Creating opportunities for connection across the Tri-U
Interview with Catherine Ramey on initiating student research panels
What inspired you to initiate student research panels?
One of my goals as TUGSA co-president was to create more opportunities for graduate students across the Tri-University History program to share their research with one another. There are over 100 of us in the Tri-U, but we often only stick with the people in our universities – and often only those in our cohorts. These panels brought together graduate students (and faculty as chairs!) from across the Tri-U in general panel discussions (ex. Black history, public history, gender history, Asian history, etc.). I am also part of the History Anti-Racism Taskforce (HART) at the University of Waterloo, and there I hoped to run a HART-sponsored panel for Black History Month. Our first graduate student research panel ended up being a collaboration between HART and TUGSA that included graduate students from across the Tri-U who do research on Black history. The panels are great opportunities to showcase graduate student research and give graduate students another line on their CV.
Has it been difficult to find people to present their research?
It has been difficult to get students to contact me. Many of the panels involved me reaching out to specific people whom I already know in the program. In Fall 2023, I put out calls for specific topics (for example, public history and medical history), which have generated more interest because students see exactly how they relate to that topic. I have reached out to specific faculty members who research the topics I plan for the panels and ask for recommendations of their grad students. Although it has taken some work to get this series off the ground, I now have a network across the Tri-U to build on for future panels.
What have you learned from the process of organizing the grad research seminars? Any highlights?
Graduate student research is EXTREMELY interesting, innovative, and diverse! The Black History Month panel, for example, featured research on Ghanaian education, Nigerian criminal justice systems, and the Black Canadian musician Lou Hooper. The Public History panel engaged students working on Canadian expositions, American presidential history, and environmental history. We have such variety across the Tri-University program, and it is incredible to be able to bring these unique and seemingly unrelated projects together and have a conversation around their intersections.
What is the average attendance for the research seminars?
Generally, attendance is between 15 and 30 people. Our June panel for Indigenous History Month had the most attendance with 35 people in the Zoom room. While holding these panels in person allows for more personal interaction between panelists and attendees, Zoom has been the most effective in making space for presenters and attendees from across the Tri-U to attend.
What are your plans for future panels?
I am working with the Undergraduate History Society and the History Anti-Racism Taskforce at the University of Waterloo to put together a November undergrad panel on histories of race and racism. As for Winter 2024, we are planning a medical history panel for January, and March is currently undecided. If you are a graduate or undergraduate student looking to get involved in these panels, email me at email@example.com and we can start working on the March 2024 panel now.
We will also hold panels for Black History Month (February), Asian Heritage Month (May), and Indigenous History Month (June) in collaboration with the History Anti-Racism Taskforce. We hope to make these panels into annual events.
Anything else you would like to share about the research seminars?
These panels are great opportunities for graduate students to get involved in the Tri-U. They can practice presenting, add another line to their CV, and share their research more broadly. It is also my goal to involve more undergraduate students, usually by having at least one undergrad student per panel. This is difficult because I am not as connected to undergrad research. I hope to work towards having undergrads participate (and attend) more frequently in the future.
I am also very excited about our post-panel write ups that give graduate students room to expand on their research in written form. These write ups also allow people who were unable to attend to read more about the panelists’ research. It also creates an archive of Tri-U graduate student research.