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New series to help support grad students of color

Topics for discussions will include imposter syndrome, building community, finances

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The RESET Series aims to create a safe space for graduate students of color to engage in coversations. It is supported by the Brown Center for Students of Color and the Graduate School.

The RESET Series — a set of lunchtime discussions that take place over the course of the semester — aims to serve as a space where graduate students of color can initiate dialogue, create bonds and learn about available resources, according to the University’s website. These discussions, which began in early February, give graduate students the opportunity to ask questions as they settle into the University, said Marlina Duncan, associate dean of diversity initiatives at the Graduate School.

The RESET Series is part of a greater effort by the Graduate School and the Brown Center for Students of Color to increase the retention of graduate students of color, Duncan said. Students had previously spoken up about the need for more inclusive events to increase participation from students of color, Duncan added. To address their concerns, a survey was sent out last summer to new graduate students to pick topics “they were specifically worried about for graduate school,” wrote Tina Park GS, graduate coordinator at the BCSC, in an email to The Herald.

The most popular topics from the survey included imposter syndrome, finding community and finances, Duncan said. Combined with feedback from the Diversity Advisory Board at the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, the survey results helped the graduate school plan new events such as its first student-of-color orientation and the RESET Series, Duncan said.

“We knew that a lot of conversations we began at the orientation needed to continue throughout the year, so we organized the RESET Series,” Park wrote.

This will be the second RESET Series — the first series took place last semester and covered topics such as imposter syndrome and men of color, Duncan said.

The “lack of events that are centered around students of color” leads to lower participation, said Arjee Restar GS, a member of the Diversity Advisory Board. “We were trying to address that by creating specific events that celebrate individuals of color.” The board also focused on “specific events that motivate students of color, including trans and queer students of color,” Restar added in a follow-up email.

Although graduate student socials are held at the beginning of each semester, the task of supporting students of color is handed to individual departments, Duncan said. “Some students of color are the only ones in their departments,” so the RESET series aims to provide more central support throughout the academic year, she added.

J.J. Lomax GS, who attended the RESET Series event titled “Cultivating Healthy Mentoring Relationships,” explained that the lunch was a space where “people could ask whatever they wanted to ask.”

For Farah Sherine GS, the RESET Series event on healthy mentorship served as a supplement to what she had learned from her group advisor at the School of Public Health about how to approach a potential advisor for a thesis.

Shekinah Fashaw GS appreciated the launch of the new series. “Because the School of Public Health is down by the river, I don’t get to see folks from main campus often,” Fashaw said. “It was good to hear from the older graduate students as well as the faculty and staff there.” She also found the event more helpful than support from her own department. A class held by the School of Public Health discussing how to build a relationship with an advisor  “wasn’t really as organized or directed as the RESET Series version,” she said.

Lomax also attended the mentorship discussion because he wanted to ask people in his lab about their experiences with mentorship. In his own experience, Lomax noted that there was a “weird power dynamic (with an advisor) where you’re not sure if you’re overstepping any lines.”  Attending the discussion gave him helpful advice on how to improve his relationships with his advisor and mentors.

Past attendees plan to attend future events as well. Britt Threatt GS, who attended the mentorship event, plans to attend the “First Year Graduate Experience” event, which is the next RESET series discussion March 9.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article stated that according to the University’s website, the RESET Series aims to serve as a safe space where graduate students of color can initiate dialogue, create bonds and learn about available resources. In fact, the University’s website does not describe the RESET series as a safe space. The Herald regrets the error.