Survival in this New Academic Environment: Workshops for International Students
Graduate school is a big challenge for every student. It is especially difficult for international students because of the cultural differences and language difficulties. My project was designed to help the first and second year international students improve their academic life.
To achieve this goal, I organized two workshops. The first workshop was held in January 2003. The theme was “Surviving in the new environment”. Three advanced international students joined the discussion panel, and shared information, experiences and insights most of us wish we had when we started graduate school in Davis. Ten first and second year international students attended this workshop. We discussed how to improve spoken English, balance course work and research, use available resources on campus, and select major professors.
The second workshop was held in April 2003. The theme was “Academic relationship between international students and their major professors”. Two faculty members who had experience in supervising international students were invited to this workshop. They answered students’ questions and shared tips and advice on how to form successful relationships with major professors. Fourteen students attended the second workshop. Topics we discussed included communication between international students and professors, making progress in research, and selecting research projects. Both workshops were successful. Students evaluated the workshops as “excellent”, “informative” and “interesting”. Some students hoped to attend similar workshops in the future, which reflected the need for this kind of activity on our campus.
At the end of the year, I compiled the important information I collected from those workshops and created a webpage: http://pftf.ucdavis.edu/cheng/. This webpage includes the lists of available campus resources, advice from advanced international students, and questions and answers on how to form a successful relationship with major professors. Hopefully, this webpage will become a valuable resource for both current and future international students.
A Review of Student Affairs Services to Graduate and Professional Students
In December 2002, I was appointed by Vice Chancellor – Student Affairs Judy Sakaki to a Student Affairs Thematic Review Team with the charge of reviewing the services and support provided by Student Affairs to graduate and professional students.
We used four sources of information for the review: surveys administered to both graduate and professional students, reports submitted by Student Affairs units, interviews with Student Affairs unit directors, and discussions with graduate and professional student focus groups. For my PFTF project, I scheduled and conducted all of the student focus groups.
I facilitated a total of eight focus groups, comprising 126 graduate and professional students and, in some cases, their families. Each group discussed three questions: 1) Which Student Affairs units are most important to you and how would you rate the quality of the services they provide, 2) In what ways does Student Affairs not meet your needs?, and 3) What is the best way for Student Affairs to educate graduate and professional students about their services?
The Cowell Student Health Center, the Financial Aid Office, and the Internship and Career Center were consistently listed as the most important Student Affairs services. The areas where many students said their needs were not being met by the university were affordable childcare and housing. Suggestions for improving communication between graduate and professional students and Student Affairs included a larger presence at graduate and professional orientation programs, greater use of existing e-mail periodicals like GradLink to advertise Student Affairs services, and outreach to graduate program coordinators, who often serve as advisors and counselors to graduate students.
The findings from my project will be incorporated into the Student Affairs Thematic Review Team final report, which will be submitted at the end of the school year to the Vice Chancellor – Student Affairs.
Years in the Balance
Molly Clark Hillard
I, along with my colleague Katie Kalpin, chose to continue and further develop an established PFTF project: “Years in the Balance.
” In this year’s incarnation, “Years in the Balance” became a series of roundtable discussions held during the winter quarter. In addition to asking senior graduate students to share their experiences informally, we invited campus faculty and staff to give short addresses, provide helpful printed material, and field participant questions.
Katie and I teamed together specifically to create a workshop series that treated a variety of academic concerns relevant to both junior and senior graduate students, and thus addressed the entire graduate student community. We identified three core topics as being among the most pertinent to the range of graduate student needs: adjusting to graduate school, balancing future career goals with the immediate needs of graduate school, and locating funding and funded professional development, on campus. We heard from a number of presenters representing agencies across campus, including: The Women's Resources Center, GAAAP (Graduate Academic Achievement and Advocacy Program), The Internship and Career Center, The Office of Graduate Studies, The Graduate Student Association, The Teaching Resources Center, and The Office of Child Care and Family Services, as well as our own Professors for the Future group. The combination of presentations from fellow graduate students and campus officials, we felt, provided students with valuable resource information, without losing the aspect of informal discussion and peer support that has historically made “Years in the Balance” so strong.
We owe many thanks to Teresa Dillinger for her insight and assistance in crafting this series. Thanks as well to our guest speakers, who donated their time and talents: Tiffany Aldrich, Michael Borgstrom, Jacob Clark Blickenstaff, Beth Deitchman, Kathy Littles, Elaine Musgrave, Emily Oakley, and Patricia Sullivan.
Years in the Balance
I, along with my colleague Molly Hillard, decided to continue a past Professors for the Future project entitled "Years in the Balance."
