Courtesy of Doug Roberts
In the Department of French and Italian, the graduate students make up an organization called the French and Italian Graduate Student Association, or “FIGSA” for short.
In an effort to help the incoming graduate students in the department get to know each other, FIGSA assigned each new student or mentee with an older student in the program, or the mentor. They also put together a semester-long bucket list of activities, similar to a scavenger hunt, that the students could do together. For each activity, the student or team of students got a certain number of points, and if they did the activity with their assigned mentor, they got extra points. At the end of the semester, FIGSA totaled the votes and declared which student teams won. Ultimately the goal was to build community among your colleagues by sharing and doing activities that were mutually enjoyed.
FIGSA assigned Emma Bartlett, one of our talented first-year graduate students, to be my mentee.
I have lived in Columbus all of my life, and I know a lot about this town. Well, Emma put me to the test and gave me the FIGSA list of bucket items, including activities such as going to COSI, visiting the Columbus Museum of Art, riding the bike trail, watching a film at the Wexner Center, eating at La Chatelaine, walking the Short North (doing the Gallery Hop activities), going to an academic lecture together and so on. She essentially tossed the gauntlet down and said (as only a person in her 20s can say), “Let’s go!”
And over a period of time, we did just that. We were not able to check everything off the list, of course, but we did more than we could possibly imagine. It turned into quite the adventure, really. Suffice it to say that I am much older than the average OSU graduate student, and I found it particularly fun to re-experience OSU (and Columbus) through the eyes of someone seeing everything for the first time – something like a parent re-experiencing the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of his or her young children.
One the bucket list items was to have your picture taken with President E. Gordon Gee. I am not sure that I would have had the gumption to call Gee and ask him about this, but Emma did not even blink an eye. He was particularly gracious in making time for us, even though he had an incredibly busy holiday calendar.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun this all turned out to be. Emma and I found it a wonderful way to get to know each other as well as the OSU and Columbus community.
FIGSA engaged in this whole effort and took some proactive steps to help the incoming students become a part of our OSU community, both within and outside of the departments. The problem with the academic life is that unless one is very careful, it can be terribly isolating. When people are in community, they do much better. We had a great time doing this. I think FIGSA had a great idea, and other departments might benefit from doing this as well.