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Involve Students in the Departmental Community

There are many ways units on campus involve their students in the departmental community. Best Practices include:


Developing Forums for Students to Present Research within the unit can develop a community if faculty take part.

Graduate Student Groups can Help Incoming Students get Acclimated.

Graduate Student Groups can help Create a Collaborative Environment.

Graduate Student Groups can Help Students to get More Involved in the Program.

Graduate Student Groups can Assist in Recruiting.


Cell & Developmental Biology: Our introduction of annual meetings between the department head and the CDB graduate students and our recent formal survey of our graduate curriculum with our current students, in particular the more senior graduate students, have been particularly useful. We have found that the best program feedback and suggestions for improvements come from the students.


Classics: Informal mentoring and intellectual development (e.g., through weekly reading groups/social events) enhance the PhD program.


Communications & Media: Most of what makes ICR successful as a PhD program comes from the culture of the program, which is not easily replicated piece by piece. ICR prides itself on a set of ideals and principles that guide its operations. These can be stated in simple terms. Make policies and governance transparent and empower students in governance. 


Communications & Media: Most of what makes ICR successful as a PhD program comes from the culture of the program, which is not easily replicated piece by piece. ICR prides itself on a set of ideals and principles that guide its operations. These can be stated in simple terms. Treat students with the respect due colleagues.  


Comparative Biosciences: The department graduate student body formed a graduate student group called the Research Trainee Group of the College of Veterinary Medicine. The purpose of the RTG-CVM is to form and maintain a link between the graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and the faculty members within the College of Veterinary Medicine. One of the ways we do this is to have a meeting on the second Tuesday of every month to have lunch, talk, and discuss various aspects of the department, graduate studies, or ways to better our education.   


Computer Science: The CS Grad Academic Council is a group of CS grad students who serve on an advisory board to assist in enhancing the quality of student life in the department. The council provides feedback on internal policies and procedures, and members participate in various departmental committees. In addition, it assists with planning of academic seminars and Grad Expo Research Exhibits.


Linguistics: Among the best practices of the doctoral program in Linguistics is the expectation that graduate students will participate in the full range of activities that define the intellectual life of the department. Graduate students are considered as junior colleagues and collaborators by the faculty. Several student-led initiatives currently underway illustrate the leadership of the graduate students and their valuable contributions to the linguistics community on campus. Graduate students have organized reading groups, and launched tutorials and workshops to foster student learning of computing and technical skills. They also organize the departmental guest lecture series, and have launched the Illinois Language & Linguistics Society, which hosts a student-run national conference that involves external peer-review of submitted abstracts. Graduate students also play a primary role in editing the departmental working papers, the Illinois Working Papers in Linguistics (formerly Studies in the Linguistic Sciences).  These activities enrich professional training for graduate students, and provide valuable experience with the dissemination of research.


Molecular & Integrative Physiology: Another student activity is the planning and execution of our annual departmental retreat. The retreat includes an outside keynote speaker chosen by the students (our distinguished alumni awardee in alternate years), talks and posters by students and faculty, and meals.


Molecular & Integrative Physiology: For our regular weekly research seminar series, a graduate student committee selects, invites, and hosts an outstanding external researcher twice each year. The students enjoy this responsibility and it gives them important experience in evaluating and interacting with the leading researchers in our field.


Neuroscience: A critically important component of this encouragement is our commitment to a strong sense of community among both faculty and students. This is especially important in a graduate program such as the NSP since our students are scattered in units all across the campus. Based on consistently positive student feedback, we believe that through events such as Society for Neuroscience night, Open House poster sessions, and the more usual seminar series and holiday events, NSP is particularly successful in this.


Physics: We are very proud of what is really an intangible quality of our department, namely its immensely collegial atmosphere. The high quality of the research output of the department might suggest a highly competitive atmosphere. However, the opposite is the case. In 4 hundreds of exit interviews with students who are leaving with their PhD's, the universal comment is that the students value the atmosphere of the department greatly, and in a large number of cases, are very sorry to leave. The commitment to teaching and the maintaining of this collegial atmosphere are the qualities that the members of the department value most. One concern we share with many other academic departments in many different disciplines is the issue of diversity in science. After many years of effort, we have changed the face of the department considerably, but there is still an enormous amount of work to be done. We are working actively to increase our outreach and bring a more diverse body of students to our department.


Plant Biology: Our graduate student group (PBAGS) also serves as the organizational wellspring and conduit through which valuable new initiatives are born in the department. A few years ago, it was our graduate students who proposed, established and continue to coordinate our bi-weekly in-house colloquium (+ happy hour) series. No initiative in recent memory has brought the department together the way the Colloquium has. Now again, it is PBAGS who has proposed (and is applying for funds to support) a liaison program with local schools to help fight “plant blindness” (the tendency of biology education to focus too much on animals, to the exclusion of plants), by establishing lab and field oriented outreach activities.


Plant Biology: We listen to and respect the opinions of our graduate students. Their Plant Biology Association of Graduate Students (PBAGS) plays an active and integral role in department functions that we believe is rare but invaluable among graduate training programs. A member of PBAGS sits on our Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) and acts as the Committee’s liaison with PBAGS.


Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: The student representative to the steering committee allows for continued feedback both to and from students.


Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Our size allows us to build a strong sense of community. Students interact with other students, faculty and postdocs at our weekly seminar series, and with students from different graduate programs in their own lab groups.


Recreation, Sport & Tourism: Possibilities for collaboration with multiple faculty members and other doctoral students fostered by the research laboratories in the department; and supportive and inclusive departmental culture are some of the highlights of the program.


Slavic Languages and Literature: Our program has given priority to properly supporting our students and trying to create the conditions necessary for them to succeed in their studies rather than stretching resources and underfunding continuing students so as to grow the program. The results in terms of academic progress have varied, but on the whole been quite positive; there ought to be proof of that in the next one to two years, when three or four of our current advanced students will have defended their dissertations. We hope that this leads to greater student satisfaction as well. It does seem to facilitate a collaborative, collegial attitude among the graduate student cohort, which can lead to substantial enhancements of learning. We are also inclined to believe that the lack of tension or turmoil during the graduate assistant strike last year resulted at least in part from the TAs' appreciation of the department's level of commitment to its graduate students.


Urban & Regional Planning: The doctoral students of our department have an organization that formed just a few years ago, but they have quickly become a vital component of the doctoral program and of the department. They self-organize their weekly seminar and invite faculty to present at those seminars on various issues. DSUP meets regularly with the director of the doctoral program to identify and solve program issues, while also bringing up issues of concern in the faculty meetings directly. Through DSUP, the doctoral students have been empowered to take control of their education and they have done so with professionalism and enthusiasm.