Posted by: Grant | Posted on: December 11th, 2011 | 0 Comments
The idea for the CollaborATE project began with a simple question: Why eat alone? Initially, the concept of CollaborATE was to simply build a “lunch match” website for the Vanderbilt community. Such services, which randomly pair students together for lunch, already exist at a few universities. CollaborATE, however, soon evolved into a Creative Campus project with a broader purpose. The motto “new food, new people, new ideas” sums up the focus of CollaborATE – the project seeks to bring together graduate students and professors for serendipitous lunchtime conversations at local restaurants. The graduate student community at Vanderbilt can be somewhat insular. Since there is no graduate student housing, it is easy to spend your grad school years sequestered in a lab or office, with a social circle that is limited to your department.
While getting the website developed has been a challenge, what follows is a summary of how it should work when it’s up and running. The CollaborATE matching process begins when users (who must have a Vanderbilt.edu e-mail address) create a profile on the project’s website. The user indicates a specific date and time (for example, Wednesday at 11:00 am to noon) when he or she is available for lunch. The site matches users who have specified the same time slot, sending an e-mail to each group confirming the date and time of the lunch and providing the name of a restaurant. The confirmation e-mail also includes an ice-breaker question to help get the conversation rolling. While conversation starters may range from serious (for instance, “what has been your greatest professional challenge?) to absurd (“Which superpower would you most like to have?”), they always promise to begin a scintillating conversation that goes beyond the exchange of demographics (i.e. “where are you from, what field are you in, what is your research, what point are you at in your degree program”) which often dominate initial interactions. In addition to ice-breakers, group members will be presented with a more serious topic for conversation, usually related to current events (either inside or outside the Vanderbubble). After receiving their confirmation e-mail, groups of 3 to 5 users will convene at the designated location for their CollaborATE luncheon (placards posted at local restaurants can clearly designate the meeting spot for program participants). An associated CollaborATE check-in app for iPhone could quickly alert CollaborATE participants when other diners in their group arrive. Once the group has assembled, the food (and conversation) can commence!
In lieu of a website, we’ve been using Facebook to coordinate our luncheons for the fall semester. Our inaugural lunch was held at SATCO, where we discussed the future of manned spaceflight (a timely subject, as the Space Shuttle fleet was retired in July and a commercial company has yet to develop a flight-proven replacement). While our first group consisted largely of the CollaborATE founders, we did manage to round up a couple other people (and make some new friends!) The second lunch was in October at McDougal’s, where we responded to the question “should college athletes be paid” (a topic that was inspired by a recent Frontline documentary on the same subject). Most recently, we met at The Dog to discuss Occupy Wall Street, related 1st amendment issues, and possible parallels between OWS and the “Arab Spring” liberation movements. There were some silly questions sprinkled between the “heavier” subjects to keep things fun!
We’re planning on a late-January website launch. While so far the food and conversations have been great, what’s truly lacking is the “random” aspect of the project (which will be resolved with a website). By relying on Facebook, our events tend to be populated by people who already know each other in some capacity. However, we have met several new people through CollaborATE (both graduate students and undergrads!) – their unique perspectives made our lunchtime conversations much more interesting!
What can you do to help CollaborATE until the website is up and running? ”Like” us on Facebook (just type “CollaborATE” in the search box to find our page) so you can stay up to date on our luncheons and launch!
Posted by: Grant | Posted on: November 22nd, 2011 | 0 Comments
Over the several semesters I have taught Communicating Gender (CMST 235) at Vanderbilt University, by the far the most effective and affective experience is the Gender Performance. On this day, the students and I alter our presentations of gender in ways big or small. In-class discussion, which never fails to be animated and emotive, gives shape to a short paper in which students reflect on the experience. The purpose of this assignment is to engage materially and experientially Judith Butler’s argument that gender is not something you have but something you do, not an identity but a performance.
While I always cherished this moment in the class, I also lamented its singularity. This assignment was the only one of its kind I had on the syllabus. When I learned about the Curb Creative Campus Innovation Grant, I knew I had a chance to expand this opportunity, taking students off campus to see gender being performed in a wide variety of sites. The events I scheduled for students included a Nashville Rollergirls roller derby bout, a midnight screening of _Rocky Horror Picture Show_, and a bridal fair. I was also exceptionally lucky that the Vanderbilt campus and Nashville community boasted a multitude of other events that dovetailed perfectly with the ones I had chosen, including a lecture by queer theorist Judith “Jack” Halberstam, the anti-sexual violence “Slut Walk” at Centennial Park, Vanderbilt’s annual Lambda drag show, and a screening of a documentary about trans-identity. Students are allowed to choose among these various events (and others that they discover on their own) as inspirations for a creative project they will submit at the end of the semester. So far, I have been thrilled with the level of discourse and engagement students have demonstrated.
The first, and perhaps least expected, outcome of these gender “excursions” has been the formation of relationships among my students. I teach this course in a classroom with stadium seating and unmovable chairs. While this arrangement works well for lectures, it does not foster open, easy discussion. This obstacle is something I have to address in every class that I teach in this room. After the first gender excursion, however, I began to notice students turning more in their seats to talk to one another, calling each other by name, and referencing their shared experiences outside of our class meeting time. It seems that the relatively simple gesture of transplanting students to new (and potentially “strange”) environments inspired them to come together. The comfort level they have developed has yielded not only increased collegiality and presumably new friendships but has also made the students more willing (or, perhaps comfortable) to engage each other critically, but respectfully.
I have never seen Vanderbilt students so willing to challenge one another, to confront course readings, and to speak with such agency. As good as things have been so far, I cannot wait to see what their creative projects will bring! ************************************************************************ Claire Sisco King, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Communication Studies Film Studies Program Vanderbilt University
Posted by: Grant | Posted on: November 18th, 2011 | 0 Comments
The first Dyer Observatory Science and Art Starparty Mashup! We were there with several telescopes from 8 till midnight and students were able to see Jupiter, Uranus, star clusters and the Moon. We also did some live video feed of the Orion Nebula. There was a constant stream of students and all seemed to really enjoy it.
The next Science and Art Starparty Mashup will be on 12-2 near the Student Life Center for Stressfest.