Graduate Student Organization

History and Objectives

The HDFS Graduate Student Organization (GSO) was started in September 2000 by a group of students interested in bringing a formal graduate student voice to the department. Since its inception, members of the GSO have worked to advocate for students’ needs and voice their opinions on departmental policies, procedures, and customs. The goals of the GSO are to:

  • Establish a unified graduate student voice
  • Improve communication between HDFS faculty and graduate students
  • Select representatives to serve on departmental committees
  • Create a support system and sense of community among HDFS graduate students
  • Provide mentorship and ease the transition for incoming graduate students
  • Advocate for graduate student interests and well-being when necessary

Elected students represent the GSO at departmental faculty meetings, the Undergraduate Program Committee (UPC) and at the Graduate Program Committee (GPC) meetings. Occasionally, graduate students also serve on ad hoc committees formed within the department and the School of Human Ecology (SoHE) as needed.

Opportunities for Professional Development

Leadership. There are a number of elected positions available in the GSO that offer members the opportunity to exercise their skills in leadership, communication, and collaboration, and other areas of professional and academic development. Any active graduate student has the opportunity to be elected as a GSO Co-Chair or to represent the GSO at meetings. Both faculty and students consider these roles important leadership positions within the department.

Academic and Professional Development.  Depending on varying student needs each semester, the GSO hosts a variety of activities to help members achieve their academic or professional objectives and support the department. In the past, GSO activities have included the following:

  • Professional development workshops to prepare for key departmental benchmarks (such as writing a proposal or successfully defending theses or dissertations).
  • Weekly writing groups to allow students to build a sense of community while preparing academic manuscripts.
  • Speaker and poster sessions to highlight intellectual and graduate student research.
  • Mentor pairs to support successful navigation of the department and university.

Social Support.  Beyond advocating for student voice within the department, the GSO’s activities focus on creating a social support network for new and current graduate students. The GSO sponsors a number of social activities during the school year, which have included dinners to welcome new students to the department, informal happy hours, community potluck lunches, bowling, karaoke, trivia, and attending the Wisconsin Film Festival.

Applied Outreach. Another aspect of GSO opportunity is in serving the local community. Each year, the GSO organizes a service project in which students, faculty, and staff in the department and the school can participate. Some recent projects included a mindfulness program in partnership with a school and community program evaluations. Some of these projects have resulted in published work and poster presentations. Other community service efforts have included book drives for a reading program at a local correctional facility, toy and food drives for the holidays, volunteering at the Special Olympics, gardening at a local senior center, evaluation projects for nonprofit organizations, and participating in a 5k run/walk for charity.

The organization communicates these opportunities through in-person meetings, an e-mail listserve, and a graduate student forum website. All graduate students in the department are automatically considered members of the GSO, although participation in GSO activities is voluntary.