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Seated left to right: Kathleen McCallops, Cory Gilden and Ginnie Sawyer Morris, doctoral students in Human Development and Family Sciences, connect virtually with colleagues in Greece and Germany to develop a conference that fosters collaborative research.
Seated left to right: Kathleen McCallops, Cory Gilden and Ginnie Sawyer Morris, doctoral students in Human Development and Family Sciences, connect virtually with colleagues in Greece and Germany to develop a conference that fosters collaborative research.

Grads Collab

Photo by Alison Burris

HDFS grad students host global conference

Doctoral students in the University of Delaware’s Department of Human Development and Family Sciences established a partnership with colleagues in two European countries to design a virtual conference to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches to research and problem-solving.

“Most graduate departments are characterized by competitive and, therefore, isolating environments, neither of which are great conductors of collaboration,” said Ginnie Sawyer Morris, a second year doctoral student. “If the expectation is that grad students develop ‘boundary-crossing’ skills, where should they go?”

Collaboration in the Human Sciences: Moving from Theory to Practice in Local and Global Contexts will take place on campus at UD, and via telecast at the University of Tübingen in Germany and the University of Patras in Greece, on May 31 and June 1.  The conference is geared toward graduate students of all disciplines, but anyone is welcome to participate.

"We know that we should be collaborating with students and professors in other disciplines and other universities, but we didn't have any formal ways to learn how to do that,” said steering committee member Cory Gilden, third year doctoral student. “This conference is filling that void, and will hopefully give students some practical tools about collaboration that they can apply to their studies now and beyond graduation."

Everyone who registers for the conference will join an international GradsCollab database, where students can search using keywords and disciplines to find other students who share the same interests. The goal is to expand opportunities for interdisciplinary and international collaboration by connecting graduate students through a virtual network to share ideas and launch new projects.

This conference, co-sponsored by HDFS and the Office of Graduate and Professional Education, aims to provide information and tools for graduate students to learn using the T-shaped concept, a metaphor popular in the human resource field.

The T-shaped concept features the vertical stem of the T representing the foundation—one’s in-depth, specialized skill or knowledge set. The horizontal crossbar represents an understanding of fields outside one’s area of expertise and important soft skills such as strong communication, empathy, cross-cultural knowledge and the ability to collaborate.

The conference planners – from the U.S. and abroad – all recognized the disconnect between the future expectations for graduate students and the professional development training they receive. 

Sawyer Morris, a steering committee member, said that “while collaborative leaders at UD such as professors Cole Galloway, Rita Landgraf and Allison Karpyn model what a 21st century T-shaped professional should look like, the current model for graduate education does not foster the development of these skills. We need to change that."

Through both in-person and virtual participation, this conference will focus exclusively on graduate students and their education and professional development.  Exploring both theory and practice, it will emphasize on-going international collaboration and peer networking, provide process-oriented perspectives from leaders across a variety of fields and provide attendees with applied skills for cultivating their own collaborative partnerships.

The cross-cultural perspective will be enriched by the participation of graduate students from the Department of Educational Sciences and Early Childhood Education of the University of Patras and the Department of Sociology at the University of Tübingen. 

“We have truly enjoyed collaborating with our peers from Greece and Germany to plan this conference,” said steering committee member Kathleen McCallops, second year doctoral  student. “We hope that other universities will also see the value in our collaborative conference so graduate students all around the globe can have the opportunity to develop these skills.”

The steering committee credits HDFS chair Bahira Trask and associate professor Allison Karpyn for their encouragement and support in planning and executing the conference.

"In HDFS, collaborating has served as a way to cultivate and model a strong sense of community,” said Sawyer Morris. “Over the past two years, we have worked together to organize a number of initiatives that are graduate-student driven and reflective of the inclusive culture at HDFS.”

To attend, register here; poster submissions are due by May 4.

For updated information, follow the conference on Twitter and Facebook @GradsCollab.


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