Beki Grinter

Service and Commitment: thank you students…

In academia on August 26, 2010 at 9:46 am

It’s the first week of the semester. It’s great in that way that first weeks are, there’s so much to accomplish… Female Science Professor had a recent post on service by graduate students.Specifically, how much and what type of service should students do for their academic institution.

Female Science Professor and Wendy P, in my opinion, have it exactly right. There is much good that can be gotten from this type of service, but it has to be managed. It may have come up in the comments, but I think learning to balance time commitments, much in the same way that any GTA must balance their time spent in the classroom with their research time. This is good preparation for faculty life, and probably any life.

But there’s more than that. Service to a program, school, community, instills a sense of commitment to the enterprise. That’s crucial. We could all show up for free pizza (well we are in Computing) and week after week eat and leave. Commitment requires giving and gaining. Do I feel more committed to the School of Interactive Computing because I am asked to and give my time to service for these entities and the myriad of programs (CS, CM, HCC, CS., ROBO)… and centers (GVU, RIM)…

Of course. And are there rewards. Yes. Sometimes all I see is the “to-do” list, but when I step back I look across the span of activities and what I really see are all the people who give alongside of me, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And it is a crazy amazing whole.

And in this regard I must give a huge shout out to the students who have created a culture that I like to describe as “a force to be reckoned with.” Actually, many forces, I am sure that there are many cultures (by program, by time in the office, by language and culture, by well who knows). And it’s a form of service, one that turns on giving and commitment to the institutions of which they are members. Its whole is making sure some really good things happen. Sharing of advice, listening to talks, helping new students settle in, describing the “low-down”, being there to celebrate students’ accomplishments, being moral support and so much more. I’ve spent most of my service time focused on graduate programs, so I’ll just say that “team go to defenses and proposals and wait for results” or “team visit posters and applaud project presentations” wow… And of course there’s “team meet the new faculty candidate” and I remember you well, because there were more of you than I’d ever encountered… both times. It was noted.

So service. You have to give, but what you get is a whole that is truly greater than the sum of the parts. And when I am reminded of this, I know why giving matters. And I know what getting means. And to the students, thank you thank you thank you. Keep the good work up BUT ONLY in balance to the other demands that you have.


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