Brainstorming Student Success: The Graduate College Think Tank Series

Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate College

A woman speaks in front of a board reading "graduate student think tank."

Dr. Flavia Bastos speaks at this semester's first Graduate Student Think Tank event.

How can we foster and celebrate student success? This semester, the Graduate College hosted a series of three Think Tank events (collaborative gatherings centering around discussion and generating ideas) aimed at creatively addressing this question by soliciting input from the very people that hold the biggest stake in the issue—the students themselves. One of the three Think Tanks also included faculty and staff perspectives. “This idea came from Dean Rose Marie Ward,” explains Dr. Flávia Bastos, Interim Associate Dean. “The focus is to engage the various constituents that the Graduate College serves, students chiefly among them […] Students can have input in how we function as an institution, have their voices heard, and help shape change and improvement by informing new initiatives.”  

A room full of people look up at a projector screen.

Faculty and staff at the semester's second think tank.

Each of the two Graduate Student Think Tanks followed a similar structure, beginning with background and demographic statistics of the graduate student body. By understanding the unique makeup of UC’s graduate students (including sectors with a less visible presence on campus, such as online and part-time enrollees), attendees were able to form a basis for the main portion of the event—discussion and brainstorming of ideas, structured within the context of scenarios. Prior to the event series, Dr. Bastos worked closely with various Graduate Assistants to generate different scenarios which focused on hypothetical future situations, all maintaining the central theme of celebrating student success. For example, one scenario presented a future in which international students make up the majority of UC’s graduate population, prompting students to consider ways in which to best support and celebrate these students. Students worked together to generate a range of creative ideas, including programs for strengthening connections between international students and the broader Cincinnati community, events to celebrate and share cultural connections such as food festivals, and an alumni-supported professional pathway to help students navigate the transition from academic to professional life in the U.S. Participants were asked to classify ideas on a scale ranging from “preposterous” to “preferable,” reflecting on the level of investment each proposal would take to implement and maintain. At the end of each event, the Graduate College’s team carefully collected all ideas to further examine and explore as part of their administrative strategic planning.  

People stand in a semicircle and pose with thinking expressions.

Students and staff at the semester's final Think Tank.

Dr. Bastos explains that the Graduate College intends to continue the Think Tank series next semester and hopes to expand their reach to a wider range of students and staff. “We aim to be flexible and adapt as we see fit,” states Dr. Bastos. “The scenarios were well received and thought provoking; it will be interesting to run with them and see what ideas we get.” Spring semester Think Tank dates will be announced after the winter break; if interested, keep an eye on the GradCurrents Newsletter and Graduate College’s Campus Link page as well as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more details.