A sweeping new effort recently announced by the Graduate School will support graduate students on multiple fronts as they pursue their academic and professional goals. Effective with the spring semester, the Graduate School will establish an Office of Inclusion and Engagement that will develop a wide array of initiatives designed to help students amplify the impact of their research, prepare for leadership positions in their fields and broaden their career options.
The office will also serve as the university’s first campus-wide resource specifically created to augment the recruitment, retention and success of outstanding graduate students from historically underrepresented populations.
“The Office of Inclusion and Engagement will significantly benefit UMass graduate students while also strengthening the university’s image as a leading public research institution,” said Barbara Krauthamer, dean of the Graduate School. “It will play a crucial role in achieving one of the Graduate School’s main objectives—expanding the university’s community of excellent minority graduate students who will enrich the UMass intellectual and cultural landscape. And it will extend the Graduate School’s recent efforts to facilitate the success of all graduate students by providing them with the skills, opportunities and resources necessary to compete successfully for a broader range of desirable careers within and outside academia.”
According to Krauthamer, the Office of Inclusion and Engagement will foster new career possibilities for graduate students by developing training programs and funding mechanisms that will help students meaningfully participate in existing public discussions of key problems related to their research. “Reflecting the university’s long tradition of cultivating knowledge with a strong social component—from environmental sustainability to prison reform and beyond—UMass routinely attracts graduate students seeking to engage with the general public on a wide range of issues intersecting with their areas of expertise,” Krauthamer said. “But scholars who want to reach broad audiences by writing editorials for general interest publications or helping shape public policy must develop translational and networking skills that aren’t typically acquired through formal academic training.”
By collaborating with the Graduate School’s Office of Professional Development, however, the Office of Inclusion and Engagement will offer students regular training opportunities—such as skill-building workshops and leadership seminars—that should enhance their communication and networking proficiency. The Office of Inclusion and Engagement will also award grants to underwrite pilot projects that enable students to communicate the significance of their research and connect with non-academic communities. “This approach to promoting graduate student research will help students raise their professional profiles and explore alternative career paths in government, the non-profit sector and private industry,” Krauthamer said. “Equally important, it will also highlight for new audiences how UMass research is positively affecting the lives of people across the Commonwealth and around the globe.”
The office will also lead several initiatives that are expected to elevate the university’s standing as a desirable intellectual destination for underrepresented graduate students. Most notably, it will partner with graduate programs to implement a campus-wide student recruitment strategy by organizing major recruiting events and determining best practices for using diversity fellowship funding. Working both independently and in cooperation with prominent graduate student organizations, it will oversee professional-development and community-building programming to help underrepresented students smoothly navigate the path to their degrees and attain a sense of institutional belonging. Finally, the office will also initiate a campus dialogue on key diversity issues in graduate education by sponsoring a lecture series on these topics.
“In launching the Office of Inclusion and Engagement, the Graduate School is continuing an exciting expansion phase that has previously witnessed the inception of the Office of Professional Development, the UMass Mentoring Initiative, and several new diversity fellowship programs, each of which has had a far-reaching impact on UMass graduate students,” Krauthamer said. “As our new office evolves, the Graduate School will extend these efforts to further enhance the university’s educational environment and better prepare our graduate students for leadership positions in all areas of society. The Graduate School aspires to become a model for our peer institutions in the areas of inclusion and public engagement, and I am optimistic that this effort will help us achieve our objective.”