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Graduate Student Climate Check-in (Fall 2020)

This Summer and Fall we will be reaching out to all CSE graduate students for individual, face-to-face conversations. Please let us know your availability for a 15-minute check-in.

Whether you are pursuing a traditional master’s degree, a Ph.D., or are in our SUGS program, we will be checking in with you personally, via teleconferencing, to hear about your experiences with CSE and our graduate program.

This activity is about helping to support the success of all of our students, as well as bringing CSE’s culture more in line with our values. Not all students feel equally comfortable reaching out to us, so we want to make sure we reach out to you.

The check-ins will be conducted by Sarah Snay, a CSE staff member with a degree in psychology and over five years of psychology research experience, including coordination and management of seventeen Institutional Review Board approved human studies, as well as the recent Victory Gardens program to reach out to every Engineering undergraduate; she is not a mandatory reporter. The check-ins will not be recorded; advisors will not see any of the responses of their advisees; we will not ask any questions relevant to Visa status; and we will follow the standard IRB procedure of destroying any real name mappings after the analysis is complete. This activity was designed in consultation with Rackham Institutional Research. Only Sarah Snay, Peter Chen, and Westley Weimer will see individualized responses: the rest of the faculty will be shown aggregate information, following the successful model of the recent Climate Activities Survey.

Procedurally, each student will complete a brief pre-meeting form with scheduling preference information and some high level experience questions. Sarah will then follow up about scheduling a 10- to 15-minute check-in, and we’ll use the preliminary information you provided to avoid repeated queries and to ensure that the face-to-face time focuses on you. For students in exceptional situations we will schedule follow-on meetings to talk about resources or individual circumstances.

We are interested in learning about what it is like to be a graduate student here, as well as to identify students that might benefit from additional support. For example, there have been suggestions that we should consider changes to classes, that every student should have a formal secondary advisor, that we should change the way we communicate information about the qualifying examination to better clarify that process, that students are worried about support during advisor changes, or that we should focus on improving the overwork culture. Aggregate information about student experiences will help guide potential policy changes. More locally, we may not have made all students aware of relevant resources, such as changes to the graduate student health care plan this summer under COVID-19 or the Engineering C.A.R.E. Center, and face-to-face check-ins will help us identify students who might benefit from follow-up information and support.

On a personal note, I have worked with Sarah extensively over the last semester and I am fully confident in her, I believe open-ended check-ins are critical to a more proactive understanding of the issues facing CSE, I want us to reach out to everyone so that fewer students fall through the cracks, and this information really is used: your collective voices as graduate students are powerful tools in changing CSE for the better.

– Wes Weimer, chair of CSE’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee