Faculty-Student Interaction Outside the Classroom (September 24, 2008)

Faculty-Student Interaction Outside the Classroom (September 24, 2008)

Summary: Chris McNamara from Screen Arts and Cultures presented on a variety of fora in his department for faculty-student interaction, as well as incentives for participation by both groups.  The former include creative collaborations on film production projects, office parties (often organized around holidays), a film series, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and perhaps most importantly events organized by the student group, FVSA (http://um-fvsa.org/), which include an end-of-term film festival showcasing student work, and a party specifically to bring together students and faculty.

Challenges: The challenges specific to SAC are twofold, the first relates to their physical space, which is now split with production facilities housed at ARGUS and the studies and departmental offices located in Haven.  This constrains the amount of natural gathering and socializing in the department, which had been better when the entire department was in the Frieze building (and should be remedied when North Quad opens).  The second challenge arose when SAC transitioned from a Program to a Department and added a graduate program, which resulted in stretching the faculty thinner.  The more general or universal challenges to faculty-student interaction are the coordination of busy schedules and the issue of motivating turnout to events among both constituencies.

SAC has tried to meet these challenges by building and maintaining momentum through frequently scheduled opportunities for faculty and students to interact, as opposed to just once per term events.  Many of these opportunities are focused on being active in the professions of both film production and studies, e.g., film series and festivals, which has led to good participation by both students and faculty.  The department also provides funding to its student group and is fortunate in having an extremely active one, which has done an excellent job of soliciting student participation.

Ideas/Opportunities: In the subsequent discussion, a number of ideas related to bringing faculty and students together emerged which any department might adopt or adapt, given differences in size, structure, and discipline.  These could be grouped under the following three headings:

  • Coordination:
    • Events and programs offered by the student group and by the department can be coordinated such that a meeting of the student group could be timed just before or after a departmental event or vice-versa;
    • Departments can think about what events they currently include students in, try to be maximally inclusive, and avoid setting up a tiered structure in which faculty-only events are “first-class” and ones that include students are “economy”;
    • Faculty can include attendance at departmental, campus, or community events in their course requirements and base assignments or award points accordingly.
  • Communication:
    • Departments can think carefully about the best means of advertising to and soliciting participation by both students and faculty, e.g., announcements through listservs, email digests, and in specific classes might be supplemented by social networking sites (i.e., Facebook, about which more suggestions forthcoming from the second Brown Bag once it happens);
    • Individual outreach to colleagues, instructors, and mentors can be encouraged.  For example, faculty directly involved in planning an event could invite specific colleagues and encourage students in their courses to attend (some instructors give points for or even require attendance at departmental events as indicated above); student groups or individual students could personally invite faculty with whom they have had a class, done research, etc.
  • Collaboration/Community: although the inherently collaborative nature of film production lends itself to bringing faculty and students together, any department could potentially:
    • Organize a film night with viewing and discussion of a topically relevant film;
    • Host an event around a current topic or issue with or without specific disciplinary relevancy, e.g., presidential debates or an election night gathering, or having a panel presentation and discussion of the financial crisis;
    • Hold a faculty-student competition (trivia night, ultimate frisbee, etc.);
    • As a bookend to graduation receptions, organize a major reception to welcome new majors into the department and introduce them to faculty, research, scholarship, and internship opportunities, and student clubs or organizations, etc.;
    • Host a “new-course-rollout” event at which professors talk about their new or less well-known courses (pizza optional);
    • Organize a student research symposium or poster session, and invite students to faculty research presentations, brown bags, etc.;
    • Encourage faculty to:
      • do a service project or trip with students, e.g., through the Ginsberg Center;
      • work with students in the broader community using their disciplinary background, e.g., as judges in local school science fairs;
      • partner with another unit on campus to offer a program or event that would attract both faculty and students, e.g., SAC plans one such collaboration with the new Museum of Art.

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