Grad students must overcome the barrier of age and program differences to thrive

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Photo: Jiaxin Xu

Students sit in a computer lab.

By Charlie Brian Ambler

As post-undergraduate programs increase exponentially in enrollment, according to a report from the United States Census Bureau, the social division between undergraduates and graduates persists. This acts as a barrier to opportunity, which in-turn affects all students.

Student organizations are one of the greatest opportunities that institutions such as Emerson have to offer. True knowledge and progress is made when a student finds involvement in things outside of their direct classroom. This is equally as true for graduate students.

As a graduate student arriving at Emerson this fall, I have come to realize two issues—there is a serious lack of transparency from Emerson towards its graduate students and the numerous opportunities available to them. Furthermore, graduate students like myself have developed a sense of unnecessary hesitancy towards on-campus involvement.

The 1,500 graduate students at Emerson make up a large portion of the institution’s population; yet the feeling of separation from the rest of the school is tangible. This must change. Not solely at Emerson, but at all universities across the country. According to the United States Census Bureau, from 2011 to 2018, the number of students in graduate and professional programs has increased from 307,000 to 4 million. 

Professional and graduate level education should be more integrated into extracurricular life on-campus. Opportunities, networking, connections, and knowledge all await graduate students if they just take the first step and reach out over this fabricated line of division. If graduate and undergraduate students learned to work together, they would achieve a mutually beneficial experience.

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Emerson has more than 100 student organizations, which means they have over 100 avenues of opportunity for both graduate and undergraduate students. I implore my fellow graduate students to look down these roads and to see the potential opportunities that await them.

From the very onset of applications, Emerson must shed more light onto the immersive experience that can be attained through any student organizations, regardless of program or level of education. There are numerous multicultural and intercultural student organizations which are fueled by like-minded individuals regardless of their program level. Organizations in print and publishing are vast and practically endless.

Although institutions such as Emerson have missed the mark in terms of highlighting the organizations available to the graduate community, a lot of the fault lies in the graduate students themselves.

I have encountered numerous graduate students who refuse to see the endless possibilities that come from integrating within clubs and associations. Graduate level students have come to think of it as a step in the wrong direction, which has led to their inaction. 

Undergraduate and graduate students have little degrees of separation and should be interconnected. At the very core of it all, graduates and undergraduates are students trying for a coveted position in their field of choice. They are all students who wish to succeed in some way or another.

The differences that do separate these two degrees and the students that accompany, can help.

Fact, experience, and maturity does separate the two programs, however, that is where either side can learn and grow from one another.

Over the course of this past semester, embedding my time and work ethic into The Berkeley Beacon and working with many undergraduates has aided me on an unexpected level. I have learned so much from students younger than me, something all graduate students can do, regardless of their field. 

I implore graduate students at Emerson to look past the stigma surrounding age and their program. They should reach out and apply themselves towards clubs and societies where they share the same passion. It is without a doubt a daunting task, especially speaking to someone a few years younger than yourself, however it is worth it in every way possible. 

I am currently a  deputy copy editor for The Beacon. I am also a graduate student studying for my Masters in journalism. The consistent workflow and experience has been a great way to craft my work ethic and enhance my writing, regardless of being a masters student.

The division between graduate and undergraduate students has formed over the course of history, and now with the growing number of students enrolling in post-graduate courses, it is time to end the division and to connect like-minded individuals.