A Stranger in a Strange Land

Graduate assistantships come in many flavors, and you have read about many of them already this week.  For my GA position, I work at West Virginia University’s Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.  Yes, that is a mouthful, and the gentlemen that hung each individual letter for the signs agree.  I watched them doing it, and they weren’t happy.

My specific role at the Statler College is to develop recruitment materials for graduate engineering programs, but I have also had the opportunity to participate in community outreach, advising, event planning, and undergraduate recruitment.  The “hard” sciences have never been a focus in my career, professional or academic, but working within the Statler College has been a surprisingly multi-faceted learning experience that has increased the quality and depth of my graduate school experience.  If your graduate degree falls outside of the hard sciences, here are _ reasons why you should consider a GA position within a hard science program, department, or college.

1. Networking.

Meeting new people is an important part of being a professional, and it could help land you a job (which we talked about last week).  By getting outside of your normal bubble, you have the opportunity to interact with different types of people that are connected to communities that you would otherwise have no access to.  In the future, this could lead to a job or a useful contact, giving you an edge over the competition that never explored other communities.

2. Interdisciplinary Education.

Your undergraduate program likely required you to take a slew of general education electives.  The reasoning behind these requirements as that exposure to other subjects beyond your specialty makes you a well-rounded citizen by providing more context and scope to your core material.  As a graduate student, it’s easy to shut out the rest of the academic world.  Working among scientists and engineers will allow you to continue that interdisciplinary education in an unofficial way.  It has benefited me, and I enjoy the change of pace.

3. Portfolio Building.

While the rest of your peers are filling their portfolios and resumes with clips and experiences that are often remarkably similar, you have the chance to do something different.  Any time you can add something unique to your resume, you should.

4. Tuition Waiver.

Paying for grad school sucks.  I would scrub toilets every day to pay for my education, so sitting at a desk writing about engineering is like a vacation.  I would do terrible terrible things for a tuition waiver, and let’s be honest, you would to.

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One thought on “A Stranger in a Strange Land

  1. bre7714 says:

    I’m glad you mentioned the Interdisciplinary Education aspect because it seems like a lot of undergrad students don’t get the concept. Throughout the four years that I’ve been attending classes, general electives and major requirements alike, it seems like I’ve always heard this at some point: “Why do I have to take this class anyway? It’s not like I’ll be doing this for a job.” But that’s part of the college experience- you go in with with usually just a high school diploma and you leave not only prepared for a career but as a more well-rounded and knowledgeable individual than someone with just the high school diploma. College is how you become a more valuable citizen to society! Anyway, thanks for pointing out this GA program. In journalism it is especially important to be well-rounded. Otherwise you end up as a parachute journalist. (See wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parachute_journalism if you’re unfamiliar with the term)

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