The 2021 Institute
From June 15 to June 22, the American Political Science Association (APSA) held its second Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) to promote such research within the discipline by providing training and creating networks of scholars who are shaping the future of political science.
Typically held at Tufts University, this year’s institute was conducted virtually, via Zoom, from June 15-22. ICER 2021 was led by directors Amy Cabrera Rasmussen (California State University Long Beach), Peter Levine (Tufts University),and Valeria Sinclair-Chapman (Purdue University), with extensive support and coordination from Zainab Alam (of APSA’s Centennial Center). Twenty participants ranging in career stages, institutions, research interests, geographical locations, and backgrounds were part of this year’s cohort, becoming part of the growing group of ICER Fellows.
Over the five-day institute, participants learned and interacted with one another, the ICER directors, and visiting scholars. Formats varied from formal presentations, facilitated discussion of assigned readings and case studies to small group design projects, writing time, and visits from leading scholars and practitioners. Participants came together to discuss civically- and community-engaged research in addition to understanding this kind of research through a political science lens. Fellows also explored the practicalities of being an engaged researcher by discussing their project ideas, opportunities and challenges in the field, research ethics, professional development and the state of the discipline more broadly.
To ensure that this year’s institute would provide an engaging, supportive, and robust virtual experience, the directors used a range of innovative best practices. One such innovation was Dr. Cabrera-Rasmussen’s carefully crafted Miro board. A Miro board is a virtual whiteboard that participants used to map out ideas, present their work to each other, and to get feedback in real time. Imagine being in a shared space where participants could “walk” the room and peek into various conversations sketched out on whiteboards. That experience is akin to using a Miro Board to facilitate virtual engagement. In a range of curated daily activities, the Miro board provided a space in which the cohort could build their civically engaged research skill set and share their own project ideas in small group discussions. The Miro board is an archivable shared space that participants can return to for reminders or inspiration.
In addition to the Miro board and related Zoom breakout room sessions, the institute aimed to build community. As part of these efforts, each participant received an individually curated snack box and shared a virtual group meal.
Along with ICER’s directors and participants, visiting experts and scholars provided their insights and knowledge at the institute. Pearl Robinson (Tufts University), Michelle Fine (CUNY), Anjuli Fahlberg (Tufts University), and Mark Warren (University of Massachusetts, Boston) came together on a panel to discuss engaged research in various disciplines. From City University of New York-John Jay College, Samantha Majic shared her depth of experience on the Institutional Review Board process and related ethical considerations and Ethel Tungohan (York University) also discussed research ethics, with a particular focus on engaged work and marginalized populations. Tommaso Bardelli (New York University) relayed his insights about working with an interdisciplinary and collaborative team and sharing research with community stakeholders, and Karthick Ramakrishnan (University of California, Riverside and California 100) discussed his longstanding public scholarship and policy work. The current and immediate past APSA presidents, Janet Box-Steffensmeier and Rogers Smith, joined to welcome the cohort, discuss the history of ICER and its roots in the Task Force on New Partnerships, and to highlight the importance of civically engaged research to the discipline and the public.
Alumni from the 2019 inaugural ICER cohort also contributed to this year’s institute. Kirstie Dobbs (Merrimack College), Brian Shoup (Mississippi State University), Adriano Udani (University of Missouri- Saint Louis), and Amber Wichowsky (Marquette University) spoke with the new cohort about their civically engaged research projects and how participating in the 2019 institute has influenced their work.
Although ICER was held virtually, the impact of having a dedicated space to discuss civically engaged research was felt widely among the participants. In an anonymous closing survey, one participant applauded the institute by stating, “ICER surpassed my wildest expectations. It was one of the most mindfully crafted virtual seminars I’ve ever been to. The community was so supportive and kind. I feel like my eyes have been opened to so many different possibilities for CER and my project.”