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Explore GSEE’s History

This story is part of a series celebrating the 50th anniversary of GSEE. Learn more.

Welcome to the start of the GSEE story! We are so proud of our history, our struggles, our achievements, and, especially, our alumni. 

As part of our 50th anniversary celebration, we produced a timeline that incorporates profiles of our alumni from the past five decades. We hope these profiles give you a sense of the evolution and impact of GSEE more than just the dates and facts would.

Our story officially begins in 1970, when the Office of the Recruitment for Minority Graduate and Professional Students was established. 

But of course, there was so much that led to that office. In 1968, the Black Student Union was created and immediately established itself as a student organization to be taken seriously, issuing a list of demands to President Odegaard, and then staging a sit-in to have those demands met. This prompted a cascade of changes at the University of Washington, including the formation of what is now known as the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity (OMA&D).

Initially a part of the Office of Minority Affairs, the Office of the Recruitment for Minority Graduate and Professional Students’ main activities were recruitment, counseling and providing financial support to students of color. 

Later that year, President Charles E. Odegaard approved the joint administrative title of Assistant Dean of the Graduate School and Special Assistant to the Vice President for Minority Affairs, starting a formal relationship between the two units. 

Establishing this relationship meant that specific attention was now being given to the unique challenges and needs of graduate students of color. You’ll hear alumni’s experiences through the years, how their graduate education experience at UW was, and all the myriad ways that GSEE supported them, and where they are in life now.

This timeline is based on OMA&D’s 50th anniversary timeline. Special thanks to OMA&D and UWAA for their partnerships and support; Jessica Salvador, whose student paper on GSEE’s history was invaluable; Linda Dodson of UW Archives, and to all the alum who generously shared their stories. 

Fostering Inclusive Classrooms as a TA

How do we, as TAs or RAs, work to include all students we work with, given the difficult times the nation is in? — Anonymous 

This week’s answer is courtesy of Gonzalo Guzman, pre-doctoral instructor in American Ethnic Studies and the College of Education. 

To say we live in “difficult times” would be an understatement. This is why it is our duty as TAs, RAs, or Instructors of Record to make sure that our students feel included in our classrooms. By “inclusion” I mean building and fostering a community in your class that validates and respects students. In difficult times, the community you build in your classroom can be a refuge, where students focus on learning and know that their experiences matter to you and their colleagues in the class.

Simply put, inclusion and validation of your students should be central to your philosophy of education/teaching. Students know when TAs/RAs/Instructors care about them, are accessible, and make efforts to include them. This is not content bound, but is a philosophy of work. For instance, a TA can teach content from a discipline or field that focuses on topics such as social history and identity constructions, and still develop a working relationship or classroom where their students don’t necessarily feel included or welcome. Even if the content reflects most of the students’ realities, if the teaching style and the overall classroom environment do not, then students will not feel a part of the learning environment.

Including all the students we work with is relational, continuous work, and it doesn’t need to be a  drastic transformation. It can simply start with check-ins with your students. Other ways to do this are to make assignments more accessible and responsive, adapt student input into your work, and make a collaborative space where your students know you are working together in a shared classroom. How you do this is up to you; it is dependent on the community you make and the relationship you have with your students. How do we include all of our students in these difficult times? We do the work. We teach and work to the benefit and developing lives of our students.

Finding a Cultural Fit with Your Employer

It can be so exciting to get a job offer or to find a postdoc position that it can be tempting to look no further.  However, finding the right “fit” involves many dimensions beyond just the research focus. Universities, companies, governmental agencies, and non-profits each have their own cultures. Furthermore, individual departments or even specific research groups may operate with their own norms and practices. Regardless of your sector, you will spend a lot of your waking life at work. Doing your research on the work environment will go a long way towards determining your long-term satisfaction and success.

Often, people believe an organization’s culture is the same as its mission. However, the culture goes beyond statements to understanding how work gets done and what work gets valued, and by whom. You will be making a big decision for both your short- and long-term future. Therefore, you should reflect on the things that matter most to you in a future employer and job responsibility. With this information in hand, you will be set up for a successful transition, and hopefully, a long and satisfying career.

How do you find out if something is the right fit for you? Here are a few questions you can ask.

Where Do You Fit? First ask yourself what you need to not just survive, but to flourish. Not sure? Here are some self-assessment questions to get you started.

Do you agree with the company’s stated mission, vision and values? All employers publish their mission statement. Make sure it fits with your own convictions. Do your due diligence and interview current (or former) employees to see if and how those values are practiced or demonstrated day-to-day. Find out how the organization is viewed within the community where it resides.

With which management style are you most comfortable? For example, do you like decisions to be made autocratically or independently; based on consensus building or at the whim of a single individual? There are many methods of communication — do you like meetings and face-to-face interactions or would you rather respond to written requests (e.g., email and task lists)? What is your place within the organizational chart, and will you have enough access to your supervisors and decision makers?

What is the work-life balance you are seeking? Do you “live to work” or “work to live”? These two choices are very different, and they will affect personal relationships at work. For example, are you free (and willing) to work late nights or on weekends? Will you feel left out if your colleagues regularly go to happy hour while you have other after-work commitments? Importantly, is the job located in a part of the country or the world where you can be happy?

What are the day-to-day practices at work? You should be aware of general policies governing your workday: e.g., dress code, benefits, annual review, methods for evaluation and improvement, etc. How transparent and equitable are the practices for receiving recognition and promotion? It’s important to gather as much information prior to transitioning to a new job so you’re not surprised on day one.

Do Your Homework: Treat your job search like a research project.  Gather as much information as possible to inform your decision. Don’t think, “I can tolerate anything — how bad can an organization’s culture be?” This is simply not true, and you want to set yourself up for success!

