April 1, 2019

Grad student surveys result in positive change

Share your experience before April 26 to enhance the grad student education

No need to shout, grad students. To have your voice heard, all you need to do is fill out the Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS).

Through the CGPSS, current graduate students have the opportunity to anonymously give their input on their graduate student experience at the University of Calgary. This feedback helps shape the future of graduate studies at the university as a whole and helps individual graduate programs better serve their students. The online survey is done every three years at universities across Canada and the data gathered also provides benchmarks for universities to see how their graduate student experiences compare.

“It’s a great opportunity for graduate students to tell us what we’re doing right, and even more importantly, to tell us what we can improve on,” says Dr. Robin Yates, interim vice-provost and dean (graduate studies).

Survey results used to enhance services for grad students

Information gathered from the CGPSS is used to make data-driven decisions. Rather than rely on anecdotal information to make changes, the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) relies on the statistically relevant data provided through this survey to determine how to meet student needs. 

“This is actionable data,” says Yates. “We don’t sit on this information; we actively use it to enhance the graduate student experience.” 

Two examples of how the CGPSS has enhanced graduate studies at the University of Calgary include the My GradSkills program and the Graduate Student Support team. The Graduate Student Support team is pictured above, from left: Suzanne Curtin, Michelle Speta, Kimberly Lenters and Jaya Dixit.

In the 2011 CGPSS, graduate students made it clear that they needed better professional development training opportunities to help them during their degrees and to prepare for their careers. My GradSkills launched in 2012 with a suite of workshops and resources offered through partner organizations across the main and Foothills campuses. It has since grown to include entrepreneurial training and skills-based internships.

In the 2013 CGPSS, graduate students shared that they needed more support for issues that may arise during the course of their graduate program. In 2015, FGS expanded student support services to include a graduate academic and international specialist to help students navigate bumps in their road, such as challenges with academic progression or supervisory arrangements, and to be a referral to other resources on campus. The student support team has increased to a team of four – two graduate specialists and two associate deans – to provide individualized support to over 150 students each year.

Prizes available for high-response graduate programs

As researchers, most graduate students will agree that for data to be useful it needs to be statistically robust. More participants provide more complete data.

That’s why FGS is offering two sets of prizes for survey participants.

All graduate students who complete the survey will be entered to win one of three $300 gift cards to the UCalgary Bookstore. (Keep in mind, there are clothes, fiction and non-fiction books, technology products and a variety of gifts available there – not just textbooks.) 

To further encourage participation in the survey, graduate departments with the highest participation rates will win prize money to put toward a graduate program event. Information provided in the CGPSS is important for FGS to have a complete idea of what each department is doing in terms of graduate education and is used in internal and external unit reviews.

“The participation rate in the 2019 CGPSS so far has been outstanding,” says Yates, and to celebrate he wants the University of Calgary to strive for a personal best in this final month of the survey. All staff and faculty can help that goal by encouraging graduate students to participate. Graduate students can help their department by challenging their colleagues to complete the survey.

How to take the survey 

Past students used this opportunity to improve graduate studies for current students. Current students, it’s now your turn to improve graduate studies for future students. 

All graduate students registered before January 2019 and who have not completed the survey will receive a final invitation on April 1, 2019 sent to their UCalgary email. Any graduate students wishing to complete the survey but who are unable to find that email should contact luc.boyer@ucalgary.ca.

The 2019 CGPSS opened Jan. 21 and will close Apr. 26.

Find more information on the Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey.