Apr 29, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
Henderson Johnson wants to get graduate students more involved in campus life. That’s why he became involved with the campuswide initiative A Path Forward — Together.
“I love this university, and I can offer feedback as a grad student and undergraduate alum,” said Johnson, a third year Ph.D. student in Aerospace Engineering. Johnson is part of the Path Forward Advisory Group, which includes faculty, staff, and students. “When I worked with the Graduate Student Government Association, the goal was not to forget grad students when planning events. These new objectives are going further to integrate this group of students into the campus community.”
In 2017, Path Forward was created by President G.P. "Bud" Peterson following the death of undergraduate student Scout Schultz. The goal of the initiative is to identify specific things that can be done to better meet campus needs in the areas of student and community life, academics, and health and well-being.
Here’s what you need to know about how Path Forward’s work is impacting grad students.
More Is Being Done to Include You in the Campus Community
Making grad students feel like they’re part of the Tech community is a priority that has stemmed from the initiative. And a variety of events and programs have been developed to address the need.
For example, in August, Georgia Tech hosted its first Graduate Student Welcome for all incoming grad students. Also, a one-credit-hour Grad Groups orientation course was created to help students settle into life at Tech. (The course covers topics including stress management strategies, advice on professional development, and working with advisors and mentors.)
Another new addition was Grad Student Appreciation Week, which took place April 1-5. Over the course of the week, grad students were celebrated across campus at events including a brunch, picnic, and an alumni panel that focused on life after Tech.
New LGBTQIA Resources Are Available
Path Forward has also resulted in revamped LGBTQIA resources. In August, the LGBTQIA Resource Center moved to a larger space in the Smithgall Student Services Building. Now, the center is able to offer more opportunities including monthly Queer Coffeehouses and Out at Work workshops on navigating the job market as an LGBTQIA student.
In addition, Camilla Brewer was hired as the coordinator of the center.
“The addition of the center and my position were monumental in showing support for LGBTQIA students, faculty, and staff,” Brewer said. “The ability to have a physical gathering space to go to and attend programs allows Tech LGBTQIA communities to feel as though they are seen, heard, and valued on campus.”
There’s also been progress that extends beyond the center. Inclusive bathroom signs have been installed across campus, and you can now display your chosen name on the front of your BuzzCard.
There Is Increased Focus on Mental Health Resources
Improving the mental health supports available to students has also received a great deal of attention. The Counseling Center has hired a new director, Carla Bradley, and now offers after-hours counseling services by phone. Outside of counseling, students now have access to WellTrack, a self-help app that helps manage stress and regulate emotions. And a new Let’s Talk program provides informal, drop-in counseling in the Communication Center on Mondays from 10 a.m. to noon.
“I’m particularly excited about the planned start-up of GT CARE — Georgia Tech’s Center for Assessment, Referral, and Education — which will open this summer,” Bradley said. “GT CARE will serve as the primary access point to the many mental health and wellbeing opportunities offered here at Tech, and will be located in the Smithgall Student Services Building.”
Your Feedback Matters
An emphasis is also being placed on asking for more student feedback. Want to give more feedback regarding your professors and classes? The Course Instructor Opinion Survey (CIOS) form now has a question on inclusivity in class and lets students give feedback directly to their professors.
Also, grad students have a chance to complete the 2019 Grad Experience Survey, which is open through mid May. The survey offers you an opportunity to share feedback on topics including advising, financial support, and stress — and the information will be used to improve grad student experience at Tech.
Planning for the Future
Just because Path Forward’s official work will come to a close in June, the improvements that have resulted from the initiative will not.
For example, to help grad students better deal with financial stress, Path Forward is reviewing stipend policies. Space is being reserved in the new Student Center for a bigger and better LGBTQIA Resource Center, and a new gender-inclusive housing plan is in the works for campus residence halls.
“We’re making sure that these changes are permanent,” Johnson said. “We hope that when we’re improving campus in the future, we won’t have to solve the same problems again.”
For more about Path Forward’s progress, visit president.gatech.edu/path-forward-together.