Graduate students have a new advocate in Graduate Studies. Slande Erole, a Ph.D. candidate in the Political Science graduate program, will serve as Graduate Student Assistant to the Dean of Graduate Studies and to the Chancellor (GSADC) for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Erole will serve as the primary student representative for graduate students at UC Davis, serving as a voice for graduate student concerns, needs and perspectives. Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year, she will work closely with Chancellor Gary May, the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Jean-Pierre Delplanque, Graduate Council and other campus leaders.
Prior to her role as GSADC, she served as President for the Graduate Association of Political Students, an organization geared toward toward the advancement of graduate student interests in the Department of Political Science at UC Davis. Slande has also served in various programs around campus, including as a mentor for both the UC Davis Undergraduate Research Center and the First Friends Program. As GSADC, Slande will continue to serve the UC Davis community by advocating for students from underrepresented backgrounds and graduate groups, highlighting the need for mentorship programs geared towards first generation graduate students, as well as partnering with existing programs to ensure that graduate students have opportunities to explore the many diverse career paths available to Ph.D. graduates.
The GSADC position is a 13-month appointment, starting September 1 and continuing through October 1 of the following year. This position pays a stipend, plus full tuition and fee remission during the position's tenure. The year following service as the GSADC, the student receives a dissertation year fellowship from Graduate Studies.
The GSADC frequently meets with graduate students and various graduate student groups and organizations, and provides the opportunity for professional development during which the GSADC may hone their leadership skills while also becoming familiar with university administration, particularly in relation to graduate education.
Questions and Answers with Slande Erole
Tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in the Graduate Student Assistant to the Dean and Chancellor role.
I immigrated with my family from Haiti to California when I was 11 years old- which was quite an adjustment. I have always lived in the Northern part of the state, all along the US 101 corridor, before ultimately completing a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from California State University, Chico in 2011. I took about a four year break from my studies before starting the UC Davis graduate program in the Department of Political Science in 2015.
Throughout my career at UC Davis, I have always made sure to devote time for professional service and to being an active member of my graduate community. It can be hard to branch out in the first few years (what with all of the different demands being made on your time) but one of the reasons I was so attracted to the GSADC position is because I saw that it would provide me with a pathway to address the needs of my fellow graduate students, beyond just those in my own department.
What roles and activities prepared you for the GSADC position?
In serving as President of the Graduate Association of Political Science Students, one of my goals was to increase transparency in the communications between the department and the graduate students. While working to address the needs of graduate students in my department, I realized that some of the issues that we faced in my department were even more amplified in others. This led me to start thinking about how I could broaden my reach throughout the UC Davis community.
While my parents had instilled in me the value of education, I was only able to navigate the American education system with the help of mentors and advisors. Had it not been for the mentors whose paths I crossed during my high school, undergraduate, or graduate careers I would have never thought it likely that I could seek a Doctoral education. That is why I have sought and continue to seek out opportunities to mentor others and work with a diverse group of individuals. As an undergraduate student at Chico State, I was a resident advisor and tutor for Upward Bound, a program whose mission it is to ensure that first generation students obtain the skills and motivation necessary for success in post-secondary education. I also volunteered my time to the UC Davis Undergraduate Research Center so that I could provide undergraduate students with hands on research experience and help them learn to communicate their research agendas. I participated as a mentor in the Friends First Program in the International Student Center helping international, domestic, and undocumented graduate students integrate into the UC Davis campus community.
I am also passionate about growing not only my own teaching practice, but to inspire others to adopt a reflective style evidence-based teaching practice. As a Teaching Assistant Consultant Fellow for the Center of Educational Effectiveness, I provide other graduate students with feedback, resources, and strategies which they can then use to foster student centered learning in the classroom.
What are your research interests? What first interested you in this specific area of study?
My research agenda is intrinsically linked with my personal history. As a woman of color, I recognize the importance and need for literature which focuses on the contributions of minority women. More specifically, I am interested in the legislative effectiveness of women and minority women. When I first started graduate school, I realized that research dedicated to women and women of color in politics were few and far between. And what research there was rarely took the time to engage directly with the perspectives of the women serving in office. Ultimately, I hope my dissertation will serve as a lens through which the political experiences of women, and women of color in particular, are highlighted.
In your mind, what are the biggest challenges facing current graduate and professional students? What are some solutions that UC Davis should pursue?
My experiences have made me especially sensitive to the struggles of first generation students. As the first person to attend college and now graduate school in my family, I am particularly invested in making sure that those of similar backgrounds achieve their goals of a post-secondary education. While graduate students at UC Davis are faced with a myriad of issues, ranging from a need for housing (!), transportation (as a Sacramento commuter, the Causeway is my nemesis!), or funding, I am also intimately aware of the needs faced by graduate students of color as they strive for success. The ability to seek mentors who are diverse in gender, ethnicity or race, as well as life experiences is crucial to the academic journey and retention of underrepresented groups. While there are some programs at UC Davis (such as The Graduate Student of Color Mentor Program through the Cross Cultural Center) that seeks to build a community of diverse mentors and mentees, I know that more can be done, especially since those programs are unable to serve the majority of the diverse group of students currently on the UC Davis campus. One of my goals as the Graduate Student Assistant to the Dean and Chancellor is to implement a peer mentorship program, focused on graduate students from underrepresented groups. This program would include not just the pairing of mentees and mentors, but also workshops where academic faculty from a variety of universities and backgrounds are invited to share their experiences on how to navigate traditional academic spaces, and further the professional development of the diverse graduate student community. This will all be done with the goal of building a network as well as a support system for graduate students as they move forward with their scholarship and academic careers.
What do you hope to accomplish in this role? Are there any major projects you hope to launch?
I hope to work with the various groups on campus to foster the inclusion of students from underrepresented backgrounds or graduate groups in the decision making processes that take place within the University. I am also excited to work with the leadership on campus to highlight the need for strong mentorship programs for first-generation graduate scholars, as well as work to provide students with opportunities to explore the diverse career paths available to Ph.D. graduates.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
My partner is Danish and the goal is for us to move to Denmark in a few years (with that sweet, sweet diploma in hand!). However, my goal is to continue working in Higher Education- in a capacity geared toward helping students, especially students from diverse backgrounds, succeed.
What do you do for fun?
When I am not being a grad student (grading, reading, and disserting?) or involved in professional service, I often hit the American River Parkway where you will find me training for my 3rd marathon (Whew!). I also have a very energetic pup that sometimes join me on my runs and who loves to chase after tennis balls and frisbees. I also like to bake. Having watched one too many episodes of the Great British Baking Show, I am now convinced that culinary stardom is certainly within my grasp and waiting for me right around the corner.
About Graduate Studies
Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes over 100 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.
UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.
For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.