by David Sorensen
Grad studies can be a lonely and challenging experience. Now a group of sociology grad students have come together to make the journey a little less solitary.
PhD students Sharmane Allen, Deatra Walsh and Kelly Greenfield helped kick start a monthly meeting of sociology students, and the result has been support for one another’s studies, but also a chance to learn a little more about the discipline from their fellow students.
“There were clusters of students talking independently but we had a lot of the same issues regarding lack of student culture, that grad studies is a lonely experience, and just a general need to get together to talk about issues that we have as grad students,” explained Ms. Allen, a student of maritime sociology, with a focus on the privatization of the fishery.
She said there was also a need to discuss common theories in the discipline and to get to better know the faculty members.
About 15 students showed up at the first meeting in September and the group decided to meet on the first Monday of every month. The Graduate Students’ Union offered up space for the meeting, which also allowed for a social get together in Bitter’s Pub afterwards.
The meetings became a mix of short presentations by students on their research, discussions with faculty members and, most recently, a meeting with Dean of Arts Reeta Tremblay.
“(At the first meeting) we talked about concerns that we had immediately and concerns that we foresaw in the future and what we could do in advance to sort of stop those issues if they were going to become a problem,” explained Ms. Greenfield, who is studying governance of aquaculture technology in the developing world.
The result was a sharing of the graduate student experience, with some of the senior students mentoring the first-year MA students, a discussion on the variety within the discipline, and a general sense of not being alone in the generally lonely process of graduate research.
“We had some students present their own work, where they’re at in their process, which was quite helpful to them, as well,” said Ms. Allen. “Because the master’s students could have the benefit of the PhD students who had been through this.
“We’ve also engaged the faculty,” she said. “We’ve had several professors who have agreed to join us and talk about their research, why they became a sociologist and so on.”
Dr. Barbara Neis met with the group at its December meeting. She’s a professor of Sociology and co-director of SafetyNet, and was awarded one of five national Trudeau Foundation Fellowships earlier this year.
“What an amazing mentor and role model,” said Ms. Greenfield.
The group now has six faculty members booked to talk to the group in the new year.