Faculty collaborations and interdisciplinary support networks are being created across the Virginia Tech campus as a result of the Faculty Writing Group Grant program.

Through the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, the pilot program encourages post-tenure faculty research and writing productivity outside of their home departments to continue career development beyond tenure.

Tenured or continued-appointment faculty were invited to form a group of five to 10 faculty members of any rank and submit a proposal for an academic year-long program of their own design that is focused on research and writing productivity.

Five $2,000 grants were awarded to multidisciplinary teams representing every academic college and several research institutes and partner organizations. Grants were awarded based on such criteria as advancing faculty career development needs, clearly articulating goals, proportion of group members who are tenured or on continued appointment, potential positive impacts on the individuals, group and broader university community, and participation from multiple departments and/or colleges.

“The goal of these grants is twofold,” said Rachel Gabriele, assistant provost for faculty initiatives and policies. “First, we want to provide opportunities for our tenured faculty to build networks of support, peer mentoring, and collaboration. Second and concurrently, we hope to encourage faculty to collaborate with colleagues outside of their home departments or colleges.

“This first group of grant recipients embodies both of those goals, and we look forward to hearing about their experience over the coming academic year.”

Joseph Eska, professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, is convening a group of faculty who work in fields related to the language sciences to build a network for developing collaboration opportunities.

“The Faculty Writing Group Grant will allow faculty members in linguistics and language sciences, who are based in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, College of Science, and the College of Engineering, to further develop and strengthen the network that has already been established amongst them,” said Eska. “Numerous possibilities for collaboration exist, and the grant, by bringing our group of scholars together on a regular basis, will allow us to become more familiar with each other's work, a necessary step before real collaboration can commence.”

Women Researching, Innovating, and Teaching Each other (WRITE) is a faculty writing group being convened by Sarah Ovink, associate professor of sociology, to enhance individual productivity through engaging one another to produce scholarly work in a supportive environment.

“The Faculty Writing Group Grant is a great opportunity to formalize the informal writing group a group of us have been running over the past few years, and to have resources available to facilitate participation regardless of individual members' income levels,” said Ovink. “I love the fact that our group includes members from other departments and colleges, and this has definitely spurred interdisciplinary collaborations among several of our current members.

“We look forward to sharing our outcomes with others who might want to use our methods of positive peer pressure to amp up their writing and make the academic life a little less solitary.”

Other faculty writing groups are focusing on committee collaborations in medical devices and diagnostic tools for health care, improving writing of grant proposals and manuscripts, and encouraging and improving individual faculty productivity. A total of 46 participants from 30 university departments and affiliated organizations are taking part in the pilot grant program.

Following each group’s final formal meeting in the fall semester, the convener will submit a report to the vice provost for faculty affairs that describes the group's successes and challenges with regards to proposed goals. In addition, group members may be asked to participate in a workshop or an evaluation activity to improve the program.