New Graduate Student Orientation kicks off this weekend

The week-long series of events will help new graduate students make connections and acclimate to life on the Farm.

Starting a full-time graduate program at a new school can be a bumpy process. Fourth-year doctoral student Doreen Chan understands the challenges well.

“For me, transitioning to graduate school was very overwhelming, and often not in the most obvious ways,” Chan said. Although she knew she had to select courses, find an adviser and make new friends, figuring out how to go about all of that was challenging. But Chan said that getting an early start on her graduate experience and being willing and ready to try new things helped her adjust to a new place.

“The resources are there, you just have to use them,” she said.

Enter New Graduate Student Orientation, or NGSO, Stanford’s week-long series of events for new grad students. The annual program – organized by the Graduate Life Office – aims to orient new grad students and ease their transition to Stanford. Organizers say the program has three main objectives for students.

“The first goal is for them to learn about graduate student life,” said Ken Hsu, assistant vice provost and director of the Graduate Life Office. “The second is learning about campus resources and people who serve students. The third goal is to connect students to each other.”

Students gather information and resources from GOALIE, part of NGSO, in 2017. (Image credit: Courtesy of Vice Provost for Graduate Education)

During NGSO, various offices and departments across campus will host events and provide resources and information for new students. The program officially begins on Sunday, Sept. 16, with a lunch hosted by the Stanford Alumni Association. Open to new grad students only, the event will provide a number of resources, including access to the alumni directory. There will also be an opportunity to mingle and meet other grad students.

The lunch is followed by a panel discussion called “Grad 101,” which  will feature current students who will discuss everything from food and housing to transportation and social life. New students are encouraged to come with questions for the Q&A session.

“There’s a ton of information and the panelists really provide an insider’s tips to navigating campus, and life in general,” said Chan, who is one of this year’s NGSO coordinators.

A second panel discussion will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Monday begins with an event called “Creating a Culture of Respect,” where students can discuss and learn about resources that address issues related to sexual and relationship violence, stalking and harassment. The event will be hosted by the Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response, or SARA, which will provide lunch.

NGSO continues Tuesday with a packed schedule that includes tours of the Music and Art & Architecture libraries. For the second year, an event called “Breaking Bubbles and Shaking Misconceptions” encourages students to break out of academic, professional or cultural bubbles and to discuss identity. Attendees can also learn about student groups, resources, activism and on-campus cultural centers.

New this year is an event called “What’s the Dish on Financial Resources?” Organized by the Graduate Student Council and the Stanford Federal Credit Union, the event provides information about managing finances while in school and addresses common issues faced by students. A pizza lunch will be provided.

Other notable events taking place throughout the week include open houses hosted by BEAM – Stanford’s career education center – and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, or VPGE. The GOALIE Activities Fair on Friday, Sept. 21, is the place for students to learn about student organizations and helpful administrative and Student Affairs offices. Attendees can enjoy lunch by Ray’s Grill.

Throughout the week, students will have the opportunity to connect with each other, which Hsu says is an important feature of NGSO. “In the past we’ve heard that grad students don’t often have a chance to meet students from other departments, so we wanted to take advantage of the week prior to the start of classes to connect them,” he said.

A new graduate student meets Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne at the President’s Reception, part of NGSO, in 2017. (Image credit: Courtesy of Vice Provost for Graduate Education)

NGSO social events include “Speed Friending” on Wednesday, Sept. 19; “Grad Trivia” on Thursday, Sept. 20; and a “Brunch Mixer” for couples and families on Saturday, Sept. 22. One of NGSO’s more popular events is “American Football 101” for grad students and their families to participate in practice drills led by former Stanford Football players. The event takes place Monday, Sept. 17, and attendees will receive free T-shirts.

NGSO culminates Saturday, Sept. 22, with a football-viewing dinner at the Graduate Community Center. Students are invited to eat, socialize and watch the Cardinal take on the University of Oregon.

This year, Stanford is welcoming about 2,600 new graduate students to the Farm. Nearly, 1,000 of them are international students, and many others are coming from across the United States, all with their own unique experiences and challenges. Having been in their shoes before, Chan said that participating in NGSO can help establish a successful graduate experience.

“Starting early definitely helps,” she said. “I think when students progress in their graduate careers, it’s easy to get stuck in a routine and harder to branch out and explore. By making these foundations and connections early, students have the resources right from the get-go.”

Further details about NGSO and a complete schedule of events are available here.