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Lehigh celebrates Graduate Student Appreciation Week



Graduate students enjoy ice cream during the social.

In mid-April, Lehigh University said thank you to its graduate students for the critical role they play in a research institution, the richness of diversity they bring to the student body, and the assistance they provide to faculty through teaching and research.

Graduate Appreciation Week, presented by Graduate Student Life Office, brought hundreds of grad students together for a variety of special events that recognized their important contributions to Lehigh.

“The goal was to make sure that graduate students know we’re paying attention to them and that we’re appreciative of all their efforts as teachers, as scholars and as researchers,” said Kathleen Hutnik, director of graduate student life. “It was a chance for them in April, which is always nuts, to take a little break and enjoy themselves, and a chance for the university to say thank you.”

According to Hutnik, most universities focus their student-life efforts on undergraduates. Yet graduate students’ special circumstances—with some of them attending school full-time while others squeeze classes in among careers and family obligations—call for equal attention, and Lehigh has responded.

“There’s definitely a need,” she said. “With graduate education, people tend to be very much department-focused rather than university-focused. That’s great, but one of the advantages of Lehigh, which has a smaller graduate program, is that there really are opportunities for them to cross-pollinate with people in different departments. We think that’s really good for social and intellectual reasons.”

The events of Graduate Appreciation Week were designed to foster such interaction. From ice cream and pizza socials to a party and picnic, from an advisor-advisee luncheon featuring Middle Eastern food to a sushi dinner and spa night, Graduate Student Life concentrated on welcoming as diverse a group of students as possible.

“Events like what we had this week really bring out everybody, regardless of their country, regardless of their department—they’re together,” Hutnik said. “Of course, it’s all bound by food. Someone was joking it should have been Gain Weight Week.”

The events were well attended, with some so popular that people had to be turned away.

“To me that’s a really good sign that the university and the professors are paying more attention to their graduate students,” said Hutnik. “Right now the university is undergoing a strategic-thinking process, and President Gast has spotlighted graduate research. There’s a raised awareness about graduate students and graduate education on campus right now.”

--Tom Durso


Posted on Monday, April 21, 2008

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