Part two: the cohort effect
By Monica Rolinski, Contributor
As promised in my last article, “In Plain Sight,” examples are being gathered of how and where Print Futures students have left their mark on Douglas College. They will appear in The Other Press in the beginning of April with my third and final article of this series.
In the meantime, I’d like to share with you what I think is the most amazing element of this two-year program: the phenomenon of the cohort effect. Oxford defines a cohort as a group that is banded together in a common cause. The cohort effect has long been the focus of much sociological, psychological, epidemiological, and political attention—that’s some big time attention! There’s definitely more to the cohort effect than simple collaboration.
We all began as strangers, nervously introducing ourselves around the room during our first class. We were encouraged to talk about what brought us to the program and what we hoped to become as a result. Every one of us wanted to be a writer, but it seemed we weren’t sure how to successfully bring our desire to the world. From the start it was clear that we were a practical group with concrete, feet-on-the-ground thinking.
The transition from “I” to “we” was imperceptible. One of the ways it happened was during group exercises, where we were tasked with things like interviewing each other. The first few times this assignment was introduced, a collective, yet quiet, groan rippled through the class. But we did as we were asked and over the months, talking about ourselves to each other got easier. The group projects and collaborative work drove our transformation from strangers to cohorts as we all moved forward through this engaging, transformative, yet challenging program. Within weeks, we were cheering each other on. Somewhere along the way we had banded together in a common goal.
Some days it was nothing more than keeping the printer going by making sure the paper tray was full. I can close my eyes and see the synchronized dance that so often took place in our workroom as we proofread, printed, and stapled assignments together. The common experience of seemingly insignificant things like a jammed or empty stapler made us cohorts as we dug through backpacks and pockets for paperclips to offer each other.
Our common goal of becoming professional writers became our bond. We shared exhaustion, uncertainties, and the occasional meltdown. We shared successes and victories. We even shared the odd lunch on some of our excursions to the local pub. We bowled (oh yes we did), played pool, and drank together. We watched our families grow and celebrated community successes.
Now we are pulling out all the stops and putting on our portfolio show. We’re tough, talented, and ready. We are the 2013 Print Futures: Professional Writing grads. As former Print Futures student and 2008 grad Duncan MacKinnon said, “It’s writing boot camp.” That makes us writing boot camp cohorts.
Read more from Duncan and 15 other grad students from previous years at Ask a Grad on the Douglas College website. http://www.douglas.bc.ca/programs/print-futures/for-applicants/ask-a-grad.html