Graduate students find work-life balance through student-led organization

"My PhD demanded complete focus on academics and research – a stark contrast to the entirety of my academic life up to this point," says Travis Atkinson as he reflects on his first two years as a PhD student. Now in his 3rd year, the PhD student and senate officer in the Purdue Agricultural Economics Graduate Student Organization (GSO) says his time in the GSO has helped him balance everything out. “[I get to] work with the most epic team on a range of non-academic activities, and of course, meeting students outside of the department is sure to be an added bonus,” said Travis.

It was the same for graduate student, Alison Grant. She is one of the GSO’s intramural chairs and helps organize the groups sporting activities. Each semester, the chairs make a list of all the intramural sports offered by the university and members pick which sports they prefer.  Alison says being involved with these teams brings the benefits of athletic activity in a fun social setting. Additionally, it gives her a much-needed break from work and studying. “What I get out of this role is life balance,” said Alison, “not only through playing on these teams, but through organizing a bringing a team together.”

The purpose of the Ag Econ Graduate Student Organization (Ag Econ GSO) is to bring the Ag Econ student body together; to promote academic and social communication among all Ag Econ students; to provide a forum in which Ag Econ students can voice their concerns and expectations; and to act as a liaison between the Ag Econ student body, administration, and faculty members. 

But after talking with the GSO officers, it's clear that the GSO provides something that busy graduate students tend to forget about ... a social life. 

For that reason, the GSO host an array of activities designed to bring together students, administrators, and faculty members. Each semester starts-off with a welcome BBQ social for new and returning students. On a weekly basis, the group host a coffee hour where students can meet informally with faculty and staff members and on the last Friday of the month, they host “Final Fridays” where students and faculty are invited to hangout and socialize at a local restaurant or bar. 

“I have learned throughout my time in grad school that networking is key in our field,” said Sofi Vielma, Social Chair for the GSO. She went on to say that, “the GSO has helped me keep a better work-life balance by constantly reminding me that it is important to keep human interactions alive and that they are a great source to relieve stress.”

New for the Fall 2018 semester, the GSO added "guest" seminar speakers to some of their weekly coffee hours. During these seminars, professors, staffers, and the graduate students themselves provided attendees with insights into the job market, conducting research, and "research" tools of the trade. Students were also encouraged to present during these seminars. Some students used the time to discuss their current research or flush out their interview skills before hitting the job market. The group plans to continue these efforts in the spring semester.    

To learn more about the Agricultural Economics Graduate Student Organization (GSO) including its purpose, events, officer positions, and the value that it brings to it's members visit:

Writen by Kami Goodwin

Agricultural Economics, 403 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907 USA, (765) 494-4191

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