I find myself appointed vice-president of the campus-wide grad student group.
The group began year before last with great gusto, and is hanging on this year. It began in response to payroll problems and professionalization issues that several grad students had experienced. Last week, I gave a talk that had been scheduled for months–right in the middle of deadline crunch–and we had a light turnout. We decided that, from now on, we won’t sked anything for the last two weeks of class. (D’oh!)
Meanwhile, our department’s annual graduate conference went interdisciplinary this winter (a good thing). I think the more that grad students network, the better it is for all concerned.
This summer, I’ll be working on a survey of the graduate teaching assistants in my department. I’m hoping that we can get some fresh ideas from folks who aren’t necessarily gung-ho “joiners,” but who have trenchant observations and useful critiques.
I’m also supposed to put on a graduate study-abroad conference this fall. There are plenty of opportunities for undergrads, who generally have a lot more time (and money) to take great trips abroad; however, these trips rarely, if ever, accommodate the needs of grad students, whose life stage, research needs, teaching obligations, and financial pressures pose completely different problems. Naturally there’s the Peace Corps and Fulbrights, which are not options for everyone. While grad students should be able to piece together their own individual studies abroad, the complexities of managing this task can be daunting. The idea I have is to collect information that is cross-disciplinary and timesaving (e.g., basic grantwriting information and resources, making contacts abroad, etc.), as well as inviting representatives of specifically graduate-level study-abroad programs, and setting up an information fair on perhaps a Friday-Saturday schedule. This should accommodate most people’s schedules.
The other thing our group is really hot to do is to establish mentoring for undergrads. We did have a huge turnout for the grad school information fair (a couple of hundred, I’m told). I’d really like to see some sort of publication that institutes a serious dialogue about teaching and learning, career building, and academic success between undergraduate and graduate students. Right now there is almost no such communication (unless you count teaching “evaluation” bubble-sheets). We could institute such a publication online at no cost, either on a GSU server or offsite. Another publication (definitely offsite) could serve as a means of communication between grad students and faculty/administration. Here, we could discuss policy issues (please don’t lump us in with undergrads when you institute certain procedures; we need health care options that address our lifestage; why are we paying for football and pizza parties?; etc.).
Anyway, I’m not sure I need one more iron in the fire, but the situation of grad students in the context of the larger university is something I care about deeply. Someday, when I’m a professor, I will gladly mentor the grad students. This is one way to begin.