Hello, and welcome to the 2015-16 school year!
Dear Graduate Student,
Greetings, and welcome to Western Michigan University! Let me be among the first to formally and cordially welcome you to your home for the next several years. You have taken that crucial first step in furthering your education and have made a significant investment in your future! My name is Damon Chambers and, as president of the Graduate Student Association, I represent the interests of all graduate students to the University administration, officials, faculty, staff and surrounding community.
The Association (known colloquially as the GSA) provides many resources and services for graduate students here at Western. We are proud of our grants program, allocating funds to graduate students for conference travel and other degree-related support. Our signature product, Grad Talks , strives to foster an environment rich in collaboration, where graduate students throughout campus are able to come together and present their research to their colleagues, classmates and the community. This activity is an excellent opportunity to present your work, learn something new, and to network with other creative and highly motivated graduate students.
Like any other student government in the country, we work tirelessly with the University administration, officials, and various committees to not only best represent the interests of all graduate students, but also advocate for a better campus and graduate school experience, including, and a better work environment for graduate studies and innovative research. While each of us come from unique backgrounds and different disciplines, we are all graduate students and we are all Broncos. The Association strives to provide a network addressing issues that impact graduate students here at Western. Most importantly, we hope to pave the way for future graduate students and ensure a bright and successful future for them here at this University.
Entering the world of graduate school can be a scary proposition. Not only is the task of course work, or being a teacher assistant, or performing research, or and ultimately, writing a thesis or dissertation, can be overwhelming. You may also be adjusting to a new school, apartment, and adviser. Luckily, many graduate students have successfully walked this path before and can offer advice on how to survive graduate school.
The following advice has been provided by Chuck Fidler, as documented in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Dr. Fidler is now working in academia as an assistant professor and offers many useful suggestions for new, and more experienced graduate students.
Remind yourself regularly that there is an end. It is easy to become overwhelmed throughout your graduate studies career. In the early stages, it may seem very different from your undergraduate years and the “new-ness” may lead to stress. Remind yourself that you will get through it all.
Find a way to relax. Feeling stressed about everything will not help you get anything done. Make sure to take regular breaks from your computer, give yourself some nights off from school-related tasks, and maintain some of the activities that help you to relax. Activities such as listening to music, exercising, making nice meals and reading for fun could help.
You are not alone, however much it may seem like it. Graduate work is often solitary. However, there is no reason why you cannot share your thoughts and ideas with others from your department so that you decrease your feelings of isolation. This process can also help you to develop a new and fresh perspective on your research.
Research is hard. Learning how to conduct valid research is an arduous process. Seek out help! And remember, graduate school is the time to make mistakes. Remind yourself that you are a student and you are here to learn.
Establish a good rapport with your adviser. Your adviser is called an adviser for a reason. They are there to guide you through your graduate work, set milestones throughout your program, and make sure you stay on track. Set up regular meetings so that you can make the most of this important academic relationship.
Be passionate about your work. Select a research topic that you are highly interested in. Be sure it is what you would like to research as selecting a topic because it is popular or easy often ends badly.
At Western you are more than a graduate student, you are also part of a community. As president, and on behalf of the Association, I encourage each and every one of you to become involved on campus and in the community! A simple first step is to attend our first meeting. Our meetings are held every month and are open to the public! The schedule for the 2015-2016 school year can be found in our calendar of activities.
If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact myself or any other member of the executive board. We are here for you and we would love to hear from you!
Best of luck in your graduate studies; best wishes to you in all your endeavors, and once again, welcome to the Western Michigan University! You truly are in a great place! Go Broncos!