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Grad School Week at VCU will run from Oct. 11-15.

Three-minute thesis competition, Rodney Robinson keynote highlight Grad School Week at VCU

Prospective applicants and current students are invited to learn about graduate school programs at the university through events that highlight the application process, research and lived experiences.

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Graduate students make up nearly 20% of Virginia Commonwealth University’s student body. Programming during Grad School Week, Oct. 11-15, will showcase the university, students, faculty and programs within it. 

Graduate School programs at VCU offer students an opportunity to pursue their passions, exercise their curiosity, and play to their strengths. Students bring their diverse experiences and backgrounds to create a collaborative, innovative academic community. Grad School Week — a series of events that includes a keynote speech by VCU alum and the 2019 National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson — is an invitation to explore and celebrate all 140 programs that make up graduate education at VCU.

“Graduate school is a bit more independent and it's also more specialized,” said Emily Humbersoncommunications coordinator of the Graduate School at VCU. “You're not having to go through those same [general education] requirements that you may have needed in undergrad. You get a chance to build deeper relationships with the faculty that you work with and get more specialized training. There's certainly more research if that's something that you're interested in. Graduate school is more about diving into that topic that matters to you because you've built that foundation already with broad-based knowledge.” 

Those interested in getting a broad view of graduate programs at VCU should attend the Graduate and Professional Program Fair on Wednesday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Commonwealth Ballrooms at the University Student Commons.

Grad School Week is also meant to raise the curtain on the application process and the variety of programs. A number of events are designed to help students meet and interact with Daniel Bullard, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School and a professor in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics in the School of Medicine. Sessions with the dean include, “Maybe I Should Go to Grad School … Deciding Your Next Steps” on Monday, Oct. 11, from noon to 1 p.m., “Applying to Grad School: How to Win the Hearts & Minds of Every Admissions Team” on Tuesday, Oct. 12, from noon to 1 p.m., and “How to Ace Your Grad School Interviews” on Wednesday, Oct. 13, from 3 to 4 p.m. 

Three events make up Diversity in Graduate Education Day on Thursday, Oct. 14. “Graduate Minority and International Student Well-Being & Mental Health” will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. and “GRAD101: Session for TRiO and Underrepresented Minority Students” will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Robinson, a VCU School of Education alum, will be the keynote speaker for the Diversity in Graduate Education Day Featured Event at 4 p.m. The evening event will also include panel discussions centered on diversity in graduate education. Attendees can hear from students and deans about their experiences, the challenges they faced, the achievements they have made, and their ideas to address underrepresentation and inequity.

Rodney Robinson
VCU alum and the 2019 National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson will be the keynote speaker for Diversity in Graduate Education Day at 4 p.m. on Oct. 14. (Courtesy of Rodney Robinson)

Humberson said it is helpful for prospective applicants to connect with faculty, staff or deans who can give an insider’s perspective on what admissions is looking for, how to be a strong candidate and how to set yourself up for success.

“These are folks who have a lot of knowledge and they're eager to share it. They're eager to support you throughout your career as a student and then also your career out in the workforce,” Humberson said. “I think sometimes titles such as dean or director can be a little bit intimidating, but VCU faculty and staff are really here to offer whatever help they can, however they can.” 

She said prospective students should feel free to be candid about their hesitancies or what they're grappling with when it comes to graduate education. 

Finally, some Grad School Week events are targeted to current graduate students, including:

  • Coffee Breaks with the Dean, Monroe Park Campus (Monday, Oct. 11, from 9 to 11 a.m.), MCV Campus (Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 9 to 11 a.m.)
  • Workshop: Communicating with Faculty, Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 11 a.m. to noon.
  • Three-Minute Thesis Competition Finals: Master’s and doctoral students will present a condensed version of their research that is clear and accessible to a lay audience. Open to everyone, attendees can get a quick sense of what kind of work graduate students are doing.

“It's really exciting and varied work,” Humberson said of the thesis competition. “Not only can you connect with those students, but you can connect with the faculty and leadership that will be in attendance. It's an opportunity for graduate students to connect with people who may not necessarily be in their discipline.”