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How to Propose a Summer Graduate School at MSRI

Every summer, MSRI organizes several summer graduate schools (typically two weeks each), some of which are held at MSRI, and some of which are held at other locations around the world. Attending one of these schools can be a very motivating and exciting experience for the students. Participants have often said that it was the first experience when they felt like real mathematicians, interacting with other students and mathematicians in their field.

MSRI strongly favors schools that are taught by 1 or 2 lecturers, assisted by 1 or 2 teaching assistants. We have learned that staying away from “conference” type schools is best for our students. The budget does not allow for further speakers. The sessions with the assistants are an important part of the students' experience, and should be planned carefully by the lecturers. They should be interactive, and should involve collaboration between the students. In particular, these sessions should not take the form of additional lectures.

Students are nominated by their Director of Graduate Studies and are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis, so their knowledge levels and backgrounds may vary significantly. Because of this, it is often advisable to have two tracks running in parallel. One format that has worked well is for two lecturers to give related courses, one at an elementary level and one at a more advanced level. Each course meets once a day in the morning, there is a break for lunch, and then teaching assistants run problem sessions and/or help the students on projects. There are many other possibilities.

The material of the school should be something that is not routinely taught in most department -- for example, a school on Rudin Chapters 1-5 would not be appropriate. It should be an accessible topic that will attract a sufficiently large audience with reasonable level of preparation.

Proposals must be submitted by March 1st, October 1st or December 1st. All proposals will be considered by the Institute’s Scientific Advisory Committee.

Click HERE to download a sample proposal

A proposal should contain:

A list of organizers, lecturers and teaching assistants, including affiliations
In our experience, when there are female mathematicians within the group of lecturers and teaching assistants, it generates and encourages a diverse group of participants. This phenomenon is consistent with a large study conducted a few years ago by the American Mathematical Society. MSRI is dedicated to the training of the next generation of researchers and to fulfill this mission it is important that our summer schools be inclusive of women and minorities. For this reason, we expect that at least one lecturer and one teaching assistant be female or member of an underrepresented group.

A Scientific Description
Describe the mathematical topics you plan to cover during the two-week long school. Include the goals of the school, as well as what the students are expected to take away from attending. One to three pages should suffice. If the proposal is for a school that is associated with an upcoming research program at MSRI, please describe how the topics covered will relate to the upcoming program. Carefully describe the sessions that will be run by the assistants, including how the students will be actively involved.

A Statement about Accommodating a Range of Students
Carefully describe how the school will be well suited for an audience of students with a wide range of abilities and knowledge. Our policy is that the Schools should be accessible to a wide audience of graduate students, including those working on the fringe of the subjects being treated.

Lesson plan/syllabus
Daily breakdown of lectures and collaboration sessions.

A Statement of Prerequisites
It is important to give a detailed list of pre-requisites for the school; for example a list of a few chapters in a widely available textbook, commonly used in the first two years of graduate school, perhaps with a list of the problems from those chapters that encapsulate what the students will be expected to know how to do in advance. Ideally the list should enable a prospective student to prepare himself or herself. Lists of several whole textbooks are probably not appropriate: they are at the same time too much and too vague to be useful. The prerequisite lists will be reviewed for appropriateness by representatives of MSRI’s Academic sponsors—the group who will be responsible for encouraging and choosing students to apply.

Online Format
MSRI hopes that all of its summer school will be in person. We would be remiss, however, not to consider the possibility of having to go online in the event of extenuating circumstances such as another COVID-19 surge. In such a situation, MSRI will provide you with all requisite technical, logistical, and administrative support as well as the Zoom platform. In your proposal, please confirm that, if required by extenuating circumstances, you would default to an online summer school format.

Math Subject Classification Numbers and Keywords
The proposal should include primary and secondary Mathematics Subject Classification Codes, as well as several key words.

Image and Blurb
Provide a 1-page one page description of the school aimed at the potential students, including a statement of the goal of the school: what you hope the students will learn. Its goal is to attract appropriate students to apply to the school. The page should include a high-resolution, non-copyrighted image pertinent to the subject of the summer school, with a caption.

Location Description (offsite schools only)
Provide a description of the facilities where the school will be held. This should include information about lecture space, working space, and lodging and meals for the students. Must also include confirmation that all lectures will be recorded and shared with MSRI. The lectures will be posted on the MSRI website.

Proposals can be submitted to the Director, Deputy Director, or any member of the Scientific Advisory Committee with a copy to proposals AT msri.org.