In an effort to expand its student community, Ithaca College’s graduate and professional studies department is creating more opportunities for graduate students to interact and network with peers.
Charleen Heidt, research and marketing manager for graduate admissions, said GPS expanded their social networking initiatives and increased college-sponsored social events this year. The department also hired two graduate assistants to manage the effort and organize events by updating the program’s Facebook page and IC Grad Students group on myHome.
Despite these efforts, graduate student Maegan Krifchin, a graduate assistant for the office, said the amount of community interaction within the graduate program is low. Krifchin said she hopes the number of graduate students involved in community events and network gatherings increases as GPS steps up its social planning.
Rob Gearhart, associate dean of the department of graduate and professional studies, said interaction between graduate students outside of class is important because it makes new students who have not completed their undergraduate degrees at the college feel less isolated.
“It’s part of our strategy for recruitment to get them to feel good about that — being accepted and deciding to come to Ithaca College,” he said. “Then it continues when they’re here, so they feel like they’re a part of a community.”
The college’s graduate program began in 1943 with music and physical education programs and has grown to offer 19 masters degrees and 1 doctorate degree in 10 programs including occupational therapy, sport management and business administration. Currently, there are 447 full-time and 60 part-time graduate students.
Krifchin said she will be planning one event per week, including a gathering at the Bandwagon Brew Pub today, where graduate students will have the opportunity to interact with their peers from different programs at the college as well as graduate students from Cornell University.
Krifchin said she recently reached out to Cornell’s Graduate and Professional Student Assembly in hopes of including Cornell graduate students in events on a regular basis to network.
“[It’s] a nice way to open up connections and have access to more people,” she said.
Nicole Baran, chair of the events committee for Cornell’s student graduate council, said the committee also sponsors events for its graduate students and is glad to collaborate with the college on plans to host joint events in the future.
“Our events committee especially likes to encourage mixing between different fields, departments and colleges within Cornell, and now we have the opportunity to mix with other members of the Ithaca graduate student community,” she said.
Krifchin said she plans to drum up interest in social programs by coordinating with Cornell, but some students said coordinating with the university doesn’t make events any more appealing.
Graduate student Nicole Lattanzio, who is in the teaching students with speech and language disabilities program, said her workload doesn’t leave much time for socializing.
“When you have free time to be doing something, you want it to be fun and something that is motivating, because all we do is sit around and study and go to class and read books,” she said.
Krifchin said an increase in community building initiatives by the department is driven by a desire to reach out to students who have trouble making connections with other students.
“Whether it’s Cornell or not, if they’re going out, having a good time and having a drink or two, and just mingling and relaxing and taking a breath from school, that’s what we’re trying to do,” she said.