Introduction: This week we take a look at the various ways we were involved with university outreach and the benefits it has. From going to events to planning them, university outreach can be a great way to connect with fellow students and faculty, and have a fun time.
Kiri: Once in graduate school, it can become difficult to engage in university programs because of the pressures that come hand-in-hand with starting such a rigorous program. Joining these programs can help you to stay connected with your fellow grad students, however, and offers a great way to learn how to successfully network. When I first joined FSU’s PhD program, I attended a lot of the events hosted by the History Graduate Student Association to try to meet new people in the program, and I really enjoyed all the work that the HGSA did for the people in the HGSA. When elections came around, I decided to run for secretary of the HGSA so that I could help to foster the same sense of community that the HGSA helped to instill in me the first year I was there. Even through the pandemic, the HGSA has still managed to hold semi-frequent meetings as well as fun events through zoom for students to attend. This was a great way to continue the connections between students already at FSU, as well as meet the students in the incoming cohort who we were unable to meet in person. Although busy schedules sometimes get in the way of continually attending events, or even joining as an officer, going to some events will help one to make deeper connections to others in their program, and also attend more social events that don’t pertain directly to academia. This can be a huge stress reliever as well because you’re able to connect with others that are in the same situation as you are. Through University programs like your Graduate Association, you can form bonds and make friends that can help to support you through your graduate career.
Dragana: University outreach is a great way to be able to get involved in non-academic related activities. As graduate students it can be difficult to step away from academics and take a break. In the second year of my MA program I became an officer of our chapter of Phi Alpha Theta (PAT). As an officer, I was involved in planning events each month that were meant to bring students and professors of the History Department together in a laid-back environment. I was in charge of creating flyers for our events and maintaining our social media platforms. Being a part of PAT allowed me to get to know the professors outside of the classroom which is something that is difficult for students to do because there are rarely opportunities to talk with professors in a casual environment. Along with getting to know professors, PAT events brought undergrad and grad students together in one space. It allowed for us to get to know some of the students who we were grading for and meet those that we were not. We strived to be open and inviting to undergrads because we knew how scary it could be to go to events where you didn’t know anyone. Our university outreach allowed us to interact mainly with the people inside of our department, but we also had a few people from Art History who would come and join us. It was a great way to talk about what we were doing and have a space where we felt like there was no pressure to do work.
Chelsi: At the end of my first year in the master’s program, I was in a panic. I had just been rejected for funding for my second year (My lovely advisor would later come up with some funding for me, but I did not know that at the moment), and I had little to add to my CV except some part time experience at a theme park and a movie theater. Being rejected for funding essentially dashed my hopes of being good enough for a PhD program, so I needed anything to make my CV job ready for the next year. In that sense I got very lucky.
The president of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor’s Society had not put on many events and I felt that I could challenge her for the title. I won the election and in the next year, learned how to budget a hefty club grant, organize events, reach out to professors to give lectures and talks, and other valuable things that look great on a CV and boosted my job prospects. Although I became the president in order to help my CV, I also put in the work for the organization to thrive because the experience itself was truly fun and enjoyable. It allowed me to connect with the department in ways I hadn’t even been aware of before. When I started my PhD program (with one of the highest funding packages available) I immediately became an active member of the History Graduate Student Association and participated in two Conference Planning Committees. These opportunities to get involved were not only excellent ways to make myself look better on paper, but also to know how to have a little bit of fun in graduate school as well.
Clayton: While the main focus of any Graduate Program is the academic work, it is not the only aspect of being a Graduate student. Another aspect of the program which is equally as important is getting to know your graduate community and connecting with it. In many ways, this can be just as intimidating as your actual classes, but it is still a vital part of the graduate experience. Meeting with other students and professors in your department helps you form connections and bonds with the other people who are going through the same things you are. Also, from a more practical standpoint, making and maintaining these connections will provide you with colleagues who can support you in your work and help you advance your career goals. Attending events and meetings in your department are the perfect environment to establish these personal and professional relationships, since they will be attended and set up by your colleagues.
This was the case in my personal experience. Since I entered the department at USF not knowing anyone previously (which will be the case for many), attending these events/meetings helped me get to know the people who were working around me. Chelsi was my first officemate at USF and since she was heavily involved with these events, I was able to get to know many people right away. This helped me understand how an academic environment worked, and also helped me form many great personal relationships, including with the Handling the Humanities team! This blog is proof of the positive outcomes that result from getting involved within your graduate program.