A Calculated Risk

By Sarah L. Hoiland

CUNY’s Faculty Fellowship Publication Program (FFPP)

At the orientation to CUNY’s FFPP on December 4th, 2015, Professor Arlene Torres of Hunter College, Director of the Latino Faculty Initiative, stated, “FFPP is grounded in research suggesting a supportive structure that encourages risk and is undergirded by clear expectations can increase productivity while fostering community among faculty.”

Subjecting one’s research and writing to seven strangers is definitely risky; however, in addition to the research cited by Dr. Torres, I had personal experience with this kind of supportive structure. In 2010 I was working on my dissertation proposal in central Florida and teaching full time. I was as far outside of my academic community in New York City as I could imagine and progress on my dissertation was slowing as a result. I applied to “The Workings of Gender and Power in a Heterogeneous World,” a dissertation workshop at New York University, and was one of eight dissertators accepted. I spent hours reading the other dissertators manuscripts prior to flying to New York for a long weekend in October. The experience was transformative; it helped me frame my dissertation and provided timely encouragement to persevere and finish.

When I saw the call for proposals for CUNY’s FFPP, I knew I had to apply. I am extremely fortunate to be one of the sixty-three participants in the FFPP “Class of 2016.” Vice Chancellor Ginger Waters told us that this was the most competitive year thus far and that it was the first time in the history of the program that all CUNY senior and community colleges were represented. Many of my esteemed colleagues from Hostos have been part of FFPP in previous years, and I am honored to represent Hostos this year.

There are nine groups with seven Fellows in each group and a faculty mentor, who has been a program participant. The focus of my group is gender and we are fortunate to have Matt Brim, Associate Professor of Queer Studies at the CUNY College of Staten Island, as our mentor. The second half of the orientation was geared toward the writing groups themselves and each Fellow moved toward their mentor. We sat in a small circle and I was sitting to the right of Matt, so when the sign-up sheet went around the circle, there were two open spaces. I would be presenting first both rounds. This worked to my advantage. For those of us with children, January and June are golden, magical months. Children are in school and we don’t have classes to teach.

I submitted my first chapter on January 22nd to the group and I listened for 60 minutes with a “cone of silence” over my head while my colleagues discussed my writing. I was awed at the time and attention they put into reading the 40 pages I submitted. Their responses were very positive and the constructive criticisms were extremely helpful. I am eager to go over the in-line comments and typed reviews from each of the Fellows and our mentor and revise my first chapter. The comments and discussion also clarified what I plan to write for the second chapter, which will be presented the first week in March.

Being part of CUNY’s FFPP validates my research and writing in a very tangible way. I have been conducting ethnographic research on motorcycle clubs for close to ten years and I have been focused on a female motorcycle club for the past four years. While there is a long tradition of this type of research in sociology, male academics typically dominate subcultural studies, particularly ethnographies of subcultures. Furthermore, it is not a topic that is always taken seriously in sociology, but particularly in academia (interesting as it may be). The structure of the writing group has increased my productivity exponentially and we have only had one workshop.

The “community among faculty” Dr. Torres spoke of at the orientation was clearly visible by the end of the first session. Members of the group have already discussed continuing to share our writing with each after the official meetings end in April. It was also incredibly beneficial to read and comment on someone else’s manuscript and I look forward to the next few sessions when my role is solely that of a reviewer. I have always held onto my writing as long as possible, never feeling like it’s quite ready to be read by anyone but me (including in graduate school), but the clear structure of the program combined with the communal nature of our group has definitely made the risk of letting it go one worth taking.

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