The University of Minnesota Graduate Program in Neuroscience Student Board

What is the issue we are trying to address?

The students in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience (GPN) have traditionally met once a year to discuss issues relevant to the student community. During this meeting, the students generate many new initiatives, but a format did not exist to provide follow-through and coordination of plans. Additionally, students felt they lacked a cohesive voice in discussing these new initiatives with program faculty and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

How do we know that this is an issue?

Inspired by discussion at the Summer 2004 Carnegie Convening, student members of CID subcommittees held focus groups with GPN students. The focus groups revealed that students perceived a lack of:

1. Coordination and follow-through of ideas generated at the annual student meetings

2. Student community (i.e. students do not meet regularly)

3. Shared knowledge of results of standing committees (student, student/faculty) in the program

4. Opportunity and channels to discuss issues relevant to the Ph.D. student experience.

Additionally, the DGS felt that communicating in a one-on-one manner with students regarding student issues is not efficient.

Finally, other institutions participating in the CID have either a similar board or a CID subcommittee devoted singly to student issues.

What is the change or innovation that is intended to address this issue?

The students in the GPN created a Student Board.

The structure of the board:

  • Five student members, consisting of a student representative from each year in the program
  • One senior student, nominated by the board, will coordinate the board members
  • The board will meet once/month for an hour
  • Board meetings will have a specific agenda
  • Meetings are open to all students
  • The first meeting will be in November, 2004
  • Board members will serve a 1 year term.
  • The purpose of the board is:

    1. To make the student voice stronger and more organized

    2. To hold the student-organized committees accountable to action (i.e. student webpage committee)

    3. To convene the annual student meeting (previously held annually, now to be conducted quarterly).

    Aaron Overland, First Year Student Rep
    Aaron Overland, First Year Student Rep

    Zeb Kurth-Nelson, Second Year Student Rep
    Zeb Kurth-Nelson, Second Year Student Rep

    Catherine Satterfield, Third Year Student Rep
    Catherine Satterfield, Third Year Student Rep

    Katherine Himes, Board Coordinator and Fourth Year Student Rep
    Katherine Himes, Board Coordinator and Fourth Year Student Rep

    Jadin Jackson, Fifth Year & Beyond Student Rep
    Jadin Jackson, Fifth Year & Beyond Student Rep

    What is the intended effect of the innovation?

    As a result of this student board, we expect several changes:

    1. Better organization of student initiatives that are a result of the annual student meeting and CID student focus groups, including

  • using the CID toolkit to coordinate student web pages and have useful information available to current and prospective GPN students on rotations, publications, courses taken, etc.
  • updating the student handbook
  • 2. An enhanced feeling of student community.

    3. Shorter, more effective, and well-attended quarterly student meetings.

    4. Creation of a link between program faculty/DGS and students. In addition, the board may obtain approval from the DGS to act as a filter for problems, including issues with an advisor. This idea is still being discussed.

    What data or evidence will demonstrate the effect of our innovation?

    Evidence that will demonstrate the effect of the GPN Student Board includes:

  • Completion of student initiatives
  • Attendance at board meetings (students can and want to be part of the community)
  • Feedback from the DGS and program faculty
  • Follow-up student survey at a quarterly all-student meeting.

  • Why did we select that approach?

  • The GPN Student Board will be more effective in coordinating student efforts than one-on-one meetings between students and the DGS.
  • Students want to know what student reps on faculty committees and annually-created student committees are doing more than once/year.
  • This format promotes more interaction among graduate students.
  • The Student Board provides an opportunity for student leadership.
  • Similar student boards exist in other Ph.D. programs, and these boards seem to enjoy the benefits we are seeking.

  • This snapshot was prepared by Katherine Himes, Fourth Year Student Rep and current Board Coordinator.

    This electronic portfolio was created using the KML Snapshot Tool™, a part of the KEEP Toolkit™,
    developed at the Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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