Grad School Fair Encourages Students to Embrace Community, Diversity
Recently, more than 800 students at NIH sought mentorship and advice from school officials representing 136 advanced degree programs across the United States. The 10th annual NIH Graduate and Professional School Fair, hosted by the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) at Natcher Conference Center, provided a full day of speakers offering career planning advice as well as information sessions and exhibits on Ph.D. and M.D. programs.
“I felt students needed access to mentors from beyond the NIH,” said Dr. Sharon Milgram, director of OITE, who first started the program in 2008. “I wanted to give them access to all of my colleagues across the United States who were happy to give advice and wanted to recruit students.”
Despite the draining process of graduate school admissions, post-baccalaureate fellow Bailey Mallon said she found Milgram’s plenary talk that morning especially inspiring. Her favorite part? When students were tasked to describe themselves in 6 words, composing a “6-word memoir.”
Milgram said she had gotten the idea from Smith magazine, an online publication dedicated to storytelling. The activity gives people a chance to think about what they value and want for themselves. Milgram’s own 6-word memoir was “Great job, can still wear jeans.”
About 100 participants in the audience then provided their own 6-word memoirs (see sidebar), sharing a diverse range of answers including “Queer Chicana, here to excel professionally,” “Global citizen, work for underserved communities,” and “Live now, learn always, be helpful.”
“The staff and I all felt touched by the 6-word memoirs,” Milgram said. “We need to constantly be saying that this is a big community, but it’s also a community that sees everybody’s differences and what everybody is proud of. To make science more diverse and more inclusive and welcoming, we need to constantly stress our shared identities as problem solvers, as scientists and as global citizens, while stressing that we each bring really unique experiences.”
Joshua Hunt, a post-baccalaureate fellow at the National Institute on Aging, was one of a handful of students who made a special trip to Bethesda from their usual posts in Baltimore.
“It’s hard to be aware of all the opportunities. I came here to try to get a better handle on what other opportunities there are out there that I’m not looking into,” Hunt said. Now in the second year of his post-bac fellowship, he has already begun searching for graduate school opportunities. Hunt said hearing other students’ questions in the sessions helped his understanding of the admissions process.