The project, as we designed it for this year, was to hold a series of roundtable discussions for the winter quarter. The workshop topics were selected to address a variety of academic concerns and to focus on issues relevant to both junior and senior graduate students.
We decided to hold three workshops, focusing on the following topics: adjusting to graduate school, balancing future career goals with the immediate needs of graduate school, and opportunities for funding, and funded professional development, on campus. During these sessions, which were open to all departments, graduate students who completed coursework presented to their junior colleagues personal experiences with the topic at hand. Presenters began the session by relating both their successes and failures in relation to the topic. Sessions also included short presentations from campus faculty and staff who could offer help or expertise.
A number of agencies across campus were represented at one or more of our workshops by presenters who graciously gave their time, including: The Women's Resources Center, The Internship and Career Center, The Office of Graduate Studies, The Graduate Student Association, The Teaching Resources Center, and The Office of Child Care and Family Services, as well as our own Professors for the Future group. The mix of representatives from campus offices and graduate student presenters allowed us to cover a range of issues, and to hold question-and-answer and discussion periods that allowed all in attendance to weigh in on the issue at hand.
I would like to thank all of our presenters, as well as all of our attendants, for making the workshop series a success, and thanks especially to Teresa Dillinger and Professors for the Future for assistance in putting together this workshop series.
Grant Writing Workshops For the Humanities and Social Sciences
Graduate students in the Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines, relative to other fields, face unique disadvantages: graduate funding is low and academic job opportunities upon completion of the degree are scarce (NORC, 2000). Obtaining an external fellowship during the degree offers one solution to the delay in completing the doctorate caused by insufficient research funds and heavy workloads.
Prestigious postdoctoral fellowships permit the further development of research and also supply a significant advantage on the competitive job market. Currently, few departments in these respective areas teach grant writing techniques to their graduate students at the University of California-Davis.
The project’s goal was to help junior scholars in the University of California-Davis community acquire grant writing skills and to try to establish some type of foundation to help students in later years. It was envisioned that a series of small-scale workshops would be held in which faculty and graduate students, who are experienced in grant writing, would share their tips for success.
I wrote an eight page handout which provided detailed guidance in all aspects of doctoral and postdoctoral fellowship applications. One large-scale grant writing workshop was held in the spring quarter in which the handout was previewed and discussed by two faculty members who have considerable experience vetting such applications. The handout was also distributed in two other related workshops. At the request of participating UC-Davis graduate students, it will be posted on the Agricultural History Center’s website, in order to help students in future years. The results of a survey distributed at the workshops indicate that graduate students have a strong desire for such institutionalized help in writing grant proposals. All indicated that without such guidance, they were discouraged from submitting external grant applications.
The project and participation in the Professors for the Future program provided invaluable experiences that promoted my professional development as an academic. On a personal note, I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet and form friendships with colleagues working in other disciplines.
Show Me the Money: External Funding for Social Sciences and Humanities Students
Success in obtaining external fellowships and grants can make a crucial difference for graduate students when applying for academic jobs or postdoctoral positions. Students who successfully learn to find and obtain external funding cultivate skills that will serve them throughout their academic careers.
My PFTF project involved determining what Social Sciences and Humanities students needed to help them in the grantwriting process, and then designing a workshop to meet that need. First, I conducted a needs assessment survey to learn which aspects of finding and applying for external funding graduate students found most daunting. My survey revealed that 63% of the respondents felt that finding external grants and fellowships appropriate to their research projects was the most difficult aspect of the grant-seeking process. 78% of the nearly 80 respondents wanted a workshop that provided information on finding funding sources.
My workshop, “Show Me the Money: Finding Funding Sources for Social Sciences and Humanities Graduate Students” was very well attended and received favorable evaluations. In addition, I served a number of students unable to attend the workshop with handouts and other information. The information I gathered was disseminated in other ways as well, since one attendee wrote an article for the Graduate Student Association newsletter about the workshop and included information to help students find funding, and another attendee included my handouts on her departmental website.
I am delighted to have had the chance to provide valuable information to my fellow graduate students, and appreciate the opportunity PFTF has given me to do so. Thanks to Teresa Dillinger for her guidance throughout this project, and to my PFTF colleague, Eona Karakacili, for her cooperation and support in coordinating our thematically compatible projects.
Gender Blender: A Celebration of Campus Diversity
Mark Jesus M. Magbanua
UC Davis is a community with a very diverse culture. My project Gender Blender was designed to recognize and celebrate campus diversity by reaching out to queer and ally graduate students and post-doctoral scholars. Queer refers to an individual who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and/or intersexed (LGBT).
An ally is any individual who does not identify as queer but supports the gay rights movement. Visibility for queer and ally graduate students and post-docs on campus is very important because they are role models than can help dispel negative stereotypes about queer people.
