College will continue GA program
Every Tuesday night, Mikki Hebl, a Ph.D. candidate in social psychology and the Graduate Associate in the RipWoodSmith cluster, holds "Fireless-side Chats" to talk with undergraduates in her cluster.
Students will continue to have the opportunity to attend these chats because the College has decided to continue its Graduate Associate in Residence program for a fourth year. But the College is conducting an evaluation to find ways to improve the program.
The Graduate Associates program, started as a two-year pilot program in fall of 1993, places graduate students in College residence halls to serve as advisors to undergraduate students.
"One of the GAs before me, Len Wisniewski, began a program called "Fireside Chats" where he gathered with seniors around his fireplace and talked with them about their post undergraduate plans," Hebl said. "I run a rendition of the program to include more undergraduates and some graduate students as well."
"We get together to talk and do some fun things," Hebl continued. "We visited the observatory to see the comet, we sang karaoke at the Lone Pine Tavern, and we made origami flowers for May Day."
The College currently employs four graduate associates who live on Mass Row, in RipWoodSmith, in East Wheelock and in the Wheeler/Richardson. There will also be a GA in the Butterfield/Russell Sage cluster next year, Associate Dean of Residential Life Bud Beatty said.
The response from the undergraduate and graduate students has been very positive, said Dottie French, assistant dean of graduate studies.
Shawn-Marie Mayrand, a biochemistry Ph.D. candidate and a GA in the East Wheelock cluster, said the program works well and should be used more by students.
Other GAs gave the program a similar assessment.
"Many students still don't know about the program or don't take advantage of it," Hebl said.
"I think the program helps bridge the gap between undergraduate and graduate students on campus," she said. "I think the two groups really enjoy and benefit from each other."
Beatty said he thinks the program is valuable and the Office of Residential Life is in the process of hiring GAs for next year.
"Our initial feedback with regard to the program has essentially been positive, but there has been some recommendations for improvements and refinements," said Dean of Residential Life Mary Turco. "We need to complete that evaluation and then do a final assessment."
The evaluation is examining the interactions between Area Coordinators, Undergraduate Advisors and GAs; the responsibilities of the GAs, and the qualifications of applicants to the GA program.
"It is expected that the applicants are students who will have been here for at least a year and will continue to be here for more than a year," said Dottie French, assistant dean of graduate studies. "That's what we are looking for."
Beatty said he would like to see the graduate associates better integrated into cluster life.
GAs also expressed a desire for the program to become better integrated into College life.
"One thing that I think would help the program immensely is to publicize what the GAs are there for," said Fred Dick, a biochemistry Ph.D. candidate and the GA for Wheeler/Richardson.
Students said they have little contact with their GAs.
Suzanne Truchard '99, who lives in Woodward, said she has seen her GA, Hebl, only a few times.
"I bump into her in the hall," Truchard said. "I didn't have much contact with her because I didn't take the initiative, but she's right down the hall and always available to talk."
Hebl said her role as a GA is that of an academic mentor.
"I talk with students about their studies, about the possibility of applying for scholarships for future studies, and about attending professional schools," she said.
Turco said if the program evaluaton is positive, she expects to receive a recommendation to expand the program.
French said she would like to expand the program but that it will depend upon space available in the dorms for the GAs.