Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Record Update Exclusive

Graduate coordinators share ideas at Rackham conference

Graduate students need to feel connected to their programs, peers and institution to succeed, keynote speaker Maureen Wilson told more than 100 assembled Wednesday for a Professional Conference for Rackham Program Graduate Coordinators at the Rackham Amphitheatre.

The conference was the first for U-M’s graduate student services professionals. They perform jobs such as design and implementation of student recruitment plans, coordination of the application process and communication with prospective students, and designing online evaluation plans for faculty who are reviewing applicants.

These staff members also inform students of campus resources, about how to get involved with their respective academic units, and provide information on milestones such as arriving at candidacy and defending a doctorate thesis.

Maureen Wilson of Bowling Green State University gives a keynote presentation at the Professional Conference for Rackham Program Graduate Coordinators at Rackham Amphitheatre. (Photo by Ashley Andreae/ Rackham School of Graduate Studies)

Wilson, an associate professor at Bowling Green State University, said statistics reveal that 40 percent of graduate students who begin doctoral programs don’t complete them.
“That first year is such a critical year,” Wilson said, adding one-third leave graduate school during that time. She asked, “Are there ways you can aid the effective socialization of graduate students with whom you work?”

The conference provided workshops for student services professionals and networking opportunities with colleagues across Rackham programs. The goal was for participants to gain skills and learn strategies to maintain or excel in this profession.

“Graduate student services professionals have such an array of responsibilities from recruitment to degree approval,” said Cynthia Quann-White, a graduate student administrator in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and member of the conference planning committee. “We hope that our conference speakers will help individuals to take workable solutions back to their offices.”

“Since I started working at the university I thought my role working with graduate students was vital to their success,” said Matt Irelan, graduate adviser-coordinator with Industrial and Operations Engineering and member of the conference planning committee. “I hope that having this day, and others after it, continues to professionalize the roles graduate coordinators and advisors play.”

Attendees were welcomed by Janet Weiss, Rackham dean and vice provost for academic affairs. Workshop sessions were presented on embracing change, creative time management to reduce workload anxiety, using social networking effectively, and aiding students in need of mental health services.

In her keynote presentation, “Facilitating Professional Socialization of Graduate Students,” Wilson said graduate student services professionals must help students who typically ask themselves, “Can I do this?” (intellectual mastery), “Is this worth the struggle?” (accepting realities of life as a graduate student), “Do I want to do this work?” (learning about their profession), and “Do I belong here?” (connecting with the department).

“Help students become more invested in their program,” Wilson said.

Laura Elgas, assistant director of admissions and student affairs in the School of Information and conference planning committee member, said, “I hope that this conference gives everyone a chance to hear about common themes and topics that impact the work of graduate coordinators, and provides an opportunity to network and grow professionally.”