Photo by jphilipg/Flickr (Creative Commons)

This was the first “full” day of GRADSchool which saw us getting thrown into the deep end.  To start off the day was a talk by Dr. Paul Chan who presented a case study of his own professional experience working in a truly interdisciplinary way.  In a nutshell, he presented aspects of his academic work that looks at how the concept of gender affects the workspaces in construction.  There is obviously a higher level of complexity that is not presented in my summary, but his work was intriguing in that it was an example of how two disciplines that are widely considered worlds apart can actually come together, effectively.  I found it a challenging talk because it made me realise that my idea of where I could “fit in” post PhD was quite narrow and that I could (should?) widen my scope.  This in itself wasn’t challenging, what was is the fact that I may very well find myself outside my comfort zone (a.k.a. humanities related academia).

Speaking of interdisciplinary work, the next task was a huge group ‘scavenger hunt’ where each team was given a file folder of instructions (and I do mean a actual file folder) to do. Now what did this “doing” actually look like?  From what I remember there were at least 6 different pages with detailed instructions outlining different tasks and we needed to work as a group as well as with other groups in order to finish the lot. We first got ourselves organised into pairs and then allocated a task to each pair.  The tasks were very different, for example, one task was to build the tallest structure using the deck of cards provided, without using tape, sticky tack or glue.  Another task was given list of 20 photos to take such as one photo of 3 pigeons and a group shot of your group facing the camera.  My partner, Jess, and I had a list of 10 questions, where we only had 2 of the questions written out. So we had to run around to the other groups who had other questions in order to fill out our list.  Then, when we had all 10 questions we had to actually answer them, accurately. In the end my group, #teamblue, managed to finish in first place having finished all the tasks correctly and in time!

Photo by Joi on Flickr (Creative Commons)

That was the first half of the morning.  The second half introduced “The Project” (dum dum duuuum!!!) where groups were assigned to create a film that was related to this year’s theme on impact that would inspire new academics. Ok, cool.  Sounds doable…

…right?

Well, what happens when you put intelligent, driven and creative individuals from different disciplinary and professional backgrounds in a room together to come up with an idea for a film?  (Organised) chaos! In hindsight, the scavenger hunt was a sort of warm up, where we had actual instructions to carry out and roles were easily divided amongst the team.  Finding a focus for a film that fit the task outline provided was a whole different kettle of fish.  Coming up with a concept for the film involved coming to a shared consensus of what impact meant.  It was messy, it was difficult and it was engaging simply because we were learning about each other with each other.  We spent so long in discussion that in the end we came up with a sort of plan that, looking back, as a group we weren’t too sure about, but we had a deadline to meet and so went with what we thought was best at the time.  I had the sense that we weren’t quite satisfied with our idea, it felt not quite “there”.  It was the most difficult day, in my mind, because it was the first time as a group we were tackling a problem and were discovering how to work well as a group. This required a hell of a lot of effort and energy to remain flexible and observant to the group dynamics.  It wasn’t always easy but it was a great challenge.  I remember returning home that day completely knackered but a kind of I-worked-hard-and-I’m-going-to-sleep-well sort of knackered.

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