by April Conway

In summer 2023, four Sweetland faculty members--Megan Behrend, Cat Cassel, Louis Ciccarelli and April Conway--met to prepare a new Rackham/Sweetland workshop series. The workshops are designed for first-year graduate students to orient them to best writing, reading, and time-management practices. Cleverly titled “How to Grad Student,” the series unfolded over four Fridays during the Fall 2023 semester with each workshop led by one of the planners.

During our planning sessions, we determined which skills we should focus on based on our experience working with (and as former) graduate students. At 50 minutes, each workshop was designed with a guiding question, substantial research, and plenty of time for student interaction. Though we floated the idea of titling each workshop in reference to a song, only Megan’s “What’s Reading Got to Do with It?: Reading to Support Writing in Graduate School” stuck. The workshops were scaffolded at key points in the semester so after leading with the one on reading, the workshops appeared in the following order:

  • “Who Are You Talking To?: Identifying and Responding To Your Interlocutors” (April)
  • “How to Make Revision Count” (Louis)
  • “How Do You Conceptualize Your Time in Graduate School?: From the Physical to the Philosophical” (Cat)

Feedback surveys were shared with attendees after each workshop; as a sampling for the question “What was one thing you learned that you are going to try to put into practice?” the following feedback was received:

  • “Assessing my reading strategy before and after I read a publication.” (reading)
  • “I learned to use citations purposefully. Normally, I use them as a means to an end, just to verify any facts that aren't general knowledge. Now that I have a greater understanding of how to conceptualize citation types, I will be able to use them intentionally.” (interlocutors)
  • “I learned about some new practices that I want to try like essay mapping, reading aloud, and pulling paragraphs apart.” (revision)
  • “I learned about the Eisenhower matrix.” (time management)

We look forward to continuing this workshop series to support early-career graduate students at Michigan.