Advocate for your Financial Support!
Every year, the GSA collects data on stipends, fees the department pays for, and if the department covers health insurance. Check out the GSA Stipend Report to advocate for more comprehensive financial support.
Advocate for Graduate Student Representation!
Do you meet with the head of your grad program once a semester to give feedback? Are graduate students in your department present during faculty meetings, graduate student acceptance committees and/or faculty hiring committees? Check out the GSA Voices Report to see where graduates from other departments have representation!
Improve Feedback Mechanisms in your Department!
If you don’t meet with the head of your grad program, check out the GSA Voices Report above. Are there anonymous surveys to gather graduate student feedback in your department? Is there an ombudsperson? Is there an anonymous feedback system that people can use at any time? Do you thoughtfully fill out the Faculty Course Evaluations at the end of the semester? Here’s why you might want to collect some data!
Create Institutional Memory!
Within department, people have a lot of similar experiences and wisdom they can pass on! You don’t need to spend hours trying to figure out how to get a job in your field if everyone else before you has already done it! You can collect CVs, resumes, individual websites, TA guidelines, teaching materials, best practices for research, or whatever else might be relevant for your department! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a meeting to setup a google drive folder for your department!
Improve the Classes you Take, TA, and Teach!
Did you get any training on how to teach? Do you know how to make a class inclusive? Do you know where to send a student if they need help? Check out the Eberly Center, the guide to make classes more inclusive, and the CMU Cares Folder!!
Get Syllabi for Everything!
Do you TA, research, or complete a capstone project for credit? If so, ask for a syllabus! A syllabus can help make the goals, amount of work, and type of work concretely defined for both you and your program coordinators. For example, a TA syllabi can include goals on what you will learn (e.g., how to organize a class or provide feedback to students), amount of work (e.g., 10 hours a week), and type of work (e.g., recitation, holding office hours, grading, creating exams). If you’re doing it for credit, you should be provided a syllabus! Even if you’re not doing it for credit, you should still ask for a syllabus!