Tar Heel Bus Tour, Three Minute Thesis and peer review workshop show the many ways graduate students inspire and succeed

Suzanne Barbour

At the time of this column, I am two full months into my work as dean of The Graduate School. I am so very happy and honored to be here. Before arriving at Carolina, my knowledge of UNC-Chapel Hill was primarily gained from afar: knowledge of the enviably high rankings of many Carolina graduate programs, interactions with colleagues and my brother’s experience as a Carolina graduate student (in chemistry, a generation ago). From the first week that I joined the Carolina community, I have met and learned of some of the talented graduate students who are serving our campus community and our state – while meeting the rigorous demands of their academic programs.

Jeromy Rech is a wonderful example of this leadership. As president of the UNC-Chapel Hill chapter of the Materials Research Society, Jeromy led the planning for an October workshop in which recipients of the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship provided feedback to graduate students who were considering applying for the fellowship. I thank our own Graduate School colleagues who worked to make this event a success. I’m inspired by students like Jeromy, who want to make a difference in the lives of other students. Jeromy says the following, within a Student Focus feature: “I try to find every opportunity to continue to grow in my ability to teach and help others succeed.”

In mid-October, I participated in Carolina’s Tar Heel Bus Tour – what a remarkable experience for me. Our group heard from community leaders and from faculty, staff and students who are helping people throughout our state. In Lumberton, I met Diamond Holloman, Riley Mulhern and Arbor Quist, three Carolina graduate students who are making a difference in the state through their contributions to hurricane relief in Robeson County. This was just one of the many conversations during the Bus Tour that I’ll keep in mind in my work as dean of The Graduate School.

In late October, I participated in my first Three Minute Thesis competition at Carolina, during which 10 talented graduate students presented their important and impactful research. I cannot tell you how impressed I was with the creativity, compassion and determination displayed by our Three Minute Thesis competitors, each of whom is poised to make a difference in this world.

A poster containing many hand-written notes of thanks for the work of graduate students.
Undergraduate students expressed gratitude and appreciation for all that graduate students do for the University. Photo by Ethan Quinn

The Graduate School provides leadership to help recruit the best graduate students in the world to Carolina and support their success while they are here – new student orientation, key administrative assistance, professional development, fellowships and funding, the community and welcome found within our Diversity and Student Success initiatives, and more. Each member of our team provides support to prospective and/or enrolled students in essential ways.

Even at something as small as our recent fall coffee break for graduate students, we see how much our University depends on and values the research, teaching and service of graduate students. Undergraduate students and others came by and filled a poster board with their gratitude, and it’s proudly on display in our main office at Bynum Hall.

I hope to meet many graduate alumni and friends of Carolina in the months ahead and learn about how UNC-Chapel Hill has been meaningful in your life and work. Or please send me an email, at GraduateSchoolDean@unc.edu, and share your thoughts.

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