March 10, 2020

Graduate College members sharpen their focus on community outreach, mentorship

Grad students, postdoctoral scholars and undergrads in some professional programs are invited to apply for membership by March 30

Graduate school can be so much more than long days in the lab or library. For graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, the Graduate College provides opportunities to make connections and positively impact the student experience, our university culture, and the greater Southern Alberta community.

The Graduate College is now seeking 28 new scholars for the 2020-2021 year. The college maintains a total membership of 60 comprising graduate students, post-doctoral scholars and undergraduates in professional degrees (including MD, JD and DVM programs). Prospective scholars are welcome to apply for membership by March 30, 2020.

Planning for 2020-2021

In the coming year, Head of College Dr. James Wasmuth, PhD, hopes to see the college reaching out beyond the campus — and even beyond the Calgary community. “We’d like to do more events engaging the public by going into some of Alberta’s smaller cities and towns to demonstrate value of graduate research,” says Wasmuth. “It’s so important to help people understand that graduate research is helping improve the lives of Albertans and Canadians, and the college is in a great position to spread that message.”

The college will also focus on more mentorship opportunities with professionals. The college will soon welcome faculty scholars into their ranks to support mentorship activities. Wasmuth anticipates collaborations with SAGE (Supporting Aboriginal Graduate Education) alongside initiatives to connect with the Calgary community, including at an upcoming TEDxCalgary event.

Outreach and community engagement have been central to doctoral student and college scholar Sultan Khetani’s experience.

“The college offered a meaningful avenue for community engagement, like organizing a discussion for Calgarians on the city's plan to bid for the Winter Olympics, or the Interlock symposium on climate change. Additionally, every month we have the opportunity to meet and network with prominent faculty members, researchers, CEOs in Calgary over the monthly college dinners,” says Khetani. “I would highly encourage all the graduate students to apply and be part of this distinct group on the campus.”

Graduate College scholars volunteering

Graduate College scholars volunteer with the Seniors' Secret Service.

Courtesy the Graduate College

Student-led programming

With a focus on community outreach and volunteerism, much of the college’s activity to date is generated out of the interests and initiatives of its scholars. Over the past six months, the college has organized a dizzying range of undertakings to the benefit of the university’s graduate student community as a whole. Examples include naloxone training, parenting workshops for students with families, lunch and learns, speed-friending events, the Interlock symposium on climate change, and much more.

Other highlights include a blanket ceremony in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary, Indigenous Initiatives Program and the Seniors Secret Service, in which 12 college members along with friends and family worked with a local not-for-profit to provide gifts for Alberta seniors living in isolation.

For postdoctoral scholar Dr. Luis Virla, PhD, the college is like having a big family on campus: “I was able to create friendships with incredible human beings with very different scientific backgrounds but a lot of common values. My time with the college gave me the confidence to face challenges I was having in my program and provided me with tools I needed to define the future I wanted to build for myself.”

Doctoral student Yangyang Fang also enjoyed the sense of community that she found with the College. “Graduate studies is not just about doing your research and getting your degree, it's about making lifelong connections and contributing to your community in a meaningful way,” says Fang. “These are things that I've gained through the grad college. I've been able to participate and organize many events through the college but what stands out most are the friendships I've made.”

Graduate College Scholars event

Graduate College scholars form a tight-knit community.

Courtesy the Graduate College

First year as an autonomous unit

In 2019, the university formalized the college as an autonomous unit with its own budget and in September appointed Wasmuth as the first head of college in a five-year term.

According to Wasmuth, there is no shortage of inspiration for new projects coming from the members. “When scholars present a new idea, as much as possible we try to ensure our default answer is ‘yes’,” says Wasmuth. “We try to support as many initiatives as we can. We may be constrained by time and resources, but certainly not by lack of imagination.”

For students considering applying, Wasmuth points out that it doesn’t matter how far along you are in your program. “We like to attract members early in their programs so they will be with us for a few years, but we really want a spectrum of students at all stages of their degrees.”

Learn more about joining the Graduate College. Applications are open until March 30.

Members of the 2019-2020 Graduate College

Members of the 2019-2020 Graduate College.

Courtesy the Graduate College