Alumni Networking Night, a Graduate Student Appreciation Week (GSAW) event, was held in the Tinkham Veale University Center ballroom on April 4. GSAW is hosted by the Office of Student Activities & Leadership (SA&L) annually to celebrate graduate students’ intellectual, teaching and cultural contributions to the Case Western Reserve University community.
The event was co-sponsored by the Graduate Student Council (GSC), the CWRU Alumni Association and the Career Center to help graduate students make connections with alumni and explore their career paths. The event began with a speech by Provost William Baeslack III, encouraging graduate students to network with alumni.
“To you young people I really encourage you to make those connections,” he said. “Talk to folks here. Reach out. When you go to conferences look at who you can make connections with, cause there is nothing that connects you better than being from the same university.”
“We are fortunate to have an extensive CWRU alumni network,” Baeslack. “We have alumni chapters in 24 cities across the country.”
Following Baeslack, Marilyn Sanders Mobley, vice president of the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity also shared her insight on networking and inclusive mindset.
“Our office has a vision statement: advancing diversity through inclusive thinking, mindful learning and transformative dialogue,” said Mobley. “I hope you are prepared to advance diversity in those ways already …. Because when you do, you have what I call an inclusive mindset… People who do that make connections by thinking outside of the box, and they bring empathy to their relationships with others, whether they are dealing with superior or subordinate or peers.”
Second-year graduate students from the School of Dental Medicine, Hong Son and Mauricio Anda both enjoyed finding similarities with students from other fields of study at the dinner.
“Even though we are not in the same program,” said Son, “I feel like we have a lot of similarities between engineering grad students and dental students. We are all trying to achieve similar goals. It’s good that we can connect on that sense.”
“We can build up on these similarities [between people with different goals and backgrounds].” Anda added.
Other than Alumni Networking Night, GSAW also offers graduate students opportunities to explore places around campus. GSAW events this year include free headshots, five-minute massages, discount tickets for movies and study breaks with snacks and drinks.
“I rarely go to dining places on or around campus,” said Yefan Wang, a first-year graduate student studying operations research and supply chain management. “This week [GSAW] is a great opportunity for me to learn more about University Circle, since there’s so many discounts for graduate students.”
GSAW is one of the efforts to provide graduate students with more support and opportunities to socialize. Kai Wang, the chair of the professional development subcommittee of GSC who planned the networking dinner, said that in comparison to undergraduate students, there are less opportunities for graduate students to explore their career paths, and the networking dinner was intended to fill this gap.
“The undergrads definitely are the core of university life, so a lot is catered towards undergraduates. Whereas for graduate students… it’s kind of interesting that even though we made up a larger number of the population, there didn’t necessarily feel like there was that much professional development opportunities being offered to graduate students,” said Wang.
Once a CWRU undergraduate, Joshua Tillinger is now a second-year dental school student who finds his experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student at CWRU different but still rewarding.
“I appreciate it [the support CWRU gives to students] on different levels,” Tillinger said. “There is definitely support for both graduate students and undergraduate students, they have different events geared toward each parties and they are different, but they are better acquainted for each group.”
Speaking on the relationship between graduate and undergraduate students at CWRU, Associate Director for Graduate Student Engagement at SA&L Jenn Brown said, “It would be great if undergraduate students could take a moment to thank the graduate students that they interact with for all the hard work and dedication they provide to the success of undergraduate students’ experiences on campus.”