Published: May 21, 2018

Academic Futures Town Hall Notes

Graduate Student Success

May 4, 2018



Jeff Cox and committee members gave an overview of the committee’s work to date on this topic, including conversations about financial support, opportunities for academic and professional engagement and building communities, career readiness, and mentoring resources and structures.

Comments and Questions:

The following issues were raised:

  • We need more academic writing support in the writing center.
    • Writing center resources are in high demand.
    • Writing center support supplements the relationships with advisors especially when it’s difficult to get in to see your advisor.
    • They help go over your advisor’s comments and holistically help improve pieces as well as the manuscript as a whole.
    • They are valued as an outside reader.
    • Additional workshops and retreats would be useful – they currently fill up fast and graduate students are turned away.  Finding space for multi-day retreats (same room/building) is an issue, especially during the school year.
    • The lack of support over the summer and during “Maymester” is an issue.
  • Funding for graduate students at the departmental level is inadequate especially during the summer (housing, etc.) – students typically keep working over the summer.
  • Career readiness obstacles:
    • It is difficult for CS to engage students throughout their process.  There are few opportunities/avenues for Career Services to get in front of the majority of graduate students, and those opportunities are frequently too early in their programs. 
    • By the time students engage, it is late in the process and they cannot take advantage of suggestions (e.g. networking). 
    • Career readiness needs to be expected and integrated into the student experience – need consistent engagement.
  • We need a campus-wide discussion and support on the expectations and minimum support for graduate students (space, advising, mentoring, etc.) – it currently varies widely from department to department.
  • Financial support is an issue.  Historically, a student could work part-time or full-time on the side to support themselves through college.  Today, even when students max out their student loans, they still have issues meeting basic needs of housing, child care, etc.
  • We need more support and career readiness efforts for various career tracks beyond the traditional academic path – graduate students feel like the opportunities are all geared towards academic professions vs. options in industry.
    • Need more information and cross-departmental communication, support, and seminars on realistic options within their field.  We can currently provide general help such as how to do a job search, but we need more focus on where students can go within their fields.
    • GTP seems to have an effective communication/networking method that could be used as a model for communication that is focused on the industry track.
    • Have workshops over the summer and throughout the year.
    • Currently, the overhead work to bring in outside experts is all “volunteer” work, so efforts are inconsistent.                       
  • We need to find a way for graduate students to have a bigger voice in decisions and programs that affect them.  Two-way communication is currently an issue and gives the impression that graduate students are not valued when in fact they may just not know about specific initiatives or events.  Currently, communication depends on individual faculty/departmental units to spread the word – we need a better mechanism.
  • We also need include post-docs in the Academic Futures discussions – many of their concerns are similar to those of the graduate students.
  • There is a greater need these days for counseling services. 
    • Graduate students can easily feel alienated, especially when ABD. 
    • Our current counseling services are overwhelmed.
    • Student fees survey suggests that they are happy giving fees to CAPS and UGGS, and they would like to see more of the CAPS resources.
  • We need to improve mentoring and move past the generational shift between old-style and new-style mentoring.  When the link between the assigned advisor and/or assigned faculty member are ineffective or gets broken, students are left floundering.  There is a lot of literature and research on how best to mentor.  We can use models that have been built in industry outside of academia. 
  • We need to improve the processes around assigning space.
    • The space allotment process is opaque and frustrating, and seems to be based on who you know and how much influence they have rather than an organized process.
    • One idea is to have town hall meetings on new buildings to hear plans and improve input.
    • We need to consider a space-audit.
    • We need more communal space.
    • Graduate students would like to have a seat at the table.