April 5, 2021

Community and Connection: Tips for Staying Engaged in Graduate School

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As you begin to reach the end of the academic year, it may become challenging to stay connected. With courses, work, and other personal obligations, you can find yourself performing a balancing act of it all. We often expect ourselves to be able to do it all. This expectation is not only unrealistic, but it can also be detrimental to our mental health. One way to ease the immense pressure we put on ourselves is to fall back on our community.

You might be asking yourself: who is part of my community? That is the beauty of intersectionality—you can be an active part of multiple communities! Intersectionality, coined by civil rights advocate and professor at UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, Kimberlé Crenshaw, has been described as “a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects”. You can learn more about the concept of intersectionality in this brief interview with Crenshaw or her 2016 Ted Talk: The Urgency of Intersectionality.

You are a multi-faceted individual, and you will likely find community based on your identity or your interests. Whether it be within your academic program, your geographical location, or professional alignment, there are several types of communities that may be valuable to you. One thing is for sure: you are part of the CGU community.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Being a part of the CGU community is what you make of it. The effort you put into being actively engaged will be mirrored in the quality of your graduate school experience.

To learn firsthand from a student who is actively engaged in the CGU community, we turned to Graduate Student Council Vice President, Arline Vortruba, and asked her for her tips and advice for CGU students.

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Q: What would you say is the biggest benefit to being active while at CGU?

A: The biggest benefit to being active at CGU is probably the sense of community and connection that comes from that involvement. It is beneficial that I have become more familiar with people across campus as well as offices and resources. I think being more involved is useful to the graduate student experience, especially in this remote format, because it generates a sense of connection to the community while working from home.

Q: What is your advice for a student looking to find community on campus?

A: My recommendation for a student looking to find community on campus is to reach out to student organizations or groups and get involved. I think it is useful to review what active groups there already are such as on this page and from there find a meeting to attend or session to go to. I know the Zoom burnout is real, but grad school is about networking and finding folks who can be support group through the process so joining an organization that aligns with your interests, professional goals, or personal values is a great way to expand one’s network. If there is not a group that you think should exist on campus, the Student Life, Diversity & Leadership (SLDL) office can help create that space and organization.

Q: What is the best way to stay engaged with the campus community while we are in a virtual or hybrid setting?

A: The best way to stay engaged with the campus community while working in a virtual setting is to sign up for one event or group meeting a month and then go. Do not sign up for things you do not plan to attend. Hold yourself accountable.

Q: A lot of anxiety or fear can come from reaching out to peers. What tips do you have to combat that fear and anxiety?

A: Honestly, other students are likely to feel similar to you because they are going through the same challenges. Think about how you would feel if a colleague from class sent an email asking if you want to link up for a working lunch or coffee hour chat? It probably sounds refreshing, so why not start that conversation?

Below we have compiled several tips, resources, and upcoming events to assist you in your community building journey.

Our tips for building community:

  • Discord channels: Many students have found that using platforms such as Discord can connect them, especially while learning in the online flex model.
  • Microsoft Office Suite: All CGU students have access to the full Microsoft Suite, so we encourage you to take advantage! Using Microsoft Teams to chat with classmates or form groups within your classes to study together is a great place to start.
  • Connect with CGU and other students via social media. Stay up to date with the university by following CGU’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube accounts.

CGU Community-based Resources:

We hope you lean into the resources and events that are available to you as a CGU student. The graduate school experience is what you make it, and we want to empower you to make it memorable. Like many things in life, community building is not a one-time action, it is a continuous effort that requires you to frequently check-in and engage with those in your various circles.

How have you built up or leaned on your communities while at CGU? What are some of your goals when it comes to building and maintaining a sense of community in graduate school? We would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for upcoming blog posts, we invite you to email us at student.engagment@cgu.edu.