The linguistics community at Ohio State has always been a very social one; our students, faculty, and staff often gather at various events throughout the semester and generally foster a very welcoming environment, both in and out of Oxley Hall. This year, however, COVID-19 has greatly disrupted our usual activities and forced gatherings to be postponed indefinitely, making that sense of community a bit more difficult to maintain. As this is such an integral part of the work we do here in the department, we have gotten creative in how we foster relationships amongst ourselves.
Julie McGory, who oversees much of the undergraduate program, and Andrea Sims, associate professor and undergraduate honors advisor, devised an idea aimed at building community amongst students— a mentorship program. They formed groups comprised of one graduate student and 3-4 undergraduate students who meet every 2-3 weeks to both discuss academic and professional topics, but also to simply hang out and get to know one another on a personal level. As such, the topics for discussion range from classes, networking, and graduate school applications, to favorite TikTok videos, the best carry-out food in Columbus, and bingeable TV shows.
Because the groups are made up of undergraduates at very different stages (freshman through seniors) and a graduate student, the range of experiences vary widely and allows for helpful advice to be shared in all directions. In one group, for example, a senior undergraduate student was able to give advice to a freshman student about classes to take and how to find research opportunities. Meanwhile, this same senior student sought advice from the graduate student member on how to write an effective personal statement for graduate school applications.
Overall, the program seems to be helping to bridge the gaps between graduate and undergraduate students and facilitate a bit of intra-department camaraderie. Though the program is still in its infancy, both graduate and undergraduate students report it being helpful and improving their academic experience overall.