Graduate Student Experiences

Graduate students are busy. Between classes, work, research, family, and other commitments, there is a lot to balance. Finding time for just about anything else may be a challenge but joining an organization or participating in extracurricular activities can be very rewarding, a great way to build a bigger network, and might even be fun.

Whether you are looking for academic or personal support, or to gain leadership experience, or influence university policy, there are multiple organizations and activities to participate in as a MatSE graduate student such as the Materials Research Society (MRS), the EMS Graduate Student Council, and the Penn State Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA).

Within MatSE there are various activities for graduate students to participate in as well as sponsored college and University activities. Graduate students are invited to participate in The Steidle Café where once a month, a faculty member, a staff member, and a graduate student present to the MatSE community in a relaxed forum and talk about themselves, where they are from, a vacation they took, and a big picture summary of their research. Each spring, MatSE solicits entries for both the Graduate Poster Competition and the Materials Visualization Competition.

Benefits of getting involved:

  1. Networking: Networking with people who share similar interests gives you the chance to explore possible career opportunities and learn what it takes to reach your goals.
  2. People skills: Participation in an organization will expand your people skills or emotional intelligence as well as present opportunities to work with diverse groups of people. While developing your skills in presenting and implementing ideas, you will also learn how different people respond and react to certain situations. These skills as well as communicating effectively, positive attitude, and strong work ethic, are essential for any career.
  3. Self-awareness: Learn more about yourself, your goals, and your strengths. Find out what you’re good at whether that’s: multitasking, staying organized, generating ideas, or serving others.
  4. Experience: As a member of a graduate student organization, you will put all the things you’ve learned in class to the test in real-world situations. Learn what works and what doesn’t, and take that knowledge back to the classroom, and then, along with you in your future career. 
  5. Leadership skills: Whether you are a natural born leader or stepping outside your comfort zone, developing leadership skills is invaluable in all areas of life. Graduate student organizations present opportunities to improve in public speaking and gain confidence in yourself. 
  6. Expand your resume: Yes, organizations and activities look good on a résumé because participation shows employers that you appreciate community, you’re willing to do more, and can handle multiple responsibilities.
  7. Give back: Many graduate student organizations offer multiple ways to give back to community whether through acts of service, sponsoring events, or hosting charity drives. For most, giving back to the community is the most rewarding part of being involved with an organization.
  8. You just might have fun! Meeting new people, making new friends, and participating in activities helps make the most of your graduate school experience.