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Grad Students Just Wanna Have Fun: Great Sociability Makes A Great Graduate Program

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Graduate Student Experiences

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.652.1 - 14.652.11



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Paper Authors


Catherine Hovell University of Texas, Austin

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CATHERINE G. HOVELL is a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on improving design in a Texas standard concrete bridge beam. She received her MS from UT-Austin in 2007, having performed finite element analyses of a steel bridge girder system. She is also a graduate of the University of Virginia. Contact:

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Kimberly Talley University of Texas, Austin Orcid 16x16

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KIMBERLY G. TALLEY is a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focus is on the assessment and rehabilitation of deteriorated concrete. She received two B.S. degrees from North Carolina State University and her M.S. from the University of Texas at Austin. Contact:

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Kathy Schmidt University of Texas, Austin

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KATHY J. SCHMIDT is the Director of the Faculty Innovation Center for the College of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. In this position, she promotes the College of Engineering's commitment to finding ways to enrich teaching and learning. She works in all aspects of education including design and development, faculty training, learner support, and evaluation. Contact

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Grad Students Just Wanna Have Fun: Great Sociability Makes a Great Graduate Program


The Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin combines unique research and social aspects of graduate work for structural engineering students. The result is an education and experience that aids in the development of students who surpass their peers from other universities, as evidenced by consistently high rankings of the graduate program. In research, the students are responsible for producing top-quality results in an extensively equipped, hands-on laboratory. Socially, the lab employees, graduate researchers, and faculty gather for barbeques, softball games, intramural sports teams, golf tournaments, potlucks, and football tailgates. Lessons learned in class are reinforced when students help others who are falling behind, and when homework becomes a collaborative effort that is encouraged by providing plenty of space to work as a team. The result is an atmosphere of camaraderie that encourages teamwork, networking, and fun rather than cut-throat competition. This atmosphere helps with recruiting the best new graduate students and also assists graduating students to land jobs with their top choice employers. This paper describes the elements that make up this successful social environment in hopes that other programs will be able to adapt some of these ideas to suit their situations.


Within any professional community, certain schools maintain a reputation well above their peers. In the structural engineering culture, the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) is one of these schools, joining only a handful of others as producers of the most top-level research and also the most top-level students. T n -Austin, especially when accompanied by a research position at the Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory (FSEL), says a lot about the caliber of student.

Hovell, C., & Talley, K., & Schmidt, K. (2009, June), Grad Students Just Wanna Have Fun: Great Sociability Makes A Great Graduate Program Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5409

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