Nearly 50 students from across the ACM are spending this summer at flagship research universities in states from the East Coast to the Great Plains, where they will participate in immersive, mentored research experiences and professional development activities designed to give them an inside view of graduate school.
The students, all rising seniors, are in their second year of the ACM Graduate School Exploration Fellowship (GSEF), and their placements are the product of a unique partnership between the ACM colleges and 15 top research universities — the Big Ten universities and the University of Chicago.
“This is an opportunity for GSEF students to learn broadly what graduate-level research looks like in an academic field that’s applicable to their interests and to provide the kind of exposure that will better equip our students with the knowledge, resources, and network that can help them succeed,” said Lilly Lavner, Liaison for the Fellows Program to Diversify the Professoriate and the GSEF coordinator at ACM. “They will interact with graduate students, learn research skills in their general field of study, attend professional development workshops and seminars, and work intensively on a project.”
To be eligible for the GSEF program, students must be interested in pursuing graduate study and research in the humanities, humanistic social sciences, or the arts and be from groups that have been historically underrepresented in academia. The program aims broadly to encourage a more diverse pool of students to apply to graduate school and consider academic careers, particularly as faculty at liberal arts colleges.
Katherine Galvin, Director of Programs at the Big Ten Academic Alliance, explained that “The Big Ten universities and the University of Chicago are committed to increasing the diversity of their institutions at every level — undergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral, faculty and staff. The GSEF program and partnership with ACM provides an excellent opportunity to pursue this important work.”
The exact set-up of the summer research placements can vary from one university to another, according to Lavner. Each student will have a faculty mentor, sometimes within a team of faculty and graduate students, and will conduct research for approximately 35-40 hours per week. They might be involved in an ongoing project with their mentor or they might help design their own individual project.
Depending on the host university, the professional development series includes a variety of workshops and seminars covering the nuts and bolts of applying for graduate school, such as writing cover letters and a personal statement, preparing for the GRE test, and learning how to give a solid research presentation.
“The skills the students learn from the professional development workshops, the chance to see what it’s like to do research every day, and the networking they do with graduate students and faculty are some of the most important takeaways from the summer,” Lavner said. The grant includes a stipend for each of the students and GSEF has additional funding available for the students to engage in scholarly activities and visit graduate schools during their senior year.
The GSEF program is part of the Undergraduate and Faculty Fellows Program for a Diverse Professoriate, a collaborative partnership between the ACM and the Big Ten Academic Alliance, that is supported by an $8.1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Along with GSEF, the Fellows Program includes faculty fellowships on ACM campuses and professional development conferences for faculty and staff on topics related to diversity and inclusion.
“With the generous support of the Mellon Foundation, GSEF allows our universities and faculty to engage with students who may otherwise not consider graduate school, provides essential mentoring and opportunities to experience academic research, and to recruits students to our universities,” Galvin said. “We value our partnership with ACM and the Mellon Foundation, as we collaboratively pursue these important societal goals.”
Following their summer research experience, the GSEF students will give presentations about their summer research projects at the Fellows Program Annual Summit in Chicago. This conference brings together all of the students who are in their first and second years as GSEF fellows to build connections with their peers and engage with ACM faculty and graduate students, faculty, and staff from the partner research universities.
“One of the most common refrains I hear from GSEF students is that they didn’t realize how much they could gain from a program like this until they were in it,” Lavner said. “Even new GSEF fellows who have only been to one Annual Summit say they already know so much more than the rest of the students in their class year about what they should be doing right now to prepare for grad school.”
|The Big Ten universities:|
University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
University of Iowa
University of Maryland
University of Michigan
Michigan State University
University of Minnesota
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The Ohio State University
Pennsylvania State University
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
University of Wisconsin-Madison