Temple: Improve graduate student experience

The university should make the graduate school experience more welcoming.


During my time at Temple University, I’ve realized about one-fourth of the student body experiences Main Campus in a different way.

Graduate students make up this fourth. And I’ve noticed that for them, socializing, going to class and being involved with the university are all very different experiences than those of undergraduate students.

The graduate student experience is sometimes difficult and different than what students expect. The university should be more involved with graduate students so their Temple experiences are exciting and welcoming.

I hope to further my education as a graduate student someday. If I were to do that at Temple, I’d expect it to be more exciting like my undergraduate experience here.

Santiago Canete Riaza, a first-year doctoral mechanical engineering student, said, with a laugh, there simply is no social aspect of graduate school.

He said students mostly only interact with other students from their graduate programs. Departments arrange events, but they are geared toward networking than having fun, unlike residence hall movie nights for undergraduate students.

Many graduate students relocated to Philadelphia to further their education. But unlike undergraduate students, they are not given the same platform to meet people in their new city.

“Most of the people you interact with on a daily basis [while in graduate school] will be other students and faculty members within your department, to the point where you may find yourself completely unfamiliar with faculty and practices in other departments at the same school,” the Inquiries Journal, an academic journal focusing on social sciences, arts and humanities, reported.

Alex Gardner, a second-year doctoral chemistry student, moved to Philadelphia from his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to pursue his next degree.

“I know a few people in this department now, and I have friends [at school],” Gardner said. “But I feel like it would be more helpful if I was able to make more connections. I think there should be fun graduate school social events.”

The educational experience is also more restricted. Of course, it depends on the program, but Canete Riaza said there are generally fewer classes offered in graduate programs.

Canete Riaza said he would love if his program offered more class options.

While undergraduate programs allow and encourage students to take elective classes in many departments, Jess McLaughlin, a first-year doctoral science education student, said taking classes outside of your department or school when you’re a graduate student comes with lots of paperwork. You also have to get authorization from professors.

“It should just be part of the process, rather than something where you have to go out of your way to make happen,” McLaughlin said.

Just because someone is in graduate school for a specific subject doesn’t mean they don’t still want to branch out and try other kinds of classes. Graduate students should have the same flexibility when choosing classes. Not to mention, you meet more people when you take classes outside of your concentration.

The university has an altogether different approach to interacting with graduate students, which is a shame because many of these students might not have had their undergraduate experiences at this exciting university.

Gardner said orientations are organized by the department of each program, and entrants are introduced to their new professors and classmates.

“It was more like a job orientation,” Gardner said. “So it wasn’t that fun.”

Education should be fun, especially for people who are choosing to take their schooling to the next level.

The university should simply make more of an effort to create a friendly environment for these students as they embark on these stressful educational programs.

McLaughlin said individuals, rather than the university itself, have made efforts to make her feel welcome and comfortable at the university.

“I don’t think that the institution has done it,” McLaughlin said. “Individuals really are what has kept me here and made me feel welcome.”

Because Temple is a research university, graduate students are significant assets to Temple. They add value and growth to the university and contribute to its reputation in the research sphere. In 2016, Temple ranked at No. 18 on the list of global Google Scholar citations, above New York University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The university should expand social opportunities for graduate students, so they can create more connections for them and help them feel at home. Graduate students would thrive even more if they were given more support from the university.

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