Graduate students to see increased support

GW wants its graduate students to know what kind of support it offers.

A yearlong review has painted a picture of the University’s graduate population, allowing student life staff to better tailor its services to each group, including students who are fully engaged on campus, students with full-time jobs or families who do little more than attend classes and students who want to become more involved in GW.

With that in mind, the University will now spend most of its time offering support to students who want to be involved on campus, many of whom recently earned their bachelor’s degrees and live within walking distance of campus – a group that Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller described as “the vast majority” of the graduate population.

“This population, they’re still interested in knowing what’s going on, they just don’t know enough,” Miller said.

The University’s student life arm has identified graduate student programming, child care services and representation in advocacy organizations as possible ways to better engage the traditionally disconnected population after an examination of services ended last week.

Andrew Goretsky, director of the graduate, distance and professional student experience in the CSE, said his office has already stepped up its programming this year, hosting events like basketball games for students with families, meet-and-greet nights at local restaurants and trivia nights on campus.

“Graduate students, to feel engaged, need to feel like they matter and are an important individual that matters within our community. It is something to consider as we plan and move forward,” Goretsky said.

But the group’s findings showed that students want more than just activities.

In the report, work or financial commitments and family obligations were the two most frequent obstacles facing graduate students who balance school and other commitments – issues that the team will consider when crafting its outreach and programming opportunities to students.

Since the formation of the class-year-focused Center for Student Engagement this year, GW devoted student life staff exclusively to graduate students for the first time in nearly a decade. The graduate population – which makes up almost 60 percent of GW’s total enrollment this year – has been a focus of University President Steven Knapp’s tenure.

“The biggest challenge has been that there’s no way to find the graduate population. All their needs are so different,” Miller said. “Our goal is to provide as many different things as possible.”

The CSE review targeted students scattered across GW’s satellite campuses, with a particular focus on the Virginia, Science and Technology Campus – a 589-student site in northern Virginia.

The CSE review coincides with the launch of graduate student focus groups about the Foggy Bottom graduate experience, which were led this year by presidential administrative fellows — graduates who receive full tuition to earn a master’s degree while working in an administrative office on campus.

The PAFs will present their findings and suggestions, which included a graduate student council and centralized calendar, to Provost Steven Lerman April 26.

“I think a lot of graduate students have this interest to get involved on campus at GW. They want to be able to represent their schools, represent the students they work with and really put on programming or work on issues that are relevant to them,” Rob Maxim, a PAF and former Student Association executive vice president, said.

This article was updated on April 16, 2012 to reflect the following:
Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that 9,600 graduate students live on campus. In fact, 9,600 students study on the main campus.

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