The project aimed to strengthen the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and ally community of UC Davis and to encourage a more active participation of graduate students and post-docs in university organized queer-related activities. First, I put up a website (see address below*) to provide a link to resources for LGBT and ally students. An information table was set up during the Coming Out Week in October to start an email list serve. I sponsored some social gathering to listen to one of our local queer disc jockey, DJ Jeyson spin at a Davis coffee shop. I also helped convene the LBGT Grad Group, a social organization for LGBT graduate student and post-docs. Our first project was the appointment of a volunteer Graduate Coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center. With the help of the Graduate Student Association, we were able to hold an Open House for Graduate Students and Post-Docs at the LGBT Resource Center.
The highlight of the my project was The 2003 Colloquium on Graduate Queer Research at UC Davis co-sponsored by the Office of Graduate Studies, the LGBT Resource Center, the Diversity Education Program, and the Chancellor’s Committee on LGBTI Issues. The colloquium gave fellow graduate students who are doing research on queer issues a chance to share the results of their studies. The two-hour colloquium featured five presentations of research on topics discussing the affluent, white male hegemony of gay tourism, the media’s take on Gay Straight Alliance groups in high schools, the wide spread homophobia in sports talk radio, the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender, and the role of gay and lesbian friends in straight families. This activity was designed to educate UCD constituents about LGBT issues to help erase homophobia and heterosexism in our campus and to increase the level of awareness on queer research on campus. The colloquium was very successful and well attended, “People tarried in the doorways and wedged themselves into the back of a Hart Hall conference room”, the California Aggie commented. French and Italian Professor Elizabeth Constable who is also a gender studies expert spoke highly of the colloquium, “I've honestly rarely seen a room so packed, so relaxed, an audience as diverse, and as enjoyable”. I envision that the colloquium be a yearly event and be a catalyst for the beginnings of a queer studies program at UC Davis.
Professional Development Forum for Postdoctoral Scholars and Graduate Students Seeking Academic Careers
According to a survey of post-doctoral scholars carried out at the University of California, Davis (UCD) in spring 2000, 51% of those surveyed plan to pursue a career in academia, with a further 28% undecided between industry and academia.
Applying for an academic job can be daunting, compared to a comparable non-academic position. Many advertised positions require a multitude of application materials and there is a real need for help in this sometimes-intimidating process.
My Professors for the Future project was to provide a forum for the professional development and growth of my colleagues who are pursuing an academic career. It was envisaged that, through informal meetings, people would be able to discuss their job-hunting approach, exchange ideas, problem-solve any issues that arose, share experiences and act as a support network for each other.
Several preliminary meetings resulted in the formation of a core group of people that were actively pursuing an academic career. By meeting every other week, we were able to help and advise each other on a variety of issues. These included everything from “perfecting the job talk” to dealing with the stresses of a campus interview.
I have thoroughly enjoyed running the forum as part of my PFTF project. It not only helped in my own search for an academic job, but also brought me into contact with people I would not normally had the chance to meet. These people are now friends.
Electronic Handbook of Software Tools
Almost all post-doctoral and graduate students from various disciplines have to use software tools and packages to assist them in writing, compiling, and presenting their academic works such as journal articles, term papers, qualifying exam proposal, dissertation. Most of us are unfamiliar with software resources that are available on campus and with the know-how to efficiently exploit the repertoire of capabilities that these software tools possess.
We end up expending a lot of time and energy gleaning through books and searching websites that either do not contain required information or are cumbersome to read and understand. The goal of the project has been to create a central location in UC Davis which houses user-manuals and pointers to tutorials for useful software tools and computing resources available on campus.
The handbook is located at http://pftf.ucdavis.edu/narendra/electronic_handbook.htm. The handbook divides myriad software tools into understandable categories such as text editors, email packages, publishing tools, web-page builders, miscellaneous on-campus resources, and for each software tool in a category, it provides an introduction, tutorials, user-manuals, repositories, frequently asked questions, and related links. Constant feedback from graduate students is enhancing its quality, content, and organization. This work will be constantly evolving and would require frequent updates because newer and efficient software tools and packages are developed as software technology matures incessantly. The electronic handbook project aims to make writing and presentation experience more enjoyable for students during their stay at UC Davis.
I would like to heartily thank my PFTF fellow colleagues and graduate students who assisted me in building this handbook by providing constructive feedback. I would also like to thank Teresa Dillinger for being supportive during the project.
The Done Dissertation
Patricia Lynne Sullivan
Completing a dissertation is one of the most challenging tasks faced by Ph.D. students. Many students feel overwhelmed, anxious, isolated, and chronically unsure of their progress. An alarming number of Ph.D. candidates never finish.
