UGA Graduate Education empowers students to make a difference in their communities. Our graduate students have contributed in a variety of ways to build community within their departments, the university and larger community. While there are so many amazing students we like to highlight those who have contributed above and beyond to build community within their disciplinary areas on campus and within the broader community of Georgia. This selection was based on the many nominations from their peers at the institution and within the community in which they served.
Katherine Walters, a doctoral candidate pursuing PhD in learning, design, and technology, was nominated by her graduate coordinator, Jay Rojewski.
Katie is a wonderful presence in our doctoral program and beyond! In the past, she’s been involved in our graduate student association as an elected member. In that role, she’s been supportive and caring, providing advice and guidance to other students in the graduate community that was much needed.
Describe how you got involved with the Putnam School system or the Graduate Student Association and what it means to you.
“I became involved in the Putnam County Charter School System (a public school system) as part of a research assistantship. I now work full time for the school system on a project that supports high school students in their transition to higher education. This work is meaningful to me because the ways we talk about student success and achievement are often rooted in a set of values and experiences that are not universal, nor universally accessible. Although these narratives are not going to change over the course of a single project, I am interested in what we can learn when we focus on the experiences of students – listening to what they want, need, and learn during this transition.”
What/Who has helped you to grow the most?
“On the academic side, I can always rely on my advisor and mentor, TJ Kopcha, for support, transparency, and providing space for critical reflection. He has helped me bring together my academic interests and my passion for community work.
In the school system, the community liaison, Avis Williams, models every day what it means to build community. In both big and small ways, she shows up for students and their families, providing a connection between the school system and the broader community. I am learning from her example every day!”
What advice would you give students looking to make a difference like you?
“There is time and space for community building work in academia – but finding the right mentors and support is key. I suggest taking courses outside your department, looking for opportunities to make connections (go to that event, search for organizations that work on issues you care about), and focusing on what you can offer (both big and small). It will eventually start to come together, as there are a lot of unmet needs and us graduate students actually have a lot of useful skills.”
Unlocking Potential. Building Futures.