Without a home base for resources outside the classroom, the University Senate said graduate students often feel disconnected from Pitt.
On Thursday, Feb. 18, the University Senate Student Admissions, Aid and Affairs Committee met to discuss centralizing resources for graduate students and assisting administration with student recruitment at Pitt.
David Gau, a graduate student representative for the University Senate Student Admissions, Aid and Affairs Committee, said the quality of extracurricular programs on the graduate school level varies from school to school, which doesn’t help students form a unified Pitt identity.
“The reason why I started this effort is that students are coming to say that they didn’t feel like that they were part of the University, and they thought they were just part of the school of law, just the school of engineering,” Gau said.
This year, Robin Kear, the co-chair of the committee and a liaison librarian in Hillman Library, said the committee has been focusing on “the grad student disconnection with the University.”
Before the meeting opened up for discussion, Stephanie Hoogendoorn, senior assistant to the provost for academic affairs, presented a summary of her conversations with associate deans from Pitt’s 21 graduate programs.
The conversation focused on programming areas, such as recruitment and career development, as well as teaching opportunities and research opportunities.
The presentation, which is based on feedback the provost’s office collected from different graduate programs at Pitt, identified gaps in graduate student programs.
According to Hoogendoorn, lack of training and funding for student recruitment is the most frequently mentioned gap from all graduate schools.
“Some of the comments centered around what this practice is for and wanting to recruit, specifically, diverse students and interested in developing pipelines, maybe working with high school and undergraduate institutions to get graduate students into Pitt.”
For graduate students, the biggest problem is the lack of resources on campus, according to Gau, a fourth-year bioengineering Ph.D. student.
“Right now, you, as an undergrad, are experiencing a lot of things. You have the OCC programs and a lot of support programs,” Gau said. “So a lot of these students are coming into grad school and expecting the same thing.”
Gau said many social, networking and professional programs are already in place, but students have a hard time locating these resources, since they are not centralized in one place.
Kenyon Bonner, interim vice provost and dean of students, said that compared to undergraduate programming, which often happens outside the classroom, activities at the graduate school level take place in individual schools.
The committee has suggested a navigation page to help students find the resources and a better orientation program, Bonner said.
“I think most of these places exist already, either centrally or in the school,” Bonner said. “But I don’t think we are doing a good job in coordinating them so people can use it.”