Grad Cohort Celebrates Fifth Year

Originally Printed in Winter/Spring 2008 Newsletter

Grad Cohort 2008The Grad Cohort Program is under the leadership of Mary Lou Soffa, University of Virginia, and Mary Jane Irwin, Pennsylvania State University. The Grad Cohort Program brings together women graduate students in their first, second, and third years of graduate school for a two-day workshop on graduate school survival, career planning, and networking. CRA-W recently held the 5th instantiation of the Grad Cohort workshop on March 13- 14, 2008 in Seattle, WA. The program has grown substantially from the initial workshop in 2004.

Year Graduate students Applied Accepted
2004 1st year 100 100
2005 1st, 2nd year 225 200
2006 1st, 2nd year 326 200
2007 1st, 2nd year 279 245

Of the 291 students invited to attend in 2008, 230 graduate students in computer science, computer engineering, or technologies were able to attend. The program was expanded this year to accommodate third-year students.

Grad Cohort 2008Eleven of the invited panelists were students who had attended previous Grad Cohort workshops. The remaining 26 panelists were accomplished computing researchers from academia, industry or government labs.

The three-track program (different tracks for first-, second-, and third-year students), includes a mix of formal presentations, informal discussions and networking activities. The panels focus primarily on sharing strategies for surviving and thriving in graduate school as well as advice on a more personal level based on the panelists’ own experiences. The panel topics for the 2008 workshop included M.S. Job Search and Resume Writing Clinic, Finding a Summer Internship, Navigating a Technical Meeting, Finding a Research Topic, The Confidence Crisis, and Networking and Professional Development.

In addition to the more formal panel activities, the students participate in informal networking activities (i.e., being grouped at lunch by research areas, developing and giving a brief “elevator speech” to learn how to communicate concisely and effectively, and a reception co-hosted by Microsoft, Google, and CRA-W). The workshop also includes a poster session at which the second- and third-year students have an opportunity to share their research.

After the Workshop, participants are encouraged to continue to build mentoring relationships and develop peer networks that will provide guidance and help throughout the remainder of their graduate careers. Participants are added to the Grad Cohort listserv and wiki. Students have also started a group on FaceBook to continue to network.

Plans are underway for the next Grad Cohort Program to be held in California in spring 2009. Information about po- tential speakers is being gathered and potential sites are being considered.

CRA-W thanks Microsoft Research and Google for their generous support of the Grad Cohort program.