Graduate School co-hosts conference on building community

Friday, June 28, 2019

How institutions can create inclusive communities among graduate students was the theme of a recent professional development conference co-hosted by UNC Charlotte’s Graduate School.

Katherine Hall-Hertel, associate dean for graduate academic and student services at UNC Charlotte, noted the annual conference, held this year at Virginia Tech, provided attendees the opportunity to network with other regional institutions on ways to support graduate student success.

“The collaboration that results from this conference is truly valuable. Not only are we sharing best practices, but we have the opportunity to talk about how we implement an initiative in our particular setting. Shared problem-solving is not something that happens at a large conference. This engagement helps all of us improve the services and support we offer to our graduate students,” said Hall-Hertel.

The University’s Graduate School provides a number of programs to build graduate community, including the Center for Graduate Life.

Hall-Hertel and Lisa Rasmussen, associate professor and faculty fellow in the Graduate School, and Duke University’s Johnna Frierson, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Pratt College of Engineering, presented a conference session on effective mentor/mentee training for faculty and students.

They discussed the importance of training faculty and students to engage in mentoring. A training approach promoted through the Center for the Improvement of the Mentored Experience in Research was implemented at both UNC Charlotte and Duke. The presenters shared how they used the evidence-based training to improve mentor/mentee relationships on their campuses, as shared examples of case studies used in the training.

“At UNC Charlotte we’ve recently implemented a new training initiative to support a strong research climate on campus. By helping faculty to be better mentors to graduate students, we believe we can improve the research experience for both faculty and students. Our faculty have asked for better training as mentors, and this initiative is a response to that request,” explained Hall-Hertel. “Dr. Frierson discussed the way in which Duke's Pratt College of Engineering is training doctoral students to be better mentees. These training go together. Both institutions plan to offer both types of training soon.”

Representatives from more than 20 institutions attended “Building Graduate Community and a Culture of Inclusion.”

Karen DePauw, vice president and dean for graduate education at Virginia Tech, delivered the keynote; she focused on the importance of inclusion before diversity, noting that inclusion should always be the goal.