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The event, part of Graduate Education Week, included meetings with members of the N.C. General Assembly and a morning session on advocacy and the legislative process.

A diverse group of 32 graduate students pose on a brick staircase.
Graduate students from throughout North Carolina participated in Graduate Education Day on May 15, 2019.

Graduate students statewide recently participated in Graduate Education Day, an event held at the N.C. Legislative Complex and focused on the many ways that graduate student research benefits North Carolina. N.C. Governor Roy Cooper had designated May 12 through 18, 2019, as Graduate Education Week. Graduate Education Day was May 15.

Cooper’s proclamation cited Council of Graduate Schools estimates that “by the end of the decade, there will be a 22 percent increase in jobs requiring a master’s degree and a 20 percent increase in jobs that require a doctorate or professional degree.” The proclamation included other statements about graduate education’s value to the state, including that graduate students are “supporting faculty research while also becoming experts in their chosen fields of study and pursuing their own discoveries that benefit our state.”

Graduate Education Day activities began with a morning session on advocacy and the legislative process, featuring N.C. Representative John Fraley, chairman of both the House Committee on Education – Universities and the House Education Appropriations Committee; Jeff Warren, research director for the N.C. Policy Collaboratory; and Amy Auth, director of state affairs for UNC-Chapel Hill. Throughout the day, the participating graduate students met with members of the N.C. General Assembly.

“Graduate Education Day provides our students with a terrific opportunity to talk with state legislators and share the ways their graduate student research benefits North Carolina,” said Steve Matson, dean of The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill. “Dozens of students from throughout the state participated, meeting members of the General Assembly and learning about state government. This is a rewarding experience for all of us, and our students appreciated their conversations.”

Five graduate students and recent graduate alumni joined Matson in representing UNC-Chapel Hill at the event:

Bevin Blake, a doctoral student in toxicology and environmental medicine;
Leah Chapman, a doctoral student in nutrition;
Ahmed Rachid El-Khattabi, a doctoral student in city and regional planning;
Chris Needham, a doctoral student in education; and
Erin Spencer, a recent master’s degree graduate within the environment, ecology and energy program.

Blake, Chapman, El-Khattabi, Needham and Spencer received 2019 Impact Awards from The Graduate School for their research of direct benefit to North Carolina.

Chapman’s Impact Award-winning research focuses on helping rural residents in Orange and Warren counties find and purchase healthier food.

“It was exciting to meet with members of the state legislature and thank them for supporting and investing in graduate education,” Chapman said. “By sharing our research, we were able to show them how graduate students are using funds to solve real problems in our state.”

El-Khattabi’s Impact Award-winning research examines the effectiveness of demand-oriented policies in helping utilities manage customer water usage.

“Meeting with legislators during North Carolina’s Graduate Education Week was an overwhelmingly positive experience given the keen interest the legislators showed in both my work and that of my colleagues,” El-Khattabi said. “This experience was especially insightful for me in thinking about viable avenues through which to advocate for research-based policy in the future.”

The North Carolina Council of Graduate Schools coordinates Graduate Education Day.

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