September 18, 2020 at 1:38 pm

Biological Sciences Graduate Society Makes Plans to Keep Community Engaged

Biological Sciences Graduate Society officers show off their hats and their pets.

Biological Sciences Graduate Society officers show off their hats and their pets.

Officers of the Biological Sciences Graduate Society say that while virtual meetings and events are much more accessible during the pandemic, it’s difficult to replicate all of the social and outreach experiences in a virtual world.

So the group’s officers are deploying assets like a website and a newsletter, virtual office hours, a book club on intersectionality in science, and a strong community support system.

Outreach projects will include biology activity booklets for K-12 students and the “Biology in Our World” discussion series.

BSGS President Marissa Dyck asked each of the group’s officers to talk about leadership during COVID.

Marissa Dyck, portrait

Marissa Dyck

“My primary role is to organize BSGS meetings and events and provide assistance to the other officers in whatever way I can,” she says. “Things are pretty different due to COVID-19 this semester; all of our meetings and events are virtual, which has its pros and cons. On the one hand, they’re easy to organize and potentially accessible to more people, but many of our social and outreach events are difficult to replicate on a virtual platform. It can be difficult to make meaningful connections with people this way as well, but we’re making efforts to have as many of the same opportunities as before as well as some new ones.”

Courtney Silver-Peavey, portrait

Courtney Silver-Peavey

Courtney Silver-Peavey, Vice President and Graduate Student Senate Representative, says, “As VP, my hope is to help create a positive and productive virtual working environment for my fellow officers and graduate students. In a time where we feel so isolated and out of touch, we must make our meetings and activities as inclusive and welcoming as possible to try and bring in as many graduate students as we can. This semester I will focus on keeping our website and social media pages up to date on activities, meetings, updates, and funding opportunities. We have not used these virtual platforms as much as we could have in the past, I hope to change that!”

Samuel Gutherz, casual environmental portrait

Samuel Gutherz

Student liaison Samuel Gutherz says feedback and networking with faculty and each other are important. “While I don’t get to meet with people face-to-face, I am still able to meet virtually for ‘office hours’ and receive emails or anonymous answers to our open survey. My goal is to help everyone navigate these unprecedented times, to relay students’ concerns with life in the pandemic, during which faculty and administration have been especially interested and receptive to feedback.”

Kathryn Field, portrait

Kathryn Field

“I believe that for academics to be able to support the community as a whole, it is important to first build a supportive community amongst ourselves,” says Social chair – Kathryn Field. “As social chair of my university’s biological studies graduate student society in the midst pandemic, I found that fostering this support system is more crucial than ever. Socially, this has taken the form of biweekly departmental zoom get togethers, beginning a book club with a focus on intersectionality in science, and personally reaching out to new students who missed the opportunity to be welcomed in person.

“As a club, we are also putting our heads together to try and create a virtual facsimile of the large, in person welcome event usually thrown by our department. Finally, plans are in the works to create a newsletter to send out to the department as a guide to both Athens and our new students, with bios of the new people joining our department and information about how to (safely) have fun and stay connected to our community even under these difficult circumstances.”

Julia Joos, portrait

Julia Joos

Treasurer Julia Joos says, “For me as treasurer, COVID hasn’t changed much. My responsibility is still to put in funding request for internal funding from the Senate Appropriations Committee. The only thing different this semester is that the funding cycles are a little different, and we can’t put in requests for any in-person events.”

Kristine Harman, portrait

Kristine Harman

“The Inclusion and Diversity Officer is a newly appointed position that arose in response the Black Lives Matter movement,” says Kristine Harman. “Over the summer, BSGS became acutely aware of its own response to racial injustices by speaking for BIPOC students instead of with them. For this reason, a new position was developed to allow BIPOC students an opportunity to explore leadership roles within BSGS and provide a student representative to create a safe space to discuss issues related to race and inequity in the department and academy as a whole. During the pandemic, I am hoping to overhaul the organizational bylaws; in addition, I’d like to support the BIPOC scientific community by inviting a guest speaker to give a talk at one of our weekly departmental Zoom seminars.”

Meredith Fitschen-Brown, portrait

Meredith Fitschen-Brown

Outreach Coordinators Meredith Fitschen-Brown and Cassandra Thompson report that “due to COVID, normal BSGS outreach in-person events have been canceled. However, we are currently developing a new outreach program through the Athens Public Libraries that will have the graduate students create biology activity booklets for different age groups (K-12). Once booklets are completed, they will be distributed at the seven different libraries in Athens County. Our goal is to still provide learning tools to stimulate an interest in biology for youth in Athens County. Furthermore, next semester we will be continuing an online version of an adult talk series through the Athens Public Library called “Biology in Our World.” This opportunity allows graduate students to talk about their current research passions with community members.

Cassandra Thompson, outdoors portrait

Cassandra Thompson

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