Stephen Matthews participates in panel discussion focused on graduate education
Penn State graduate students and faculty members participated in a panel discussion focused on graduate education at the May 4 meeting of the Committee on Academic Affairs and Student Life of the Board of Trustees.
The four graduate students and three graduate faculty members on the panel answered a variety of questions about graduate education at Penn State.
The graduate student panelists were:
- Béatrice Bonga, doctoral student in physics;
- Dominiqua Griffin; doctoral student in counselor education with a dual title in comparative & international education;
- Lauren (Perrotti) Halberstadt, doctoral student in Spanish with a dual title in language science; and
- Lindsey Landfried, master of fine arts student in art.
The graduate faculty panelists were:
- Squire Booker, professor of chemistry, and biochemistry and molecular biology, Eberly College of Science; investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute;
- Caroline (Carey) D. Eckhardt, professor of comparative literature and English; Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal chair in literary theory and comparative criticism; director, School of Languages and Literatures, College of the Liberal Arts; and
- Stephen A. Matthews, professor of sociology, anthropology & demography; chair, graduate program in demography, College of the Liberal Arts
Regina Vasilatos-Younken, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School, served as the moderator. In her opening remarks, Vasilatos-Younken gave an overview of graduate education at Penn State, provided metrics on graduate education including graduate student demographics and enrollments, and explained the diversity of graduate degree programs (currently 187 fields of study) offered at the University.
The graduate student panelists shared their thoughts about why they decided to pursue a graduate degree at Penn State, explained how they interact with undergraduate students, and offered their insights on ways the University could enhance the overall graduate student experience.
Graduate faculty members praised the many accomplishments of graduate students and emphasized that the sheer number of graduate degree programs offered at Penn State creates individual graduate student experiences that differ among graduate programs, departments, and academic colleges. Each program may have different ways of accomplishing their goals, including how they prepare students and track job placements after students graduate.
The graduate students and faculty members noted that the employment landscape is changing for graduate students. Stephen Matthews shared that technology companies like Google and Facebook are interested in hiring demography graduate students who have extensive experience working with big data sets. Graduate programs and departments are working to adapt their career development programs to better prepare their graduate students for employment opportunities and research in non-academic settings.
The Graduate School hosts career development events throughout the year that strive to help graduate students prepare for a spectrum of careers, including the Career Exploration Workshop held during the Fall semester and the Graduate Exhibition, which is held during the Spring semester. The Career Exploration Workshop offers opportunities for graduate students to hear from graduate alumni working in a variety of fields and showcases career opportunities outside of academia. Additionally, the Graduate Exhibition is designed for graduate students to present their research and creative scholarship to a general audience, outside of their field, to help develop skill in communicating to the public.
The Board of Trustees Committee on Academic Affairs and Student Life is committed to all matters of educational and student life, and this panel gave trustees insight into the breadth of graduate education at the University.