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Better ‘graduate culture’ sought at Fresno State

The Graduate Study Center offers more than 2,000 graduate students at Fresno State different services – all focused on student success.

And with 47 graduate programs, Dr. James Marshall, the dean of research and graduate studies, said the university needs to enhance its graduate culture.

“If you’re going to have these graduate programs, particularly doctoral programs, there needs to be a graduate culture on campus,” Marshall said. “Part of that is to establish a space specifically for graduate students and particular supports for graduate students.”

One of those spaces already available for graduates is the study center, located on the second floor of the Henry Madden Library. It gives graduate students a quiet place to study and houses the Graduate Writing Studio and the Graduate Statistics Studio.

The writing studio started in 2010, while the statistics studio officially opened in fall 2016, though it started to offer some statistics services a year earlier.

In previous years, there was not a place for graduate students to receive help for their statistical research. The statistics center was created and, like the writing center, it offered one-on-one support.

Based on interactions with faculty, Marshall said, one of the areas in need of support among graduate studies is academic writing. He said some graduate students struggle with writing, either because English is not their first language or they have come back to school after working professionally in an industry where writing was not a major component.

Christopher Greenwood, graduate statistics studio coordinator, said most graduate students have to complete a thesis, dissertation or project that needs qualitative or quantitative statistics, and the statistics studio helps with every step.

“We know a lot of the pitfalls to avoid and ways to somewhat fast-track their progress,” Greenwood said. “We can help them brainstorm. We can get them headed towards the right direction, how to set up their study properly. Maybe they’re going to set up a survey or something, we can show them how to do that.”

There have been discussions recently about offering a professional development course, Greenwood said. It would be a free course in which students would meet with Greenwood on a weekly or semiweekly basis and discuss items they can use and put on a resume.

Greenwood said many graduate students do not know that the studio exists. He wants more students to use it.

“We’d love to help with their research questions, or anything at all related to what it is they plan on doing with their academic career or even beyond that,” Greenwood said.

Debra Neufeld and Ronald Dzerigian are instructional support technicians in the writing center. They help students on a daily basis with their writing.

“We cover every level of their writing needs, from the beginning stages – brainstorming and drafting and outlining – all the way through to the end product, which often involves formatting to their required style, whether it be APA or MLA, and formatting into the template for thesis dissertation and projects,” Dzerigian said.

This semester, Dzerigian said, the studio is offering students extra services on Fridays focused on formatting papers. Graduate students must turn in their theses by March 27 and may have many questions regarding their format.

Both studios also hold various workshops, which focus on topics such as academic writing, MLA style, avoiding plagiarism, APA style, thesis information sessions and analyzing variance and simple regression.

Graduate students can make appointments with consultants in both studios to receive one-on-one help. Neufeld said that consultants are not there to edit student papers, but to have a conversation about their writing and help them with their research.

“Our purpose is to teach them to better communicate and feel like they can contribute to the academic conversation,” Dzerigian said.

The Graduate Study Center uses Zoom, an online meeting and conferencing platform that allows for audio, video and screen sharing, to help students with geographic or time constraints, Neufeld said.

The center started using Zoom in fall 2014, which immediately increased the efficiency in which students received help. Before, Neufeld said, online communications were very inefficient, but now students are able to receive needed help because of screen sharing.

Graduate students can call 278-2450 or email fresnostategws@gmail.com to request an appointment with a consultant in the writing center. If a student does not have an appointment, he or she can drop in and and work with a consultant if a consultant is available.