Women of K-State discuss trials, successes of women grad students

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This week’s Women of K-State Brown Bag Lunch series featured female graduate student council leaders: past president Megan Miller, treasurer Graciela Andrango, insurance chair and liaison to professional development Grizelda MacDonald, secretary Jennifer Miller and student affairs committee chair Gayla Adams-Wright.

Panelists began by describing how being graduate students and being a part of the graduate student council has helped them grow personally and professionally. They said it provides an additional challenge and the special opportunity to interact with active professionals.

“I’m more introverted by nature and this has made me more open in social situations and comfortable meeting administrators and faculty on campus,” Megan Miller said. “It’s easy to become isolated inside your discipline if you are not involved as a grad student.”

Graduate students are expected to devote a great deal of their time and studies to research projects relating to their field of study. Miller’s research focuses on persuasion and behavioral changes and her project aims to find ways to get students to drink more responsibly. Adams-Wright said she plans to study new and effective ways to recruit minorities into health careers which are often dominated by men and Caucasians.

Students will have a chance to present their research this March at the 17th annual K-State Research Forum. As the longest running forum in K-State’s history, undergraduates and graduates will present their work to the state community and each other while gaining valuable experience presenting research in a comfortable setting before they enter into the professional world.

“It’s a great time for interdisciplinary collaboration and to find out what others are discovering that may pertain to your work,” Miller said.

One topic of special interest for Brown Bag Lunch attendees was the graduate program goals for 2025. The panelists first shared things they believed the program did well. Adams-Wright said that getting involved taught her to take personal initiative and to seek out others in her department for advice. Others applauded the approachable and knowledgeable professors and welcoming environment. But like any organization, members of the graduate student council have plans to make theirs grow stronger, from making basic information about the graduate program more available to attracting a more diverse student body.

“Kansas State is not just for undergraduates. I personally would like to see more support for gradate student programs,” Miller said. “We make a significant contribution and we need more recognition and visibility in the community.”

Often buried in papers and hours of complicated research papers, the women acknowledged the daily challenge of time management. Many graduate students are nontraditional students who have previously been out in the professional world and have families.

“Women are still often considered responsible for taking care of the home, so as a mother and wife I have to balance home, work and school life,” Adams-Wright said.

The panelists said it was crucial for all graduate students to take advantage of their resources and to ask for help when they need it, whether it is a babysitter or someone willing to run errands.

“I can’t get through a Ph.D. program without some kind of support system,” Adams-Wright said. “I make sacrifices like living with piles of laundry I don’t have time for, but I don’t worry about the small stuff anymore.”

For graduate students who come from international backgrounds, like MacDonald and Andrango, significant adjustments had to be made when coming to K-State to pursue an advanced education.

“Interaction between students and professors is much more personable [in the United States],” MacDonald said. “It took me a while to get used to calling a professor by their first name.”

MacDonald is currently taking a multicultural education class, which has helped her to better understand the culture and environment.

“I may speak English but my perception and cultural concepts aren’t the same,” she said.

Both MacDonald and Andrango have found they are getting plenty of real world exposure and broadening their personal horizons through K-State’s program.

“I earned my undergraduate degree in Honduras, where there were no student bodies,” Andrango said. “I enjoy the environment here.”

Concluding the Brown Bag Lunch, secretary Jennifer Miller brought to the attention of all present that women in particular in graduate school are still facing challenges.

“As a female graduate student I find that it’s harder to earn respect and get my students to take me seriously than my male counterparts,” Jennifer Miller said. “I often go to female professors to watch them teach and get pointers on how to maintain control of the classroom.”

A streaming of Wednesday’s Brown Bag Lunch is available at k-state.edu/women/events/2012/brownbag12.html.

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