GS^4 at OMSI in Portland, OR. The club organized a Portland outing as part of the March 2013 MIME Graduate Recruiting Weekend.
It's not every day you get to witness engineering faculty trying to outmaneuver their students in a fierce game of dodge ball, but that is one of the new and unique opportunities for faculty-student interaction that the MIME Graduate Student Social Skills Society (GS^4) organizes every month.
The GS^4 was organized in winter 2012 by MIME graduate students Rachel Yim and Kadee Mardula (OSU master of science students in industrial engineering and mechanical engineering, respectively). During her first term at OSU, Mardula had asked Dr. David Cann — MIME associate head for graduate programs — about socializing opportunities for MIME graduate students, and was told the School simply didn't have any.
"So he and [MIME interim school head] Dr. Rob Stone asked Rachel and me to start a social group," Mardula said. "We were given funding and a free hand to do whatever it took to get students and faculty together. They wanted us to make sure that grad students from all MIME disciplines were represented: mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, and materials science."
Inclusion and interaction are two major priorities for GS^4. The club endeavors to bring together graduate students from different fields of study whose paths otherwise would rarely cross. Of the approximately 200 graduate students enrolled in MIME, for example, Yim estimates that without GS^4, she might ultimately have gotten to know only three or four of them.
"I wouldn't have even talked to Kadee if not for GS^4," Yim recounted. "It's not that you don't have the desire to network with students from other research groups; you just don't really get a chance. But we regularly saw at least 25 graduate students at our events this year. Both of us have become really close with a lot of people through GS^4."
GS^4 tries to offer an interesting mix of casual social events and active physical events. In addition to the dodge ball games and meet-and-greet events at locations like McMenamin's, GS^4 also has an intramural soccer team, and Yim and Mardula even organized a rafting trip on the Rogue River last year.
Dr. Cann credits GS^4 with improving recruitment and integration of new graduate students to MIME. In addition to organizing activities for the annual MIME Graduate Recruiting weekend in March, GS^4 also participates in welcoming incoming MIME graduate students each fall at the MIME Graduate BBQ.
"I'm very happy with how GS^4 has contributed to community building in MIME," Cann said. "They've done a great job tying all the different research groups together. They're definitely becoming an important aspect of the graduate academic community in the School of MIME."
"I think it's very important to get people, especially engineers, outside of their comfort zone and to really start interacting in different ways," Mardula emphasized.
That includes interactions with faculty as well as with peers. Mardula and Yim both say graduate students get excited at the prospect of socializing with their professors outside of the classroom and research settings.
"It's definitely one of the things I'm asked about the most: 'Is Dr. so-and-so going to be there?' It's very fun watching professors play dodge ball with their students," Yim noted.