ask a scatterbrain: departmental colloquia

What do your departments do for departmental colloquia? I have seen various different models; I’d love to hear:

  • Are presenters mostly internal to your department/institution or from outside?
  • Do you have funding for the colloquium? How much?
  • How often does the colloquium happen?
  • Who attends? (Grad students? Faculty? Others?)
  • Is food provided?
  • Does the series have any particular theme or approach?



Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

2 thoughts on “ask a scatterbrain: departmental colloquia”

  1. 1. Speakers: external to department, but occasionally internal to univ or visiting scholars
    2. Funds: Yes. we figure about $1000 per speaker, w/ flight, hotel, and meals.
    3. Frequency: 1-2/semester. This isn’t frequent enough to get people into the habit of going. At one point we had a weekly seminar series, but it became too much of a drain on audience energy (and funds).
    4. Audience: Faculty, grads, occasionally others from around uni.
    5. Food: Not anymore. When it was a regular Friday event, faculty contributed to a wine fund and the department bought cheese & crackers for a reception.
    6. Theme: no. speakers are invited by the colloquium committee, whose membership rotates.


  2. We have two colloquium series. One is our “normal series”:

    1.) Usually 5-6 people per semester. Scheduled for the same time/day as our faculty meetings, so presumably everyone can go.
    2.) We have funding. We figure about $1200/speaker (it’s NYC). We usually have about half of them be local. That means visiting scholars to the department or related departments, or to nearby schools, or to fellowship places like Russell Sage. About one to two of our own faculty members speak each year.
    3.) People usually go. It’s faculty and grad students. We are thinking of requiring it for our first years. We’re not a huge department. But there are typically 30 people in the room.
    4.) We provide food. This costs a lot of money. And if need be, it will be the first thing to go.
    5.) There is no theme. People are invited by the chair and the one person whose job it is to arrange this thing (used to be me, no longer… It counts as your “service”). Arrangements/logistics are taken care of by the departmental administrators/staff.

    Visiting Scholars:
    Recently, we decided to have visiting scholars on a theme. This is more expensive, and funded by the faculty as well as the department. Here’s the idea:
    1.) Each year we decide on a theme. We invite three people to come and talk on that theme.
    2.) The three people are here for a few days. They hold three events:
    a.) A lecture (like our colloquium — done during our normal colloquium time).
    b.) A grad seminar — the visitor picks readings on their subject-area (not written by themselves), grad students read them, and then there is a discussion about them. Only grad students can go. They have to register. The visitor is in the room, leading the discussion.
    c.) A departmental seminar — the visitor gives us one to two things they’ve written. The department reads these things. WE all have a conversation.
    d.) The visitor is given an honorarium for their hard work. The two seminars are meant to be low-key. And the aim is less to grill the visitor, and more to have collective conversations on a topic.

    The idea behind this is to get our entire department to collectively think about an area of the discipline. So this year it’s economic sociology, and Donald MacKenzie, Viviana Zelizer, and Mark Granovetter are coming in. The hope is we’ll get talking and thinking together, and this will build both the community and quality of the department.

    This second “themed” colloquium is new. So we’ll see how it works.


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