Grad Students Join Dean Fetter for Breakfast
By Laurie White
Students gathered in the Graduate Student Life lounge one morning last week may have overheard the Dean of the Graduate School asking two students about their chicken research.
Sometimes it really pays to get up early.
Dean Steve Fetter joined six students in the Graduate Student Life last week for breakfast. He learned about their research projects, shared insight about campus resources, and gave some guidance about possible post-Master’s and PhD career paths. And yes, he poured the coffee.
Dean Fetter encouraged all students, regardless of department, to take advantage of resources in the Graduate School.
“I think of all of you as my students, and students of the Graduate School,” he said. “My signature is on your diploma. I want you to think of me and the Graduate School as advocates for you, committed to your success.”
The dean shared his priorities of increased funding for fellowships and stipends, and assisting students in preparing for a broad range of careers. He also encouraged students to seek out mentors.
“You should have lots of mentors,” he said, encouraging them to think beyond their advisor for mentorship, and to seek out other faculty who can help them on their journey through degrees and dissertations.
The students reported enjoying this time with the dean on personal and academic levels.
“I think it is a good opportunity to learn about the people that are integral to the functioning of the Graduate School,” said Danielle Laplace, Women’s Studies doctoral student.
Karrin Thompson, Master’s student in Library and Information Science and Graduate Student Life GA, enjoyed getting to talk with Dean Fetter over breakfast.
"Not only did I get to learn more about him outside of his role as the Dean of the Graduate School, I was also able to ask questions about resources within the Graduate School and receive valuable information,” she said. “I was able to introduce myself to the dean and receive advice from him about how to have the best academic experience at UMD.”
Students from Animal and Avian Sciences, Public Administration, Marketing Analytics, Mechanical Engineering and Women’s Studies gathered for breakfast. Students had questions ranging from access to graduate student-centered study spaces on campus to access to professional development and career planning resources outside of their departments.
Animal and Avian Sciences doctoral student Kuan-Ling Liu, whose research is indeed on growth hormone genes in chickens, said he would “most definitely” recommend that students take the opportunity to meet up with Dean Fetter and other administrators and staff. He entered the raffle “for the fun of it” but ended up having an “eye-opening experience.”
“It was a little bit awkward at first because I was a bit intimidated but we actually had a really nice conversation,” Liu said. “Plus the dean was super nice.”
Azin Mousavi, doctoral student in Mechanical Engineering, attended because she’d had positive experiences having breakfast conversations with fellow students before.
“The idea of meeting the Dean of the Graduate School in a friendly setting and hearing about his experiences and plans seemed appealing to me,” she said.
Dean Fetter encouraged students to stay involved, a sentiment echoed by Jennifer Enriquez, Coordinator of Graduate Student Life.
“We love seeing students take advantage of the opportunities that help them become more connected to the community and network of support UMD provides,” she said.
Students asked if Dean Fetter had specific suggestions for excelling in graduate school. He encouraged them to attend orientation, foster their teaching skills, go to the PhD Pathways site that outlines the main stops on your path, and consider a variety of long-term career and personal goals. On a more personal note, he encouraged students to take advantage of the outdoor activities in the region, like hiking, kayaking and bike trails.
“Think about your whole trajectory and beyond,” he said, encouraging them to be thoughtful about life beyond the dissertation.
The breakfast took place in the Graduate Student Life space, across from the Hoff Theater on the ground floor of The Stamp.
"It helps to create a sense of community and also brought more students to our lounge," Thompson said.
“I think opportunities like these are such a great way for students and the Graduate School to learn from one another in a way that is fun and casual,” said Enriquez. “The Office of Graduate Student Life hopes to organize more meetings where students can exchange their thoughts and ideas with the Dean and other folks on campus.”