Graduate students are an integral component to Michigan State University’s teaching and research missions.
We are here to study, grow, and advance our academic disciplines. We are here to teach the next generation of scientists, artists, and business leaders. We are here to conduct research to help solve the world’s most pressing challenges. We are a force over 10,000 strong, and harnessing that energy can help drive institutional change to better improve the teaching and research environments of the University.
But to do so, graduate students need a space, and a voice, to be able to do meaningful work.
How does MSU empower graduate students to invoke institutional change?
One avenue MSU helps empower graduate students to be change agents within the university is through the Graduate School’s Leadership Institute, specifically the Leadership Development Fellowship (LDF).
The LDF provides graduate students with the tools for building key leadership and collaboration competencies. More importantly, it creates a space for both making strategic connections and building strong relationships across the University’s different institutional levels. In summary, it provides graduate students with the opportunity to work with diverse groups of University stakeholders to define and reach a common goal.
Given space and support, graduate students can do really meaningful work to improve the structure and function of the University. See below for a quick look at the work being done by one of our current LDFs.
As an example, what type of work can Leadership Fellows do?
From 2017-2020, I served as the MSU Graduate School Leadership Fellow in the College of Natural Science. In this capacity, I worked with, and developed or implemented products at, multiple levels of organization at the University to improve graduate education. Specifically, my work informed and addressed mentoring deficiencies across institutional scales to help achieve the MSU Graduate School’s Strategic Plan (Objective 1.1). Through these activities, I collaboratively:
- wrote a Peer Mentor Program Guide to help individual student groups develop their own peer mentor programs;
- wrote a white paper on best mentorship practices for the Graduate School’s Mentoring Task Force – which informed the following guidelines and toolkit;
- served on the College of Natural Science Strategic Planning Graduate Education Committee;
- developed or refined graduate education tools and resources to follow best practices to enhance mentorship relationships in individual departments;
- engaged stakeholders across the University regarding these activities through established committees and task forces (e.g. Natural Science Dean’s Advisory Council, Graduate School Mentoring Task Force, individual graduate student organizations, etc.); and,
- supported the professional development of other graduate students during the annual Leadership Summit meetings and Leadership Academy workshops.
While the LDF gave me the space to do this work, more importantly, it helped me find my voice. It empowered me to speak up and speak out, and to engage constructively with higher-level University to improve graduate education. It’s easy to feel that, as a graduate student, you are at the bottom of the totem pole. But really, we are important spokes in the wheel that keeps the University moving forward. Given empowerment, we can be effective change-agents both within the University, and more broadly, to better our personal and professional communities.