Seminars

ISI seminars run for a year, and are organized around specific themes. Fellows alternate in leading the discussion, pursuing a particular project in which they are interested. Though the theme is common to all, fellows inevitably approach it from their own points of view and disciplinary perspectives. The result is an interdisciplinary exchange which provides intellectual stimulation and furthers the individual and collaborative work of all concerned. The basis for discussion may be a formal or informal presentation; a set of readings (or images, or music); a piece of writing or work of art composed by the presenter(s); or some combination. The ethos is democratic and interactive, allowing for free-flowing discussion and stimulation. Below you will find a description of our current seminar, as well as a list of the Fellows and their projects.

Call for Applications: 2018 - 19 ISI Faculty and Graduate Student Seminars

At a time when explicit bias, prejudice, and bigotry are prominent features of politics,scholarly questions about how bias is created and maintained are urgent. This urgency calls us as educators to learn and reflect upon the ways in which our own implicit and explicit biases can affect our students’ educational outcomes. As researchers, we simultaneously try to acknowledge and manage our biases, with varying degrees of success, while recognizing that our most cherished truths have a history. “Confirmation bias” means that individuals are drawn to data and interpretations that reinforce their pre-existing stereotypes and beliefs. These processes shape our answers to questions about the nature and value of expertise and art.  We seek to manage bias, moreover, while recognizing that our most cherished truths have a history. How do scholars and artists across many disciplines handle questions of bias alongside matters of standpoint? 

For next year’s faculty and graduate student seminars, the ISI encourages you to think broadly about the topic of bias, either from a methodological, substantive, artistic, or personal standpoint. As always, we wish to stress the disciplinary and interdisciplinary dimensions of our topic. Concern about bias looms large in the natural and social sciences. We are mindful about selection bias, response bias, and non-response bias when designing and conducting research. Social scientists frequently explore the impacts of bias related to race, gender, class, or sexual orientation. However, our disciplinary lenses and practices can also lead to bias, by constraining our modes of inquiry, the explanations we consider, and the interpretations, critiques, and depictions we offer for biases observed or produced in texts, in music, or in visual or any other media.

The Interdisciplinary Studies Institute provides a forum for discussion and engagement across the disciplines. Each year the focal point of our activity is a seminar organized around a specific topic. No matter your field, period, cultural focus, discipline, or perspective, we call on colleagues from the humanities and arts to the social and natural sciences to bring your own inspiration to our theme and tell us how you would like to approach it. We invite you to submit a proposal setting out your particular interests. Participating faculty fellows will receive a $1500 research allowance, and participating graduate student fellows will receive a $500 research allowance.

The proposal should describe in 1-2 pages the nature of your project and how you would present it to the seminar. The proposal should be accompanied by your c.v. Graduate student applicants should also have their principal advisor send a brief endorsement of their proposed project, which confirms that it contributes toward their progress toward their degree. The 8-10 faculty fellows selected and the 8-10 graduate student fellows selected will meet at regular intervals during the academic year to discuss presentations from each seminar member in turn (each fellow presents once). Among the obligations of the group are regular attendance at the meetings of the seminar. Meetings are on Fridays for a two-hour interval at lunch, so you must be free at that time.

Proposals should be sent by email to isi@umass.edu by April 20, 2018. Applicants to the graduate student seminar should also have their advisor’s endorsement sent to that address by the deadline. Please identify yourself as a faculty member or graduate student in the subject line of your message.