Graduate education leaders from across the commonwealth converged on Virginia Tech recently for the spring meeting of the Virginia Council of Graduate Schools  (VCGS). Virginia Tech co-hosted the two-day gathering with Radford University.

Representatives from Christopher Newport, George Mason, Longwood, Marymount, Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth, and Virginia State universities; the University of Virginia; and William & Mary attended the event, in addition to leaders from Virginia Tech and Radford. The visitors spent the first day in workshops and holding a business meeting at the Virginia Tech Graduate Life Center and then taking tours of the Moss Arts Center's Cube and the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. They spent the second day of the gathering at Radford.

The morning sessions at Virginia Tech were interactive as administrators gathered around tables to consider four scenarios focused on issues and problems graduate students may face. The groups grappled with challenges, assumptions, and elements not shared in the case studies, available resources, and proposed solutions.

“I really found it helpful to go through the cases,” said Joyce Lloyd, associate dean for graduate education at Virginia Commonwealth University. “It is rare to have so many experts around the table.”

Leaders also heard from a panel of three international doctoral students, who shared the challenges and difficulties they often encountered as they pursued their degrees. One of their key concerns was the lack of knowledge faculty members and others in their departments had regarding the restrictions and processes international students must navigate.

Lloyd said the students’ perspective was valuable as administrators considered how to address such concerns. One of the most interesting comments was about how to find out about what students are experiencing, she said, adding that casual conversations can yield a wealth of information that will assist both the students and those with whom they work, whether in labs or in classrooms across campuses.

Members also heard from Virginia Tech Graduate School department directors about providing support for students and helping them build community in addition to offering professional development opportunities and other services. “A lot of what we do is work-life balance,” said Lauren Surface, director of graduate student services.”

Shernita Lee, assistant dean and director of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Strategic Partnerships, built on Surface’s statement. “The theme is ‘meeting the needs of our students.’”

Several members noted the importance of the Graduate Life Center as a space for graduate students and commented on the meeting rooms, lounge, and study spaces as well as the health and wellness room.

“We were thrilled to co-host the VCGS meeting with Radford University and showcase our Graduate Life Center to graduate education leaders from across the commonwealth,” said Graduate School Dean Aimée Surprenant. “Our Graduate Life Center is more than just a place and a space for graduate students — it represents our commitment to creating an inclusive and vibrant community where graduate students can thrive. We are proud to have provided a welcoming environment for the VCGS group and look forward to future collaborations."

Share this story