Who knows the diversity and needs of graduate students better than the students themselves? Recognizing this, Assistant Dean of the Graduate School and Director of the Center for Graduate Life, Dr. Katherine Hall-Hertel, developed the Graduate Life Fellow (GLF) program and has been with it since its initiation in 2008. GLFs, experienced graduate students from different programs, act as student ambassadors, assisting their peers through the daunting journey called Graduate School. By organizing social, academic, and professional development events, GLFs help other students gain knowledge and skills they may not learn in the classroom. In addition, they build leadership skills that support their own growth.
The GLF program is housed in the Center for Graduate Life (CGL), which opened three years ago. Yale University was the first to develop the concept of a “center” for graduate students, recognizing that graduate students have different needs than undergrads. The development of such a center is in line with UNC Charlotte’s increasing emphasis on its growing number of graduate programs and grad student population. Developing structured support and community for these students was a logical step. Research shows that graduate students who feel more connected to their program, institution, and peers are more likely to finish their degree, and finish on time.
The CGL offers workshops that cover essential information about how to succeed in graduate school and transition into the labor market. They house the Teaching at the University Level course and are in the process of developing a graduate-level writing course for international students which will be offered for the first time in the Spring 2014 semester. In addition, the Writing Resource Center offers individual writing support services out of the CGL. This year, the CGL is enhancing its collaborative partnerships with the Office of Career Services and the Office of International Programs, and in January they will offer the first day-long conference on non-academic careers for doctoral students, called Beyond Academia.
“The GLFs have been an important part of the evolution of the CGL. They provide insight and feedback that is crucial for us, as administrators. They also bring creative, relevant ideas for ways to serve our students,” Dr. Hall-Hertel shares. Still, graduate students are a heterogeneous group and accounting for all their different needs – and schedules – can be challenging. “We’ve learned that one size doesn’t fit all. Rather than try to find the best time to hold a workshop, we now consider which audience we hope to serve and find times that work for that target group. This means offering lots of variety.”
For more information, visit the Graduate Life Fellows online.