Steps You Can Take

Teach, Team-Teach, or Serve as a GSI in a Multi-Section Course

Collaborative teaching as a graduate student can take different forms, such as serving as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) in a multi-section course, team-teaching a course with another GSI, or serving as the sole GSI in a course taught by a professor. Co-teaching entails coordinating with faculty members or other graduate students on subjects like curriculum planning, scheduling, course content, communication with students, and assessment.

Practices that can make you a more effective collaborator in a co-teaching context include taking on leadership responsibilities, practicing effective communication, reconciling differing approaches and perspectives, and “managing up.” These are all interpersonal skills that are highly valued across many career paths.

On co-teaching, see “Grad Students Should Co-Teach,” Inside Higher Ed (2016), “Bringing Collaborative Teaching into Doctoral Programs,” The American Sociologist (2013), “What We Learned from Co-Teaching,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2016)

On collaboration skills, see “Managing Up: An industry skill you can learn in academia,” Science (2016) and “Teamwork and Leadership,” Beyond Academia.

Participate in an Interdisciplinary Working Group

Participating in, or organizing, an interdisciplinary working group can help you develop your skills through collaborative work on event planning, grant applications, research, outreach, communications, and assessment. It is also an opportunity to diversify your knowledge of the intersections between different academic fields. Units on campus that sponsor working groups include, but are not limited to:

Serve on a Campus Administrative or Academic Committee

The bodies that make university policy include committees under the purview of the Academic Senate (e.g., Diversity, Equity, and Campus Climate; Library; Teaching; Demonstrations and Student Actions; Academic Freedom); as well as committees appointed by campus administrators (e.g., Course Materials and Services Fees; Campus Advisory Committee on Creative Arts; Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBTQ Communities at Cal; Police Review Board).

Serving on such committees is expected for tenure-track faculty at many universities, so sitting on committees as a student is a useful way to develop and exhibit the collaborative skills this work requires. It can also help you learn policy-making skills valued in many professions.

Some committees have special requirements for student members, while others are more open. To learn how to serve on a committee, which committees have openings, and what committee membership entails, contact the Graduate Assembly (GA) or join the GA as a departmental representative.

Co-Organize a Conference, Panel, or Workshop

Conference planning is highly collaborative and can be an important professional skill, both in academic employment, and in other careers where the ability to run events, facilitate discussions, and coordinate schedules is valued. Annual state, national, and international conferences provide regular opportunities to organize panels. You might also consider organizing a conference or workshop on the Berkeley campus, through your department or a working group.

On organizing a panel or a conference, see “So You Think You Want to Organize a Conference?” Inside Higher Ed (2012), “Of Cannibals and Conferences,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2015), and “How to Organize a Panel for a Conference,” The Professor is In (2013).

On timekeeping and chairing, see “Best Practices for Timekeeping at Conference Panels,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2013), and “Conference Rules, Part 1,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2008).

Participate in or Organize a Digital Research Project

Many digital research projects are collaborative, since they are often large-scale endeavors with interdisciplinary methodologies. Collaboration with future users is also part of the open-access ethos that informs the planning process for many digital research projects. For students whose research is typically individual in nature, digital projects can be opportunities to experiment with more collaborative research. Digital Humanities at Berkeley offers funding for collaborative research projects, and the D-Lab sponsors many working groups through which you can learn about or get involved in existing research projects.

Co-Author an Article

While highly discipline-specific, co-authoring can be a useful opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues or a senior scholar, such as an advisor. Once mainly exclusive to the sciences, co-authorship is now increasingly common in the humanities and social sciences as well. Co-authoring requires close collaboration and strong communication among the participants, to navigate challenges ranging from authorship credit to workflow procedures. As such, this experience develops teamwork and communication skills that are widely valued in a variety of careers.

Because disciplinary practices vary widely, it is important to ask your advisor or another mentor in your field whether co-authorship makes sense for you. You can also look out for co-authorship opportunities in calls for papers from your professional association.

On co-authorship, see “Collaborating and Co-Authoring,” Inside Higher Ed (2009) and “To Co-Author, or Not to Co-Author?” Chronicle of Higher Education (2016).