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Week of February 18, 2013

Institute for Research on Women and Gender offers collaborative grant

For more than 18 months, researcher Michelle McClellan collaborated with two U-M colleagues on a project about gender and addictions. It wasn’t until receiving a “vote of confidence” through an Institute for Research on Women and Gender grant that the team was able to move to the next stage of realizing their goals.

“This grant will help us create a sustainable collaboration across diverse disciplines. We are grateful for the financial and practical support of the grant, as well as the vote of confidence it represents,” said McClellan, an assistant professor of history. The team, which received the grant earlier this year, includes Jill Becker, professor of psychology and senior research scientist, Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, and Beth Glover Reed, associate professor of social work and women’s studies.

Funding through IRWG’s Collaborative Planning Grant means the team can hold at least three one-day workshops this fall.

The grant goes to U-M faculty members who are working on projects about women, gender or sexuality. The program began last year with two awards. At least three faculty members develop a project that will later qualify for external funding. IRWG provides seed grants up to $10,000, and faculty members may team up with one or more non-U-M colleagues.

The idea behind the grant was to generate innovative interdisciplinary research that might not otherwise qualify for funding because it falls outside the usual disciplinary boundaries.

“What I have noticed is that often collaborations need some support upfront,” said IRWG Director Sarah Fenstermaker. “That is, prospective collaborations don’t always magically coalesce; they need a little encouragement, and a little nurturing. The grant funds are expressly designed to bring people together and underwrite the crucial face-to-face conversations that can ultimately result in the effort to seek greater funding from outside sources.”

IRWG’s efforts will foster collaboration across disciplines to facilitate new relationships between scholars in different fields in the early stages of research projects — something grant recipients say is necessary.

Martha Jones, an associate chair and associate professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, has been collaborating with Hannah Rosen, an assistant research scientist at IRWG, on the Celia Project.

They received an IRWG grant last year to illuminate the history of sexual violence, women and slavery in the United States by exploring the case of “The State of Missouri v. Celia, A Slave.” Celia killed her owner after many years of sexual abuse. The U-M researchers have invited national scholars working on slavery and sexual violence to campus.

“The grant was essential because it meant we could plan for the long term and gain commitments from these very busy scholars to the project,” Jones said.

Last year, a second Collaborative Planning Grant was awarded to Maria Cotera, an assistant professor of American culture and women’s studies, and Paul Conway, an associate professor of information, for “Chicana por mi Raza: A National Collaboratory.”

This project focuses on the creation of a national digital repository for public and private archives, oral histories, and research related to the development of Chicana feminist praxis during the civil rights period. More than 500 documents and 30 oral interviews have been collected so far, Cotera said. The researchers are working to establish a central “research hub” for scholars wanting to work with the archive and teachers who are interested in creating classes on Chicana/Latina feminism, oral history, and digital archiving. Cotera plans to teach a class connected to the Chicana por mi Raza digital archive in the Fall of 2013.

For more information about the grant and application for proposals, go to


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