In the GradFUTURES Spotlight series, Princeton graduate students share in their own words about their experiences in one of the GradFUTURES Fellowship programs: the Community College Teaching Fellowship Program, the University Administrative Fellowship Program, or the GradFUTURES Social Impact Fellowship Program.
Where and when did your Fellowship take place?
I was a University Administrative Fellow with the English Department and the Graduate School.
I am a PhD candidate in the English and African American Studies Departments. Working on my UAF projects meant that I was able to initiate changes that could positively impact the graduate school experience of my colleagues who have more recently joined the program and students who come after them.
What drew you to the University Administrative Fellowship and this particular Fellowship?
Initially, I didn’t really know what the University Administrative Fellowships were. I remember in the spring of 2020, graduate students were panicked about the academic job market in COVID’s wake. As a student representative in the Working Group for Graduate Issues (WGGI), I asked the department to improve communication and expose us to opportunities beyond the academy. The department responded positively, and a faculty member (Meredith Martin) created the position to enable a student to help tackle these issues while having funding and support. When she put out the call, it took a while, but I answered!
Can you share a bit about the Fellowship experience and the projects to which you contributed?
Since I began the fellowship, I have taken on several projects: drafting campaigns to collect alumni career interviews; revising the Graduate Studies Handbook; convening a committee to initiate Ph.D. program reforms; and spearheading a new Orientation Seminar to familiarize students with the program and the available resources. I am grateful for the faculty and graduate students who collaborated tirelessly with me on actualizing those reforms. We scaled a personal call for improvement to institutionalized methods of serving every student. Now in the second semester of the fellowship, another Communications Fellow – Andrew Finn – has joined the team, and he is always making such rich, invaluable contributions. We are currently focused on revising the Graduate Student Handbook, among some other tasks that he and I carry out separately.
How did these experiences help you?
This UAF really helped me to peek “behind the veil,” so to speak, and observe the systems, hierarchies, processes, and procedures of the department- and university-level administration. It also taught me about myself. Between my academic research and my fellowship projects, I realized that what I love in both areas is problem solving. This experience showed me that I can exercise that value in multiple ways professionally.
Can you share some reflections on the mentorship component of the Fellowship?
When my project was at its height, I met with my mentors – Dr. James Van Wyck and Dr. Meredith Martin – once weekly. They both brought a level of care, genuine interest, commitment, and energy to their mentorship that really kept me going. I have felt so supported and encouraged every step of the way. They have both been so invested in the various projects I carry out, and they were able to be kind and attentive when necessary, while also leaving room for flexibility when the demands of the project shifted.
Best advice for Graduate Students considering a Fellowship through GradFUTURES?
Graduate school is the perfect time to explore a variety of professional avenues and build lasting connections with people in so many walks of life. GradFUTURES – with all its resources and its knowledgeable team – is perfectly poised to be a conduit between you and that exploration. My advice: if you’re considering trying a fellowship related to something you might be interested in, I say, try it!