This blog post was written by Sarah Madsen, the Graduate Apprentice for the Graduate Research Center.
We are collectively experiencing a season of change, grief, and newness as COVID-19 has shifted our daily realities. At Baylor, students are now studying from their childhood desks and attending class over Zoom; faculty and staff are working from home, doing their best to teach and support students while managing new roles and expectations. For me, the past two months have been bittersweet: enjoying extra time with family while figuring out how to work and learn from home has been fun, stressful, and new! As I look out toward the next month, this feeling of things both happy and sad, of experiences both exciting and mournful, of days both enjoyable and unproductive continues. From missed graduation ceremonies and changing summer itineraries to hopeful fall plans and reunions, May will certainly be both bitter and sweet.
For me personally, the month of May holds an extra layer of change as I transition into a new role in the School of Education, leaving behind an incredible apprenticeship experience. Since the summer of 2017, I have had the pleasure to serve as the graduate apprentice in the Graduate Research Center, which is housed in the W. R. Poage Legislative Library. In my role, I supported Poage Library projects and events, as well as helped to oversee reservations, usage, and programming in the GRC. Additionally, I served as a liaison to the wider campus community by sitting on a variety of committees and planning groups, and by acting as a point of connection to the Graduate School and the Graduate Student Association (GSA). My work, then, drew on what I was learning in the classroom as a doctoral student in Baylor’s Higher Education Studies and Leadership program, as well as skills and lessons honed during my time in the libraries. Over the last three years, I have grown as a graduate student, as a colleague, and as a future scholar-practitioner, and for these experiences and relationships I am forever grateful! The staff of the GRC and Poage are a dream team, led by Director Mary Goolsby, to whom I am especially thankful for her mentorship, encouragement, and kindness during my time at Poage.
My favorite memories of Poage Library and the GRC include the annual Graduate Student Orientation Information Fair, and the creative ways we celebrated Baylor graduate students throughout the year. Each fall, it was a joy to welcome the entering Graduate School class to Baylor and the libraries, sharing with them our many spaces, resources, and faculty and staff – as well as sharing a Dr Pepper float together! This event, hosted in conjunction with the Graduate School and the Graduate Student Association, reminds me of what is at the heart of the GRC, namely collaboration and community. From meeting new people to seeing old friends, the Info Fair is always an exciting start to the academic year in the GRC. Throughout the year, which in time grows busy with coursework and grading and our lives outside of Baylor, I also loved the opportunities to celebrate and thank our many patrons. Homecoming, the GRC birthday, finals, and Dia Del Oso were all days on which we could show our gratitude to grad students, oftentimes in the form of notes, coffee, and snacks! Graduate school is a taxing experience, so it was fulfilling to be able to cheer on my peers with small pick-me-ups each semester. Overall, my time in the GRC was marked by work that allowed me to share my knowledge of campus and its resources and to show my appreciation for those who make up the Baylor community.
Ultimately, the GRC strives to support graduate students’ academic and social interests and needs through an array of spaces, programming, and collaborative opportunities: from hosting GSA events to providing a break room to share a meal with a peer, the GRC is a unique place on campus where all graduate students can study, socialize, and be in community with each other. The GRC, then, is a home away from home for students across campus, where they can recharge or get work done away from their busy lives. It has been a privilege to serve my fellow peers, dreaming of new ways to support them (like the Collaboration Plus room with its built-in videoconferencing capabilities or the KIC scanner in the Pattie Orr Graduate Research Commons!) toward their goals.
As I look to the coming months, I am excited about my return to campus and the long-awaited reunions that will take place, but at the same time I am holding space for that which is changing, including my role on campus. I encourage all graduate students to take advantage of the incredible spaces housed in Poage, including the GRC and our beloved Incubator, not only for schoolwork but also for catching up with a friend over coffee or meeting with a mentor. I will miss the camaraderie shared amongst the graduate students and Poage staff, as well as the ability to be in touch with such an important group on campus. Thank you all for making the GRC such a wonderful, edifying place to work at Baylor!