COLLEGE PARK, MD (December, 2016) – When Diana Bowen started her doctoral program in what is now the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership, her first step in getting involved on campus was to attend the College of Education’s Graduate Student Welcome Fair.
Today, Bowen, who was a high school math teacher and swim coach in Virginia before starting the program, serves as the president of the organization that puts on the annual event, the COE’s Graduate Student Organization.
“That’s a really powerful way to connect rather than some of the larger things on campus that may be overwhelming to a brand new grad student, as I know it was for me,” said Bowen, currently in the fourth year of her program who served as a group representative last year.
Those who are currently enrolled in a COE graduate program are automatically considered members of the GSO, according to the group’s bylaws. Those students are represented by an executive board made up of a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. There are also two representatives each for each of the College of Education’s departments, TLPL, as well as Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education, and Human Development and Quantitative Methodology. The group is currently looking for HDQM representatives.
“Our goals, basically, are to connect graduate students with each other and with professors and with faculty and staff around issues that are important to us as students here in the College of Education,” said Bowen, who is also a member of UMD’s Graduate Assistant Advisory Council, an organization that represents graduate student employees.
Students work under the guidance of GSO faculty advisor Judy Foster, who founded the group in 2012 with Maggie McLaughlin, professor and associate dean in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education. Foster provides invaluable experience to the organization, Bowen said.
“Judy’s amazing,” Bowen said. “Judy’s sort of our institutional memory check in the sense that, every little detail, Judy’s thought through because she’s done this for so many years, and so something simple like making sure the chairs and tables are ordered in advance and there on the day of the welcome fair, those types of small details, it’s great to have a staff member who’s aware of what those details should be, knows how to take care of details and can help us organize, because we do have so many new members in the GSO every year.”
Over the years, the organization has achieved campus-level prominence through events like a December 2013 screening of “Race to Nowhere,” a documentary about the problems students face in the education system, that also included a panel discussion with students. In February, the group held a discussion about affirmative action on campus, Foster said.
“I think it’s more well-known and the students are really involved and really care about the college and the community and trying to get everyone together,” Foster said.
Each new group of student leaders brings something new to the table every year, Foster pointed out. Last year’s events had a focus on social justice issues like the Black Lives Matter movement.
This year, meanwhile, the organization will focus on building research communities, possibly building on its annual research symposium to include opportunities for students and faculty to make connections for future projects, according to Bowen.
“We’re trying to figure out ways to bridge those connections as we move forward,” Bowen said.
Through the group, Bowen hopes to continue in the vein of her service-oriented classmates.
“We really encourage each other to take on service positions in the College of Education and the broader university, because I think oftentimes we’re told to come in, to focus purely on our research and our academics,” she said. “I think service is definitely an important way to be involved with your university.”
For more information on the College of Education, visit: www.education.umd.edu
Audrey Hill, Associate Director of Communications, at: email@example.com