Grad Student Life
The First Year
Most students who enter the graduate program find that there can be a difficult adjustment period as they begin teaching and taking graduate-level courses, usually for the first time. The department supports two graduate student-run programs intending to support first-year graduate students and to help them with this transition.
Two weeks before the official Orientation Week starts in September is our Pre-School (sometimes called “Boot Camp”). Generally the Pre-School gives incoming graduate students an opportunity to become familiar with the department, as well as the university. Most importantly the Pre-School allows students to do a variety of problems that both refresh the basics and preview some topics covered in core classes. Pre-School is run each year by an advanced PhD student who is selected by the department.
There is also a first-year mentoring program, which pairs first-year graduate students with an advanced graduate student who acts as a mentor. This program aims to give each first-year graduate student an invaluable resource for their questions about academics, teaching and transitioning to graduate school. Mentors and their mentees meet once each quarter of the mentee’s first year, usually over lunch (which is covered by the department). Although the program is fairly new, it has been very successful.
Graduate students run weekly seminars which are almost exclusively attended by graduate students. These include the Homotopy, Ring Theory (including Representation Theory), Ring-Op Theory (Algebraic Geometry), Graduate Notions (a variety of topics that should be accessible to all math graduate students), Functional Analysis, and Differential Geometry Seminars. Since they are all aimed at graduate students, the atmosphere is relaxed enough so that students feel comfortable giving talks early in their careers but formal enough that students gain valuable practice speaking about their own research topics. More information can be found on the Seminars page.
Informally, many graduate students form groups and read on specific topics, sometimes with the support of a faculty member but often not. Examples of topics from previous reading groups include Perverse Sheaves, Factorization Homology and Ricci Flow. These groups meet anywhere from one to several hours each week.
The department supports a very active student chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics which hosts events each quarter. The Graduate Affairs Committee is another way in which graduate students become involved in the department. This committee plans the annual department picnics, runs the first-year mentoring program, and generally represents graduate students on the Graduate Affairs Committee. Members of the committee are nominated by graduate students and appointed by the department head.
The department has a history of hosting events that allow both faculty members and graduate students to socialize. For example, departmental teas are held several times per week. Often these teas will be attended by colloquia speakers or other visitors, giving members of the department a chance to speak with them as well. Twice each year there are department picnics, which signify the beginning of the fall term as well as the end of the spring term. These picnics are well attended by members of the department who bring their significant others and family members. A favorite annual event is the department’s ski weekend, held at Odell Lake Lodge each winter. In addition to skiing, many department members and their families spend this weekend building snowmen or taking a walk along the lake when they’re not inside enjoying a cup of cocoa.
Some graduate students are involved in other activities outside of the department, including music/ensembles, the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, and recreational sports such as ultimate frisbee or basketball. There is also a large group of graduate students who enjoy attending Oregon Ducks sporting events, particularly football.
There are also ample social activities that graduate students informally organize. In particular, Friday evenings you can usually find a group of math graduate students enjoying a local craft brew or sitting down to play board or card games together. Occasionally these board game nights will be hosted at a faculty member’s house, which gives graduate students and professors in the department additional opportunities to converse.