SEAS establishes fund to cover membership fees for career development organizations

Media Credit: Arielle Bader | Staff Photographer

The School of Engineering and Applied Science now offers graduate students a small scholarship to support career development.

The School of Engineering and Applied Science now offers graduate students a small scholarship to support career development.

The new fund, established earlier this month by the SEAS career services center, covers the cost of membership fees to a handful of engineering and technology national organizations, according to a release from the school. Officials said the new fund will help alleviate the cost of membership fees, which typically cost up to $45 per year, and encourage students to join professional organizations.

Rumana Riffat, the interim dean of SEAS, said the new fund is a “great” opportunity for students to help them spur their careers and network with professional organizations.

“We understand that the membership fees discourage many students from joining professional organizations,” she said. “We established the fund to lift that burden and to help more SEAS students get a head start on becoming part of their chosen professional communities.”

Riffat declined to say how much money has been allocated for the fund and where the funding came from. She declined to say what feedback officials have heard from graduate students about the cost of membership fees.

She declined to say how many students the school expects to fund this spring and how many applications officials have received thus far. Riffat also declined to say how many applications the school expects to receive and what information or details they are seeking in a good application.

The fund enables graduate students pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate to apply for a fund and request up to $100. Students can apply to the fund once during the academic year and must submit a statement about why they want to join the professional development organization, the school’s release states.

Kendra Northington, the senior career counselor at SEAS career services, said the office created the fund to help students “ease into their career,” encouraging them to engage with groups like the Association for Women in Computing, a professional organization that promotes the advancement of women in computing professions, and the Association for Computing Machinery, an international professional society that focuses on solving computing issues.

“A lot of students don’t know that professional groups offer job boards, internship opportunities, mentoring and networking events,” she said. “So, by helping them pay for their membership – hopefully, that will open up opportunities for them to take advantage of.”

Northington added that students will receive the fund on a first-come-first-serve basis this semester.

“It will help students start to think about how they are going to utilize their degree,” she said. “By seeing what’s out there, so by networking or connecting with other professional members of the group, they learn about different career paths that are available.”

Anabel Lopez Marill, a graduate student studying civil engineering and a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, said that since she is already a member of a professional organization, she will not apply for the fund but said she knows students will be attracted to the scholarship to ease financial burdens.

“I do think there is a need for the fund,” she said. “It is very important for graduate students to get in touch with people from the industry because at this point, you need to. You have an idea where you want to go, but sometimes it’s just very useful when you talk to people in the industry.”

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