GW promotes grad life

When the Office of Grad Life offered 120 spots on a crab boat cruise along the Potomac River, the tickets sold out within a number of days. And when Grad Life held its fall barbecue last month, more than 1,000 GW graduate students showed up for free food.

A campus social life, it seems, isn’t limited to undergraduates.

“Most of the people I know in D.C. right now, I met from being on campus,” said Sam Bennet, a recent graduate of the University’s College of Professional Studies. “I followed the (Grad Life) activities and went out and met people.”

Since 2004, the Office of Grad Life has provided GW’s graduate student community with a steady stream of extra-curricular activities, giving students an opportunity to mingle with their peers and become more involved on campus.

The office was established last March in an effort to improve cohesiveness among the University’s graduate and professional students. Since then, Grad Life has developed an extensive Web site to promote upcoming events on campus and around the city, with activities ranging from tennis clinics to dissertation workshops. The site also features a classifieds page devoted exclusively to the graduate community.

“For so long GW focused on services for undergraduate students, (but) all along we always had more grad students,” said Michael Walker, associate dean of students and director of Grad Life. “We had lost sight of meeting their needs.”

More than 12,000 students attend one of GW’s 57 graduate programs. While many graduates are fresh out of college, others are returning to school years after receiving their bachelor’s degrees. Some students are married, while others take night classes and work full-time. Kristin Williams, executive director of graduate student enrollment management, said the University strives to meet the diverse needs among its graduate population.

“The challenge that GW has and every major university has is that you have a student body that is very diverse and coming with very individual needs and different expectations,” Kristin Williams said. “Their link is more tied to the academic discipline.”

On a campus brimming with undergraduates, some graduate students said they appreciate Grad Life’s efforts, even if they don’t go to events that often.

“I went to the baseball game that was sponsored by Grad Life, but aside from that I’ve only done law school related events,” said first-year law student Alissa Rogol. “I would do Grad Life if it’s particularly tempting.”

“I went to the grad fair and the barbecue,” said Rehana Ahmed, student in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. “Grad life has a lot to offer.”

Similar to activities sponsored by GW’s Office of Grad Life, several of Boston University’s colleges have Graduate Student Associations that promote events such as “wine tasting and dinner on the Charles (Rivers)” and tickets to see a Boston Red Sox baseball game. At New York University, the Graduate Student Life office, which was created more than a year ago, offers activities and resources ranging from graduate socials to a “students with children club.”

GW also boasts more then 30 graduate student organizations to help students take part in their community. Second-year law student Kanita Williams organizes weekly bar-hopping events as a chairperson of the Student Bar Association, and graduate school Student Association Senator Heather Williams said she has begun to push the SA for more graduate student group funding.

Heather Williams said, “A lot of graduate students have no idea that they can even get money from the SA.”

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