subjects on which to focus.

“I think that’s probably one of the biggest problems we’ll be thinking about,” Finke said.

According to Nusair, the field of WGSS has expanded over the years due to conversations developing around issues like intersectionality, sexual violence and sexuality in general, and this is one of the reasons why fitting the whole discipline into one course has become so difficult for educators. Nusair said the widening field includes various issues that are difficult to address.

“These are challenges that all of us face, and they are big challenges,” Nusair said. “Coming together will give us the chance to see how other institutions deal with this.”

Finke also said the workshops will aim to enhance student and faculty experiences through discussions on new topics to teach. About 25 people are registered from multiple colleges to participate in the May workshop.

“We wanted representation from as many institutions involved [in GLCA] as possible,” Shaw said.

Three of the people registered are faculty from Allegheny College, according to Shaw. Nusair said although some faculty may attend the first and second workshops, there is no obligation to do both. The second workshop will focus on transnational feminism and queer studies.