For others, the process takes far longer than it should. And many students experience dissertation-related stress that has an impact on their health and relationships.
My project drew on the expertise of professionals on our campus, as well as resources beyond the campus community, to create a series of three workshops for graduate students writing their dissertations. The first workshop, held January 28, featured Sandra Dolber-Smith, M.A., a holistic health educator who offers a 12-week Resiliency Training course in the community. She addressed overcoming anxiety and procrastination, planning and time management, and maintaining motivation. On Monday, April 14, professors from the English, History, and Political Science departments participated in a panel on academic writing. Each of the faculty members addressed questions about motivating themselves to write, getting started on a writing project, seeking feedback, scheduling time to write, and writing efficiently. On April 21, three individuals who had recently completed their Ph.D. shared their advice for getting the dissertation done. The panel members talked about how they finished their dissertations, what they learned along the way, and what they wish they had known sooner.
The workshop series had three primary goals: 1) to present UC Davis graduate students in the dissertation-writing phase of their graduate careers with practical skills and strategies for success with their dissertation projects; 2) to introduce graduate students to some of the resources available to them both on and off campus; and 3) to combat the isolation of the dissertation-writing experience by providing an environment in which students could interact with other students across campus to share frustrations, challenges, and helpful advice. I believe that the project achieved each of these goals to some degree. Nevertheless, it is clear that students in the dissertation-writing stage of their careers are in need of more services. Over ninety percent of the students who attended the first workshop ranked writing their dissertation as an 8, 9, or 10 on a scale in which 1 was easy and 10 was the hardest thing you have ever tried to do. I would recommend an ongoing series of workshops for graduate students writing their dissertations. In addition, I would recommend the creation and promotion of ongoing dissertation support groups for Ph.D. candidates. It would be most helpful if separate groups were offered for students in the social sciences, humanities, and physical sciences and if they were not exclusively affiliated with the Counseling Center. Students could also create their own support groups if they were given access to resources like a campus-wide A.B.D. listserve and a resource-list of books and articles on writing the dissertation.
A Guide for Life (as a Graduate Student at UC Davis): The UC Davis Graduate Student Handbook
Any first year Graduate Student UC Davis (or any other Graduate Program) arrives to find themselves in a new and strange system of academics, politics, & bureaucracy, in which they have to conduct research, take classes, read, write, work, learn, teach, fill out paperwork, worry about funding, and try to have a life.
Most students come into graduate school unaware of the details of the many responsibilities of being a graduate student and the many resources available to graduate students. Though many graduate programs are able to provide their students with information on their program requirements, few are able to address the campus-wide requirements and resources for Graduate Students.
My PFTF project involves the coordination of the development of the UC Davis Graduate Student Handbook. The last Graduate Student Handbook at UC Davis was published by the Office of Graduate Studies in 1988. The new handbook will include updated information on the requirements of and resources for graduate students at UC Davis. A survey of Graduate Students representing many different graduate programs will be conducted in order to discover the information which is most useful for grad students and most absent from other resources. The final product will be a UC Davis Graduate Student Handbook which will be made available by the Office of Graduate Studies to all new and returning students via web access and hard copy distribution.
Web-Based Course Management: MyUCDavis
Many graduate students and post-doctoral scholars hope to move on to a career that involves teaching. The transition from being a graduate student or post-doc to a lead instructor for several courses can be quite stressful and daunting.
As such I organized a workshop series that will help this transition by exposing graduate students and post-doctoral scholars to web based course management software that can be used as an effective teaching tool and help save time with course organization.
My project has involved planning and conducting three workshops that have introduced the major components of the MyUCDavis course management software. Each workshop has covered one of these main functions; website builder, quiz builder, and grade book. The website builder allows instructors to quickly create a course website, maintain the class roster and communicate with students by posting announcements, or by creating discussion boards, email lists and chat rooms. The MyUCDavis quiz builder involves the creation of a database of questions that can then be used to create several different versions of online graded quizzes, online un-graded practice quizzes, and printed quizzes or exams. Answer sheets are also easily produced. The final component, the grade book, allows one to create a functional grade book where grades can be entered in various ways, curves can be set, and students can view their own grades and class means online. It also allows the instructor to submit the final grades to the registrars. The workshops were well attended and I hope they were beneficial to those who participated.
The Teaching Resources Center, as well as Teresa Dillinger, were very helpful in advertising and registration for the workshops. In addition, I received tremendous help from the Teaching Resources Center and the developers of the MyUCDavis software who each sent a representative to help out during the workshops. Thank you to all who have helped.