First Year Graduate Experiences

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Department of Mathematics

Mathematical Landscapes Seminar

One way in which students are introduced to research early in their graduate careers is through the "Mathematical Landscapes" seminar, a one-credit course aimed at first year graduate students and advanced undergraduates. The fall semester seminar introduces students to the range of mathematical research that is done in our department. It also provides a perspective on how different areas of mathematics fit together. The seminar meets weekly in an informal atmosphere (complete with coffee and cookies). The talks given are by faculty and postdocs from our department.

Introduction to Teaching Seminar

As a large percentage of our graduate students go on to positions at four-year colleges, it is crucial to provide these students with good training as future teachers. The one-credit "Introduction to Teaching Seminar" is targeted at first year graduate students and is also open to undergraduates who are considering graduate school. It is offered in the spring semester, as a counterpart to the fall Mathematical Landscapes seminar. Presentations include such issues as preparing a syllabus, preparing a lecture, grading, facilitating group work, what to do if you suspect academic dishonesty, and the like. In addition, there will be several hands-on sessions in which participants prepare and give practice "mini-lectures", which are videotaped and analyzed.

Qualifying Exam Workshop

Each May, the Department offers three two-week Qualifying Exam Workshops. These workshops are run by advanced graduate students and benefit graduate students who are studying for the Department’s Qualifying Exam in algebra, analysis or applied mathematics. By having graduate students develop and run the workshops, we separate the faculty responsibility of creating and grading exams from the responsibility of advising graduate students ad they study for the exams. As an added bonus, the workshop provides advanced graduate students with an opportunity to mentor younger graduate students. The most significant benefit of the workshop is that a much higher percent of our first year graduate students choose to take one or more exams, leading to an increase in the number who qualified on one or more exams. Responsibility for organizing the Qualifying Exam Workshops rotates among the faculty.

Peer and Faculty Mentoring

Each new graduate student is assigned a Peer Mentor and a Faculty Mentor. The Peer Mentor is an advanced graduate student and the Faculty Mentor is a member of the permanent faculty. The Peer Mentor and the Faculty Mentor share the responsibility of helping new graduate students adjust to their new surrounding (in Lincoln and as members of our graduate program), counseling them on managing their time, and advising them regarding both on their coursework and their teaching responsibilities. As the graduate students progress through their graduate studies, the mentors provide advice and encouragement. It is assumed that once a graduate student chooses a PhD advisor, that person will assume the role of Faculty Mentor although the original Faculty Mentor remains available to provide advice as needed.

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