The University Record, September 10, 1996

Rackham Dean Cantor welcomes graduate students

By Jared Blank

The Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies introduced new graduate students to the University with an all-day, completely reorganized orientation program on Aug. 30. The 11-hour program featured a resource fair, tours of campus, meals and workshops on an array of topics confronting graduate students.

Rackham Dean Nancy Cantor welcomed the new students to campus and outlined her expectations and suggestions for their success. "The greatest skill you can learn is to ask for help," she said, recommending that students take full advantage of all that Rackham can provide. Rackham is not only the central administration for graduate school, she noted, but it can open doors to various options for how, where and what to study; suggest recreational options in Ann Arbor; and help students to preserve a "sense of self."

To succeed, she added, students must overcome their fears that they don't belong here, that everyone else is simply smarter. "Just go for it. Take part. The way is paved for everyone who goes here," she said, reassuring the group that they would not have been admitted if they did not show potential for success.

Some students have additional stresses that may interfere with their academic work. The "Balancing Parenting and Academic Responsibility" workshop introduced resources available to the 30 percent of U-M graduate students who also are parents.

Marcy Plunkett, senior counselor at the Center for the Education of Women, stressed the importance of keeping your personal life in order. "If you're worried about your family," she said, "you won't be able to concentrate on academics." She outlined some of the problems specific to student-parents that she said are "invisible" to other students: night meetings; health insurance; finding time to do your own homework and help your child with her homework; and spending quality time with your children.

Plunkett suggested a few tips to help parents maintain their mental health:


Find reliable child care with which you are extremely comfortable.


Maintain relationships with friends. Isolation, she said, is bad for mental health.


Use other parents as a means of support. Sometimes it helps to talk about your problems with others who have the same experiences.


Make time for your partner.

Leslie de Pietro, coordinator of the Family Care Resources Program (FCRP), added that in addition to the five child care centers on campus, the FCRP can help find an off-campus center that is right for individual students. She also suggested investigating babysitting co-ops that have been started in North Campus Family Housing.

While some discovered the resources available for child care, other graduate students attended the "Personal Safety" workshop to learn how to keep themselves safe.

Matthew Thompson of the Department of Public Safety said that while there have been 34 assaults on campus since April 1992, assaults in the Diag area have decreased in the past year because of increased lighting and foot patrols in the area. He gave some basic safety tips for nighttime foot travel, including using Safewalk and Northwalk, walking in groups, avoiding automatic teller machines that are located outside, having car/house keys ready while you walk, and conveying a sense of confidence as you travel.

Joyce Wright, student services associate in the Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Center (SAPAC), said that "having a healthy dose of paranoia and questioning the actions and behaviors of people" is important for safe travel on campus. She added that while there are no guarantees that any action will prevent an assault, people should trust their "gut instinct" about a situation. If something feels "funny" about your environment, it's better to react prematurely than regret not taking action.

Wright suggested that people take one of the basic self-defense courses sponsored by SAPAC throughout the year.

Having attended workshops on personal and family issues confronting graduate students, the group gathered to discuss a final aspect of their graduate careers---professional conduct. Richard H. Price, associate vice president for research and professor of psychology, suggested that opening the lines of communications between student researchers and professors is the best way to prevent ethical clashes between the two.

"There's always a set of unspoken questions that produce most of the ambiguity and anxiety," he said. "Grad students should ask questions of the researcher: What rights and responsibilities do I have regarding ideas and data created in the lab? Whose name is going first on the paper you publish? What publication rights do grad students have? Can they publish a paper without the primary investigator? What data can students take with them?" Price also suggested that new students speak with second- and third-year graduate students to identify other issues that may cause anxiety in the student-researcher relationship.

Survival tips for graduate students

During the "Real World at Michigan" workshop, staff and student suggested simple ways to make life at U-M as easy as possible for graduate students:



Think of yourself as a manager of your academic and professional career.


Read information that is given to you.


Learn where to park.


Visit your home department. It has information that you need.


Make sure your department has your local address. Without it, you may not receive fellowship money on time.


Find an adviser in your first year.


Fill out forms.