How DUCIGS’ Graduate Working Groups Adapted This Year

April 26, 2021

By Meredith Watkins

Graduate Working Groups On Global Issues_Duke Center for International and Global Studies

In a Wednesdays at the Center virtual event, representatives from DUCIGS’ graduate working groups on global issues shared stories of their unique experiences and struggles while working through this unprecedented academic year.

Devin Creed (Moving Aesthetics of Empire), Alex McCumber (Graduates Engineering & Researching Microbiomes), Christopher Behrer (Informed Choices for Equitable Development), and Ayanna Legros and Brittany Green (Black Sound and the Archive) discussed the changes and challenges their working groups have faced during the 2020-2021 academic year, from transitioning events to an online format to battling Zoom fatigue.

For Creed, the biggest challenge the Moving Aesthetics of the Empire group faced was determining how to best translate their programming into the online format. Traditionally, the group would meet bi-weekly to watch a classic film and hold a discussion following. However, when the university shifted all meetings and events online, the group needed to rethink their delivery. “I was really struggling with how to run a film group when we cannot meet in person,” Creed said.

As a solution, the group decided to have members asynchronously watch the films and then come together for a live Zoom lecture in lieu of a discussion. While the online lecture setting is not ideal, it has allowed the group to include academics from across the globe in their meetings—a silver lining that representatives from the other working groups also expressed.

For Ayanna Legros and Brittany Green, library access is instrumental to their research in sound studies, a discipline looking at the sounds that people make and the implications of the sounds, whether it be social implications or historical implications, in an interdisciplinary approach. Library access restrictions last year, as well as having to cancel in-person events and meetings, took an inevitable toll. “I had to work online," Green said, " [but] what’s really nice is that Duke has a digital archive with some of the materials I needed for work."

Looking to the future, McCumber expressed that his group remains open to hosting virtual events even after in-person events are reinstated, particularly due to the quality of speakers GERM has been able to book during the pandemic. “I think that’s something that we will continue moving forward—trying to attract high-level speakers to come in and talk, even if it is virtually,” he said. 

This event was co-sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies.

The Duke University Center for International & Global Studies invites proposals for Graduate Working Groups on Global Issues at the start of each academic year. Within this program are thematic working groups that are both interdisciplinary in their membership and student-driven in design. The groups hold meetings at least four times each semester, during which students are encouraged to share their individual perspectives on topics of a global nature. Often, selected readings are discussed, and students have the opportunity to present their own research to the group in order to receive feedback from a variety of disciplinary points of view.

Learn more of the Graduate Working Groups on Global Issues: