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Sarah Workman’s Role Helps Humanities Professors Across Campus
As assistant director for proposal development, Sarah Workman applies her academic background to help Syracuse University humanities faculty develop research proposals and find funding and support to make their ideas a reality. Workman, whose position is shared between the Office of Research and the College of Arts and Sciences, supports humanities faculty in a variety of ways. “I’m constantly looking at what’s out there in terms of funding, especially as it pertains to the humanities faculty,” she says. Workman encourages faculty to reach out to her via email. “We’ll do a brainstorming session to figure out what opportunity may be a good fit given where they are in the research process.”
Conversations turn to what she can do to best support the project and faculty member or research team. This includes searching for funding opportunities and connecting faculty with corporate and foundation relations. Workman also often works closely with the Syracuse University Humanities Center (SUHC) to strengthen humanities research culture on campus and is currently collaborating with the SUHC to develop a new webpage with updated resources for campuswide humanities faculty. She also connects faculty with related interests so they may learn from each other’s funding successes. Her support spans all phases of research development, from helping faculty prioritize their ideas, to developing funding proposals and connecting scholars with funding opportunities.
After completing an undergraduate degree in English and Spanish from Cornell University, Workman lived in Israel briefly. She then went on to earn an M.A. from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Workman has firsthand experience in developing research projects from start to finish. However, while finishing her Ph.D., she realized that she didn’t want to pursue a typical academic position in the humanities, where book-length research projects are the norm.
Workman realized that the parts of academic work she enjoys, like collaborating with colleagues, reading in different disciplines and working in a writing group, would be more accessible in an alternative support role for faculty. She worked for a time at Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship. There she designed online learning environments and supported course and curriculum development funding opportunities. By gaining experience working with a wide range of faculty in various stages of their careers, Workman developed a strong understanding of challenges faculty members face. “I see how their research influences their teaching and vice versa. As a graduate student in the humanities, I understand the demands on their time as well as what it means to do academic research in the humanities,” she says.
Workman can help facilitate support and research connections among faculty. For example, Associate Professor Heath Hanlin in the Department of Transmedia is developing a project that uses virtual reality to create museum exhibitions in U.S. locations that have been drastically impacted by climate change. With Workman, Hanlin has been actively pursuing multiple grant opportunities for this project.
Workman conducted research and made connections relevant to grantees to help guide the process, including on-campus connections. For example, she connected him with Earth scientist Melissa Chipman who was previously awarded a relevant National Geographic Storytellers grant. “Heath and Melissa are off having their own conversation about the ways in which scientists are trying to learn about how they can better communicate the impacts of climate change,” Workman says. “Heath’s doing it from a virtual reality perspective, and Melissa’s thinking about it from an Earth sciences perspective. They’re thinking about the same questions from these various disciplinary vantage points, and I was able to bring them together.”
Workman thinks her role at Syracuse University is the fit she didn’t find in the course of her Ph.D. “I very personally know what it’s like to struggle with research momentum,” she says. Her empathetic approach appreciates the personal process that academic research is for professors. She is happy to be in a place to help the humanists on campus be successful. “I understand the challenges because I was processing all of that as a graduate student to see if I wanted to do it. It informs the way I now work with faculty.”