Reaching out

A letter to graduate students

Although our department, and particularly the trainees in our department, were receiving periodic emails from our group about various presentations or surveys we were conducting, we felt we could do more to reach out on a more personal level to our peers. Although our climate survey results were positive overall, there were a couple responses that very much concerned us. We decided that another venue through which we could act as trainees would be to support our peers, both with morale and resources, if they are experiencing conflict with superiors.

Because we, as trainees, have been working with faculty and the administration on these issues for the past year, we have learned a lot about the resources available in our department and university, and we have identified and developed relationships with many of the sympathetic and concerned faculty allies. We decided we could offer our support as liaisons to anyone who is struggling with a conflict in their lab or in the department. As students, we are not required to report anything, and we would only be there to help trainees process their situation and decide how to move forward.

We decided to send a follow-up email after digesting the climate survey results, and after discussions among SSC members about whether to take on this new role of peer support.

Example email – letter to graduate students


Connecting with students in other departments

Our university has a Graduate and Professional Student Federation, a group of graduate students representing their respective departments and curricula across campus, who advocate for better resources for graduate and professional students. This group meets regularly, and we thought that reaching out to them would be a great opportunity for students across other programs to get involved with our group. We asked if we could have a time slot to present to GPSF about what our group had been working on. Then we scheduled an open meeting of our group, inviting students from other departments to join us. We invited GPSF representatives to forward a short description of our group with an invitation to our open meeting.

Connecting with trainees from other departments – invitation email


Networking across institutions

We quickly began realizing how much work we had accomplished in our department, and decided that a workshop might be a great way to interact with people outside of our institution. Most of us go to professional conferences at least once per year, and some of these conferences allow participants to host meetings or workshops related to the conference. We proposed conducting a workshop at the Ecological Society of America’s annual conference in Portland, Oregon, which was accepted.

Find out more about the workshop here.



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