Graduate Student Appreciation Week Guest Post: Matthew Capdevielle

In my role as Director of the Writing Center and faculty member in the University Writing Program, I work closely with Notre Dame graduate students in a number of areas. Much of that work is described on paper as mentorship. For example, I am charged with serving as mentor to the graduate students I hire and train to work as writing consultants in the Writing Center. For years I have also helped orient graduate students to teach writing in the classroom by leading a “mentor group” for beginning instructors in the Writing and Rhetoric program.

But in the eight years that I’ve been at Notre Dame, I have received far more than I have given in the realm of teaching and mentorship. Each time I have a conversation with graduate students whom I am ostensibly mentoring, I find myself involved in a deeply collaborative venture that challenges my own thinking and draws me toward a more mature understanding of the nature of the work that I am doing here.

It is precisely these collaborative relationships with graduate students that have taught me the most important lessons about teaching. The insights generated in a one-hour conversation with two or three new writing teachers, the depth of honest reflection on teaching practices that plays out in a staff meeting with graduate writing consultants, the creativity in assignment design that emerges from a sharing session with first semester graduate writing instructors—these things are amazing, but they are also surprisingly typical of the experience of working with Notre Dame graduate students.

In fact, I am not alone in recognizing the many gifts these students have to offer in conversations about teaching–those “mentor groups” have recently been recast as “dialogue groups” in recognition of the truly collaborative and collegial character of our mutually enriching work. A high bar has been set—not simply by the high standards of faculty at the University, but by the deep commitment to excellence that is the hallmark of graduate students here.

This continues to amaze me and to challenge me to strive for excellence in all of my work at Notre Dame. The privilege of studying, writing, and teaching in collaboration with Notre Dame graduate students is something I will forever count as one of the greatest blessings in my life.

 

Matthew Capdevielle is the Director of the University Writing Center and an Associate Professor for the University Writing Program.

Graduate Student Appreciation Week Guest Post: Mae Kilker

It’s easy to forget in the day-to-day bustling life on campus that Notre Dame is not just an undergraduate university. Graduate Students make up a third of the overall student body here, but you don’t see them tossing beanbags, setting up hammocks, or throwing the pigskin around on the quads in the same numbers. They don’t live in the Hogwarts-like residence halls scattered among the classroom, lab, and office buildings. Brace yourself, but many grad students have never been to a home football game. (Gasp!)

Nonetheless, grad students do leave the lab and the library to participate in campus events, and I think we’re all better for it. While it’s important to focus and make progress on your research, you’re missing out if you never enter into the stream of the campus community.

My favorite memories are also some of the strangest things I’ve done on campus:

  • Brazilian samba dancing in the LaFortune Ballroom with the ND Club of Brazil. They make it look so easy!
  • Learning just how hard it is to flip a hamburger on a 4-foot-long grill when I volunteered for the GSU concession fundraiser before a home game
  • Watching my childhood favorite, The Princess Bride, at midnight in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center with free popcorn!

There were some awkward moments, too, like at the Rec Center Zumba course where everyone else clearly knew who Shakira was and how to dance like her – and I clearly did not. But that made me laugh, too, which is just like exercising. Right?

I’ve explored many different features of campus: the Snite Museum, the Basilica, the Grotto, lakes, golf courses, and the near-constant flow of graduate student workshops, lectures, receptions, etc., offered by my department or other organizations. Yet I’m constantly surprised by what else is happening here – like when the Wonder Woman movie played in Washington Hall, with free cupcakes from Gigi’s Cupcakes courtesy of the Student Activity Office. Or what I’m looking forward to later this week, the Grad Student Appreciation Week “Dogs & Dogs” event on the North Quad. Hot dogs and therapy dogs? What’s not to love?

Grad Student Appreciation Week reminds our grad students that you are ND, too. We’re glad you’re here, and we’d love to have you join in the fun. After all, I can’t be the only one dancing so weirdly in public….​

 

Mae Kilker is a doctoral candidate at the Medieval Institute and the Assistant Program Director for Professional Development in the Graduate School.

Graduate Student Appreciation Week 2017

Today is the first day of Graduate Student Appreciation Week: a full week, sponsored annually by Grad Life and other university departments, to show a bit of love to one of Notre Dame’s most underrated populations. At an institution whose resources are primarily devoted to the education of undergraduates, graduate education may seem to be an afterthought, and graduate students may perceive themselves as less than full citizens of their university.

But even a cursory glance at Notre Dame’s Mission Statement shows that this is not so. In this statement, the university dedicates itself to “the pursuit and sharing of truth for its own sake”.  This aspect of the university’s mission is rooted in the Catholic tradition, which affirms the preciousness of truth, wherever it may be found, because in coming to know the truth, we also come to know God. Faith affirms that God has revealed himself through Jesus Christ his Son, whom St. John the Evangelist calls the logos: the word, the principle of wisdom and rationality that sets the cosmos in order and gives life and being as a loving gift to all creatures. As we explore that cosmos and its creatures, we come to understand the principles of their order and the principles by which we ought to order our own lives and communities for the purpose of perpetuating and amplifying the divinely-given goods of life in the world.

As students, our primary method of doing this is through learning and research. As the Mission Statement goes on to say, “Notre Dame also has a responsibility to advance knowledge in a search for truth through original inquiry and publication. This responsibility engages the faculty and students in all areas of the University, but particularly in graduate and professional education and research.” This places graduate students right at the heart of the university’s enterprise, since it is they who are being trained to carry out the tasks to which the university is dedicated.

While it is to be hoped that this learning and inquiry is in itself reward enough for the long hours of work that graduate students pour into their vocations, it is still nice to be appreciated. And that’s what this week is all about.

Check your inbox each day for a schedule of events and for the daily deals and discounts that our campus partners are making available to graduate students. You can also view the entire week’s schedule here. Each of Grad Life’s daily e-mails will also feature a profile of a current graduate student, highlighting how his or her work supports the mission of Notre Dame.

So, happy Graduate Student Appreciation Week! Enjoy what’s on offer, and keep up the good work.