Five Questions for UCHRI Grantees: Jonathan Caravello and Sherri Lynn Conklin

Published on October 19, 2016

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Now that UCHRI’s calls for applications are open for the 2017-18 academic year, we are profiling previous grantees by asking them five questions about their experience, including any advice they have for potential applicants. This week we are speaking with Jonathan Caravello and Sherri Lynn Conklin, recipients of a 2015-16 Graduate Student Working Group grant to explore inclusive pedagogy in philosophy. 

What appealed to you about the Graduate Student Working Group grant and why did you apply?

In philosophy, women hold less than 25% of tenure track positions, and people of color hold less than 1%. This lack of diversity is comparable only to STEM fields, such as physics and engineering, and is a detriment to the growth of the discipline as perspectives of women and minority philosophers are filtered out.

To combat inequality in philosophy, our working group sought to further the work of organizations like Minorities and Philosophy [MAP], which “aims to examine and address issues of minority participation in academic philosophy.” In 2014-2015, a year before we received the UCHRI grant, five chapters of MAP in Southern California [USC, UCLA, UCR, UCI, UCSB] initiated a year-long regional collaboration on the topic of Philosophy and Inclusive Pedagogy, which culminated in a well-attended conference at UC Irvine in Spring 2015.

The UCHRI Multi-Campus Graduate Working Group Award perfectly provided multi-level support for this developing project. First, the funding supported genuine collaboration between multiple graduate student researchers across several campuses. Second, the grant provided enough flexibility for individuals at each research site to work on a common theme while maintaining focus on their own projects. Third, in addition to research, the grant supported the kind of implementation, outreach, and points of collaboration that is critical to addressing underrepresentation in philosophy.

Can you discuss the process of developing your working group (e.g., how did you prepare, what did you hope to learn, how often did you meet)?

In addition to monthly Skype meetings, working group members communicated frequently in person and via email. We also met three times for face-to-face meetings. With four of the five working group members currently advancing to candidacy, we all faced significant time burdens; however, there were many opportunities for formal and informal collaboration throughout the year.

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All photos used with permission of Michael Nekrasov

What is exciting about working in this group is that members have different methods for addressing the problem of Inclusive Pedagogy in Philosophy. Some of us are taking very theoretical approaches to systemic issues in the discipline and others are developing pedagogical tools to be used in the classroom.

Throughout the course of the working group, what stands out to you as the most beneficial element?

By far the most beneficial aspect of the working group is that it gave us the opportunity to interact with our peers at different UC campuses. As a graduate students, we are told that we ought to narrow our the focus of our studies to a manageable size. But writing a dissertation (not to mention teaching) still makes it difficult to grasp the big picture. Collaborating with peers has helped to connect what we’re doing individually to a larger whole. All of a sudden there is an outlet for the big ideas that we all hope to address but that do not quite fit within the sharpened focus of our dissertations.

What do you wish you had known before starting the grant, and is there anything you would have done differently?

It can be extremely hard to work on long-distance projects with many people. Projects like this require a lot of attention to make sure they are successful, and sometimes the working group took second to our responsibilities as graduate students. However, we have had a huge number of valuable successes, and some of us are already sending out workshops for presentation and papers for publication on topics surrounding equity in philosophy.

What advice do you have for applicants and recipients of the Graduate Student Working Group grant?

Projects like this are necessarily experimental, so please keep in mind that there will be successes and failures. The working group will be successful as long as you have made inroads into achieving your goal. And if at any time you feel like you could use more support, don’t be afraid to ask for help.