New Center for Collaboration provides students, faculty a place to mingle, discuss research

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
November 16, 2010

As Rick Setliff writes his dissertation, some of his greatest relief on rough days comes not from escaping his work, but engrossing himself in it even more.

Setliff, a doctoral student and adjunct professor of economics at Indiana State University, visits the Center for Collaboration in the Bayh College of Education at ISU, where he goes to sometimes discuss research projects. The newly opened center is designed for ISU students and faculty to meet and discuss research, whether it is their own work, someone else's efforts or potential ideas for the future.

"It's a good meeting place for researchers, other doctoral students where I can talk and get some ideas, and just develop a dialogue with other students who are working on research projects," Setliff said.

It can also be a place where he meets with other graduate students to not only confer about research, but also ways in which to improve the writing process.

"If you don't have people around you who are going through the same rigor, you could get discouraged, and the whole point is not to get discouraged," Setliff said.

The center is the brainchild of Larry Tinnerman, an associate professor in the Bayh College. Tinnerman created the idea for a collaborative space so that students and faculty could have a place to meet and discuss research.

"It's bringing people together. It's bringing ideas together," Tinnerman said. "It's about creating an environment for scholarly activity, and sharing in cooperation. It's also to destroy the concept of isolation which many graduate students face."

When Tinnerman was in graduate school, he and his graduate colleagues and professors would frequently collaborate on research projects.

"We published together, we wrote, we presented at conferences together, and as I look at our doctoral programs especially, I thought that maybe that wasn't a cultural element that was present here as much as it should be," Tinnerman said.

He created a plan to foster communication and collaboration between students and faculty at ISU. He looked for space and learned about the Larry and Alice Reck Library, a space on the garden level of the Bayh College of Education. Tinnerman observed that the library wasn't used as much as it could be.

"So we immediately got a hold of Dr. Reck and we talked about repurposing the room to a collaboration center," Tinnerman said. "He came completely on board with the idea."

Larry Reck, an emeritus professor from ISU, and his late wife Alice made a donation for what would ultimately become the Larry and Alice Reck Library. But once Tinnerman contacted him about the proposal for the new center, Reck thought it was a good idea.

"He's a very astute person, and very far-sighted in the direction that the university should be going," Reck said of Tinnerman.

The collaboration center then received some new equipment to be used for an array of efforts. Tinnerman donated an LED-HD television and Blu-ray DVD player. The center also had received some funding from the College of Graduate and Professional Studies and the Bayh College of Education, which Tinnerman used to buy handheld HD video cameras, digital audio recorders, a scanner and even a mini-media center computer. The Bayh College of Education provided an array of computers. The center and all the equipment was made available to graduate students and ISU faculty to help with their scholarly research and collaboration.

Tinnerman, together with numerous other students and faculty, also has created programming for the center. Speakers appearing on ISU campus are recorded and streamed to distance students for on demand access. A series of workshops conducted by faculty have also begun at the center. Workshops also are streamed on the web for participation and viewing by distance students. A new writer's group has been formed and holds ongoing meetings in the center as well. Tinnerman expected six people at the initial session of the writers group; he was surprised when more than 50 people either attended or contacted him by email to become involved.

In the writers group, people interested in writing or presenting research at conferences are paired based on common interests so they can support each other.

ISU graduate student Sowmya Challa has witnessed first-hand the success of the center. During a recent writers' group meeting, she witnessed two students from different colleges discuss their research and discover that parallels existed in their work.

"If it was not for that place, they never would have met on campus," Challa said.

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) also plans to have a desk in the Center for Collaboration, added Challa, who is president of the organization. She has already been using the center as a meeting place for many of the organization's activities.

People do a variety of things in the center, from relaxing to doing work, and even have discussions about research and use Skype to talk with people over the internet, Challa said.

Tinnerman is off to a tremendous start with the Collaborative Center, and the university will pick up on it, Reck said.

"Probably other universities will do the same when they see the success of this," he added.

But the physical location isn't the only aspect to Tinnerman's efforts at student and faculty collaboration. Last year, before the center opened, he created the Sycamore Collaboration website, which is a social networking site with a variety of information from community events to requests for manuscripts.

Though he started the site, http://sycamorecollaboration.org/, more than a year ago and membership was slow to increase, "since then we are up over 100 members on the social network, and I hope we expand that further as we continue," Tinnerman said.

Meanwhile, he is already creating goals for the future. He hopes to help plan a day trip to Chicago or Indianapolis in cooperation with GSA and International Student Affairs where, for the cost of the bus, people can go and have a day to spend together as a group.

"I'm trying to build community is what I'm trying to do," Tinnerman said, "and the end result is a collaboration of people with each other."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Tinnerman/DSC8515TinnermanReck/1078574359_DGPEh-L.jpg (ISU/Kara Berchem)
Prof. Larry Tinnerman and Larry Reck in the Center for Collaboration in the Bayh College of Education.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/950507205_Q2zhv-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Indiana State University graduate student Balaguruprasad Narayanan and Will Barratt, associate professor of student affairs and higher education, sit in the Center for Collaboration.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/950521245_CbbTe-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Indiana State University graduate students Sowmya Challa watches as Sunny Singh uses an iPad in the Center for Collaboration. The center houses different technological equipment for students to use.

Contact: Larry Tinnerman, assistant professor, Bayh College of Education, Indiana State University, 812-237-2937 or larry.tinnerman@indstate.edu.

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu.