A few units on campus have improved their students' experiences by engaging them in outreach activities.
Entomology: One activity at which our department has achieved a position of national prominence is in providing graduate students with opportunities to develop skills in outreach and public engagement. A wide range of outreach opportunities allow students to acquire supervised experience in interacting with a wide diversity of audiences; these include, among others, our annual Insect Fear Film Festival (which coincides with new graduate student recruitment), the Pollinatarium, National Pollinator Awareness Week, Beespotter Citizen Science project, BugScope (in concert with NCSA) and visits to local schools, nature centers, beekeeping associations, and civic organization. This training and experience contribute to making our students highly competitive nationally; skills and experience in this area are regarded as highly desirable and extremely useful in maintaining viable programs in entomology (and, indeed, in maintaining public support for the scientific enterprise).
Linguistics: 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.
Plant Biology: Our graduate student group 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.