In 2010, Ohio State created its first full-time position for Assistant Director of Student Activities for Graduate and Professional Students and hired Kerry Hodak for the job.
Only five years later, OSU was the recipient of the gold award for graduate and professional student programming initiative, awarded by the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
“We’re one of the few universities that do a lot of dedicated programming for graduate and professional students in large-scale events, but also events that we do through OUAB,” said Hodak, coordinator for the Ohio Union Activities Board’s graduate and professional student committee. “Grad students all pay the student activities fee, just like undergrads, so we have a dedicated mission to make sure that we are programming for graduate and professional students as well.”
The types of graduate and professional programming are classified into five categories: professional growth, personal enrichment, family-friendly activities, social events and special events.
“We do have our own branding. A lot of undergrads don’t necessarily hear about our events, even though they are open to everybody.” — said Kerry Hodak, coordinator for the Ohio Union Activities Board’s graduate and professional student committee.
The events range from academic-oriented panels, to socials for adults and family programs for those with young children.
“For example, we have both an academic and non-academic job search series, etiquette dinners, a professional profile clinic, and a session on how to present yourself professionally on social media,” Hodak said. “We also offer a wellness series, cooking classes, family-friendly trips to the zoo, quiz nights, speed dating and a Valentine’s Ball every year.”
Additionally, the Ohio Union Activities Board’s graduate and professional student committee has occasionally partnered with the undergraduate portion of the group to welcome special guests like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Nick Offerman to OSU.
Since Buckeye Village offers family housing, family events are frequently hosted there as well.
“For our family programming, we … do festival-style activities,” Hodak said.
Because all students pay the same activities fee, technically all of the events are open to all graduate and undergraduate students, with the exception of speed dating and social events that serve alcohol. However, graduate and professional events are marketed towards graduate and professional students.
“We do have our own branding,” Hodak said. “A lot of undergrads don’t necessarily hear about our events, even though they are open to everybody.”
Some of the most popular events among graduate and professional students are the creative arts series and quiz nights.
The cooking classes are taught by professional chefs and are extremely popular among students, Hodak said.
“I’ve been to two of the cooking classes; one was Mediterranean style, and the other was an Asian cooking class called ‘Wok and Roll,’” said Leah Mitchell a graduate student in the College of Public Health. “It was six or seven people per group, and I didn’t know anyone because we were all from different programs. It wasn’t awkward, and it was a really easy way to get to know people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
Mitchell said the events were good for informal networking.
“Young professionals at Ohio State have great opportunities to get to know each other through classes like these,” Mitchell said. “Anyone who attends these events is open to trying new things.”