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Finish My Research! Find a Job! Feel Better! Seminars to Support Engineering Graduate Students’ Professional and Personal Goals

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Professional Development and Advising for Graduate Students

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.606.1 - 24.606.8



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Paper Authors


Katy Luchini-Colbry Michigan State University

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Katy Luchini-Colbry is the Director for Graduate Recruiting at the College of Engineering at Michigan State University, where she completed degrees in political theory and computer science. A recipient of a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, she earned Ph.D. and M.S.E. in computer science and engineering from the University of Michigan. She has published nearly two dozen peer-reviewed works related to her interests in educational technology and enhancing undergraduate education through hands-on learning. As a volunteer for Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society, Luchini-Colbry facilitates interactive seminars on interpersonal communications and problem solving skills for engineering students across the U.S.

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Theresa Lynn Gonzalez

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Finish my Research! Find a Job! Feel Better!Support for Engineering Graduate Students’ Professional and Personal GoalsAbstractGraduate students face a range of challenges beyond simply passing their courses andcompleting their research. Many graduate students struggle to access academic resources,integrate with their departmental and campus communities, and balance their personalresponsibilities with their academic pursuits.1–3 Recent research has explored the importance ofsupporting health and wellness among graduate students.4–6 For example, Pontius and Harper5identified several areas where graduate students need support, including building communityinside and outside their home departments, understanding and accessing campus resources, andplanning for careers. Providing adequate support for graduate students is important to ensureboth their personal and professional success as individuals, and their ability to succeed aftergraduation in research, academic, and industry careers.7,8This paper describes a multi-year effort to develop professional and personal developmentactivities for Engineering graduate students at [a large, research-intensive University in theMidwest]. [This University] offers MS and PhD degrees in nine areas of Engineering and enrollsnearly 900 graduate students, of whom about 70% are international citizens and 25% are women.Among domestic graduate students, 18% come from populations historically underrepresented inSTEM (science, technology, engineering, math). [This University] has offered new studentorientation programs at both departmental and College levels for many years, and has previouslyreceived grants to established supportive programming for graduate women and for graduatestudents from underrepresented populations.In the 2012-13 academic year, the College of Engineering at [University] made significantchanges to the orientation program for new graduate students, including the addition of a seriesof lunchtime seminars throughout the fall semester. These seminars were designed to introducenew students to campus resources available to support their academic and personal needs. Basedon student feedback, this initial seminar series was expanded in the second semester and allEngineering graduate students were encouraged to participate. The seminar topics were selectedbased on student interest, and included research skills (library resources, computational tools,data management); career development (resumes/CVs, negotiating job offers, industry andacademic career pathways); and personal health and wellness (stress reduction, nutrition, guidedmeditation). During the summer semester, we instituted a series of “Grad Lab Tours” thatoffered the opportunity for students to learn about research outside their home departments.After testing various graduate student activities during the 2012-13 academic year, we developeda more focused series of seminars and community-building activities in the following year.Specific activities were developed for different cohorts of students, including: first-year graduatestudents; graduate women; students interested in academic or teaching careers; and students fromunderrepresented populations. In addition, we offered a bi-weekly gathering for all graduatestudents that alternated between career-focused and health/wellness topics. We also received agrant to implement a graduate student book discussion group exploring work-life balance.This paper will describe these efforts to support graduate students’ personal and professionaldevelopment in the College of Engineering at [University] over the last two years. In addition,we will discuss the results of anonymous student surveys assessing these efforts and their impacton the evolution of these activities. We will also discuss broader University efforts to supportthe health and wellness of all graduate students, and collaborations between the [University]Graduate School and the College of Engineering to support graduate students’ integration bothwithin their departments/disciplines and across the larger campus community.References 1. Longfield A, Romas J, Irwin JD. The Self-worth, Physical and Social Activities of Graduate Students: A Qualitative Study. Coll Stud J. 2006;40(2):282–92.2. Fogg P. Grad-School Blues. Chron High Educ [Internet]. 2009 Feb 20 [cited 2013 Oct 17]; Available from: Patton S. Colleges Struggle to Respond to Graduate Students in Distress. Chron High Educ [Internet]. 2012 Aug 16 [cited 2013 Oct 17]; Available from: Respond/133699/4. Bair CR, Grant Haworth J, Sandfort M. Doctoral Student Learning and Development: A Shared Responsibility. J Stud Aff Res Pr [Internet]. 2004 Jan 16 [cited 2013 Oct 17];41(4). Available from:$002fjsarp.2004.41.4$002fjsarp.2004.41.4.1395$002fjsarp.2004.41 .4.1395.xml;jsessionid=D4A68B5D548B82E912FA4BDB51B508F55. Pontius JL, Harper PD. Principles for good practice in graduate and professional student engagement. 2006 [cited 2013 Oct 17]; Available from: Brandes LCO. Graduate student centers: Building community and involving students. New Dir Stud Serv. 2006;2006(115):85–99.7. Austin AE. Preparing the Next Generation of Faculty: Graduate School as Socialization to the Academic Career. J High Educ. 2002;73(1):94–122.8. Peters R. Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D. [Internet]. [cited 2013 Oct 17]. Available from: Students/dp/0374524777/sr=8-1/qid=1157056744/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-2277722-0800123?ie=UTF8&s=books

Luchini-Colbry, K., & Gonzalez , T. L. (2014, June), Finish My Research! Find a Job! Feel Better! Seminars to Support Engineering Graduate Students’ Professional and Personal Goals Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20497

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