Weekly Grad Chats: Community in Diversity

Submitted on October 12, 2020
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By Nura Dualeh

 

The UArizona Graduate College recognizes the many challenges faced by students during this pandemic, as well as the stress caused by the systemic failure to address racism in our society. To help students, particularly diverse students, feel welcome and to aid in developing strong community and a sense of belonging, the Graduate College Diversity Team sponsors Weekly Grad Chats that take place each Tuesday from 4:00 to 5:00 PM at this Zoom link: https://arizona.zoom.us/j/531795194

Grad Chats originated as a place to provide information and build community for graduate students of color. Over the months they have been taking place, the chats have evolved to a space that celebrates the resilience, strength, and contributions of our talented graduate and professional students. In the spring, Grad Chats featured a series of excellent presentations on career preparation, campus writing services, campus COVID-19 resources, authentic networking, building a mentoring team, learning to celebrate success, and practicing radical self-care. Jennifer Daw, a PhD student in the Life Sciences, says, “Grad Chats is a safe space of support. It has been therapeutic and empowering. Our weekly meetings have become one of my most stable routines during the pandemic. It is everything you want and more in a community.” Alice Solomon, a student in the Molecular Medicine program, agrees, calling the Chats “an uplifting experience,” and explaining, “It was one of those things that I didn’t even know I needed, but benefited from greatly. With limited social interaction during the pandemic, it was so nice to share time with fellow grad students where we could just talk about what’s going on in our lives and support each other emotionally.” 

Over the summer, the Chats were unstructured, frank conversations on the need for greater community, safety, mentorship and support for graduate students by their faculty and academic departments. Francisco Mendoza, a PhD student in Educational Leadership, appreciates the openness of the chats: “Grad Chats has provided a positive and safe platform where we (first generation underrepresented minority students) all come together to debrief, discus and network on solutions, suggestions on best ways to move forward in our academic journey.” Gianna Jordan, an MS student in Biomedical Engineering seconds this view, noting, “Attending the Grad Chats over the past few months has shown me how important a community of people with similar experiences is when facing the challenges that come with completing a graduate degree at a predominantly white institution (PWI).” Holding space for each other, graduate students use this time to discuss challenges, create agency, and celebrate wins. Elena Wong, a PhD Student in Eller College of Management’s Department of Management and Organizations, particularly enjoys the collegial aspect of the chats, enthusing, “The Grad Chats have been an amazing way to connect with fellow graduate students from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. I have gotten to meet so many inspiring people who are passionate and driven to advance their respective academic fields and positively impact their communities!” 

With the new academic year, the Grad Chats will once again feature a combination of presentations and group discussions. For instance, the Graduate College and the Grad Chats were part of Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week; we sponsored an illuminating talk from Dr. Judy Marquez Kiyama, Associate Vice Provost of Faculty Development, entitled “Drawing on Equity-Minded, Culturally Relevant Leadership to Center the Needs of Graduate Students in the Age of COVID-19”. A recording of the talk can be found here.  

 

The chats are moderated by Nura Dualeh, Director of Outreach and Retention for the Graduate College. Nura offers allyship and support to our valued students and can be reached by email at nura@arizona.edu and by cell phone at 520-461-7858. A list of the readings and resources featured in the Grad Chats (a work in progress) can be found here.