New Stanford grad students find a home away from home

Sunday, Sept. 15, marks the start of New Graduate Student Orientation, or NGSO. The annual weeklong series of events helps new graduate students orient to campus, find resources, network and get accustomed to life on the Farm.

Stanford will welcome new graduate students to campus beginning Sunday, Sept. 15, with a weeklong series of events called New Graduate Student Orientation, or NGSO. It’s a time for them to learn about life inside the Stanford community and find resources to help them thrive while they’re here.

“We love the energy and excitement as several thousand new graduate students arrive on campus, starting a few weeks ago for new MD and JD students,” said Stacey Bent, Stanford’s new vice provost for graduate education and postdoctoral affairs. “Their diverse academic backgrounds and interests and their varied life experiences enrich our community.”

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne poses for a photo with new graduate students at NGSO, 2018. (Image credit: Courtesy Vice Provost for Graduate Education)

Bent said that participating in NGSO will help new grad students acclimate to Stanford’s unique environment. “Starting graduate school can be a big transition, especially at such a large campus like Stanford,” she said. “That is why Stanford goes to great lengths to organize NGSO. The resources and information available to new graduate students during this event are intended to help them ease into this new stage of their lives and set a solid foundation for their Stanford careers.”

This year Stanford is welcoming 2,607 new graduate students, including master’s, doctoral and professional degree students who are entering 200 programs in all seven schools. Of this incoming cohort, 1,396 (54 percent) are male while 1,211 (46 percent) are female, and they range from ages 20 to 66. Among this incoming class, 982 are international students from 101 countries, with China the most represented country.

“Our theme this year is ‘home away from home,’ and I think this phrase really captures one of the goals we have for NGSO,” said Anni Zhang, a PhD student in chemical engineering and an NGSO coordinator. “We really want Stanford to feel like home over the one, five, maybe even 10 years [grad students] will spend here,” she said.

It all starts with a kick-off lunch hosted by the Stanford Alumni Association and culminates on Saturday, Sept. 21, with a brunch for graduate student couples and families. Organized by the Graduate Life Office, the week will also include workshops from offices around Stanford, panel discussions by fellow students, a resource fair, networking opportunities and social gatherings.

For Zhang, NGSO was an invaluable experience that helped set the foundation for her life at Stanford.

“Through NGSO, I was introduced to a wealth of resources and student groups on campus,” she said. “Even if I didn’t use the resource or join the group right away, having the information on hand was super useful for the rest of my grad career.”

Featured NGSO events

Among the nearly 40 events taking place during NGSO this year are Grad 101 panel discussions. These information sessions feature returning graduate students sharing their experiences and wisdom about student life. They will cover topics such as food, housing, transportation and social life.

New graduate students attend the GOALIE fair, part of NGSO, 2018. (Image credit: Courtesy Vice Provost for Graduate Education)

New grad students are encouraged to attend Meet VPGE, the office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, which offers programming and resources that enrich students’ academic experiences. This event will take place Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is a time to meet the staff and learn from current students about Stanford’s interdisciplinary environment.

Starting Graduate School Right will take place Thursday and again on Friday at the Graduate Community Center. In this workshop hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), an academic skills coach will present strategies to minimize obstacles, such as procrastination or feeling overwhelmed, and boost the effectiveness of students’ planning, reading and writing.

New grad students are invited to a reception hosted by Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at his and his family’s residence, the Lou Henry Hoover House. Students will have an opportunity to meet Tessier-Lavigne and other graduate students, and food will be provided. The Marguerite shuttle will pick up students from Tresidder Memorial Union and the Graduate Community Center starting at 3 p.m.

On Friday, students are also encouraged to attend the Graduate Orientation and Lunch Information Event, or GOALIE. This outdoor information fair will convene student organizations and administrative and student affairs offices to share information about programs and resources. The event will take place from noon to 2 p.m. in the Canfield Courtyard, between Meyer Green and Stanford Law School. Attendees will receive one meal ticket for a free lunch from Ray’s Grill.

Making friends, building connections

Each year, NGSO organizers make a point to create opportunities for new students to meet other students. Building those connections is not just about growing one’s professional network but also about finding a supportive community in a new environment.

“Events such as NGSO really gave me a chance to meet people outside my department and find activities and groups where I could meet other students with shared interests,” Zhang said. “The connections [students] can make through NGSO help foster supportive communities and let them feel that they belong here at Stanford.”

Vice Provost Bent agreed, “We hope grad students are excited about NGSO and their local orientation events. And we hope their excitement persists as they immerse themselves in their courses and research, make new friends and collaborators, and explore all Stanford offers to support their academic success and personal growth.”

During NGSO, new grad students will have many opportunities to socialize with other students. Speed Friending will take place Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Arrillaga Alumni Center, where a light dinner will be provided. New students interested in learning about the black community on campus are invited to attend a welcome event hosted by the Black Community Services Center on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Black House. And students interested in learning about the Jewish community at Stanford are invited to the Hillel Jewish Grad Students BBQ, also at 4 p.m. at the Ziff Center for Jewish Life.

NGSO will feature many more events, including campus tours, information sessions, movie screenings, mixers and a football clinic. Details and a full schedule of events is available from the Graduate Life Office.