Check references: When discussing a potential job offer, ask to review employee surveys. Make use of your interactions with current employees during the interview process to ask pointed questions about their experiences and whether they’re truly happy. Importantly, ask about employee turnover rate — this number will be low in successful organizations with satisfied employees.

Set priorities: It’s unlikely a single opportunity will satisfy all of the things you’re looking for in an organizational culture. Therefore, after your self-assessment, ask yourself what the 1-2 things that are most important to you? If you are not sure how to assess or prioritize, check out Doug’s Guides for a few short self-assessments that can help you learn more about your own work style and work culture preferences.

Acknowledgments: Insights shared here were featured in a workshop by Claudia Adkison and Kevin Grigsby at the National Postdoctoral Association meeting, March 2017 San Francisco.


Self-Reflection and Dialogue

Many of us will be spending the long weekend with loved ones—both biological and chosen.  A time for sharing and holding space with family and friends is much-needed—not only because you have all been working so hard this quarter—but also because the current political climate has been difficult to bear (to say the least).

This time can also serve as a starting point for us to think beyond solely expressing gratitude—and beyond feeling despair—to in fact being self-reflective about initial ways to show up for social justice.  And to put that self-reflection into dialogue with loved ones.  Here are a few examples (not exhaustive by any means):

Learn.  If you’ve been curious or interested in supporting communities most impacted by multiple oppressions—Black and Native communities, Trans and Queer communities, Muslim communities, People with Disabilities, and Undocumented families are just a few examples—an important first step is to learn about their diverse histories of community resistance and resilience in the United States.

Listen.  Attend public events where the voices of marginalized communities are truly centered and amplified.  Listen with humility.  Sit with, rather than respond to, what might feel like a knee-jerk reaction to interrupt or be defensive—and just listen.  Hear from multiple voices within a single community—as no individual can represent the whole.  Here are concrete ways listening can be used to further social justice.

Dialogue.  If we are to end systems of oppression like racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, or xenophobia, conversations about these issues must be initiated within our own communities—amongst our own families and friends.  I know what you’re thinking, “You want me to start a conversation about oppression with family during the holiday?”  Not necessarily, because when and how you chat with family and friends depends on the context.  We do know that ignoring the reality of oppressions will not make these issues go away.  It is through the recognition of this reality that we can begin to move forward. And always remember that you can practice self-care during the holiday.

Take good care this weekend, and we applaud you not only for your commitment to intellectual and professional pursuits but for your community engagement as well.

With Respect,

Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan
Core Programs Team

Addressing Difference and Growing Your Support

Are any of these thoughts affecting you?

“I should understand that theory or concept already!”
“If I speak up to say I don’t understand something, I’ll look stupid in class.”
“I’m not participating the way everyone else is, so there must be something wrong with me.”
“Where is my community?”

Every graduate and professional student experiences doubt, anxiety or critical self-talk due to the demands of their educational programs. At the same time, there is no universal graduate student experience, and the long-held idea that you’ll automatically be successful if you just work hard enough is a myth. The reality is not everyone enters graduate school with the same access to social, cultural, professional and financial resources and not everyone is treated with equity. This is especially true if you are a first-generation graduate student, person of color, woman, person with visible or invisible disabilities, international student, or a member of the LGBT, Queer or Trans community (one can also embody multiple, intersecting identities and backgrounds).

Sometimes asking for help can feel like taking a risk—that it calls attention to your difference and to your vulnerability. It’s no wonder then that asking for support on campus can either feel truly unfamiliar or feel like a daunting task for many.

Core Programs’ mission is to promote an environment where all graduate and professional students can thrive and to suggest strategies that encourage students to seek out the support they need to reach their intellectual, professional and interpersonal goals. We also see our work as aligned with larger, institutional efforts to address the complexities of difference at the University of Washington.

Here are some tips to help you remind yourself that you belong here and that your work is important:

When you feel you don’t belong. Also known as imposter syndrome, it’s the persistent, internalized belief that “you’re not smart enough, competent enough, or productive enough” to be in graduate school, and that peers, faculty members, and your department chair are somehow going to find out. Notice when these thoughts come up and stop yourself.  As communication studies scholar Dr. Felicia Harris states, “The nagging voice that says I don’t belong discredits everything I’ve done to get to a certain point. Pursuing an advanced degree is an admirable and challenging feat, and I remind myself of this by celebrating every milestone.” Milestones can be getting your reading done, mustering the nerve to ask a professor for their mentorship, or gaining teaching, research, or career experience. Read more from Dr. Harris.

Mentoring needs. There are numerous reasons why you seek out mentors in graduate and professional school.  The obvious ones are to develop intellectual and professional relationships with faculty advisors whose research or career backgrounds resonate with you. Sometimes a single mentor can support you in multiple ways. Yet it also turns out that we often need a mentor network for different dimensions of our lives. Start with an inventory and see where your needs are being met and where you may have gaps. Some dimensions include:

Academic — Specific skills or techniques, new knowledge domains
Career — Sponsorship, exposure, coaching, protection, challenging
Psychosocial — Role modeling, acceptance and confirmation, counseling, friendship
Values — Worldviews, belief systems, politics

Grow your support. In our first fall quarter newsletter, we encouraged you to get to know the campus community by attending departmental and welcome events to make meaningful connections with peers, staff and faculty. Other ways to grow your support system are identifying those safe people you can confide in when things feel tough. These can be close friends, loved ones, members of your faith-based or spiritual community, and even a qualified mental health professional (there’s no shame in seeking counseling).

Jaye Sablan & Kelly Edwards
Core Programs, The Graduate School

Additional Resources

What Influences Your Mentoring Needs, UW Graduate School