As an aspiring student affairs professional, if I have not learned anything else in my graduate studies, I have learned that ALL students should have diverse learning experiences that help them grow and develop holistically. Sometimes these experiences happen outside of the classroom in extracurricular activities. This does not only hold true for undergraduate students but for graduate students as well! It is so important to get involved in student organizations.
Here at IU, there are many opportunities to get involved. Our umbrella organization, the Graduate and Professional Student Organization, hosts lots of great events and programs to help graduate students get connected to other students and ultimately provide an outlet for us to build networks and a graduate/professional student community. Not only do they provide social events but they offer workshops on things that can help us professionally such as grant-writing and CV preparation.
Additionally, there are graduate student organizations for specific groups of students based upon your major or even cultural groups. One of those groups is the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA). I currently serve as the President of this organization. This organization allows Black graduate students to network with each other and build a community that honestly, may be difficult to find as a minority on campus. Like the GPSO, we host everything from social to professional events/programs. Some of these include: game nights, film screenings, mentorship opportunities, service initiatives, and research showcases. We also partner with other organizations such as the Latino Graduate Student Association so that we can connect with other students but most importantly, get to know them and different aspects of their culture. I credit the BGSA for helping me meet other Black scholars when I first moved to Bloomington. The current members took me under their wings, let me know the ins and outs, ups and downs, triumphs and challenges of being a Black grad student at IU. The experiences I have had are golden and have provided me with countless opportunities.
No matter how involved you are in your research or coursework, take some time to get to know these organizations! Having networks with other grad students will keep you from feeling like you’re in this graduate school thing alone, which is not the case! Research a group you may be interested in. Visit their social media pages or websites. You may see something you like!