Institute hosts fair for graduate programs

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

This Friday, Oct. 22, students from the Institute and around the world will have an opportunity to connect with Tech’s graduate programs and programs from other universities in the Institute’s Virtual Graduate School Showcase (VGSS).

Similar in scale to the all majors career fair, the VGSS is intended to bring prospective students into contact with world renowned graduate programs, both from the Institute’s own colleges and from other universities across the nation.

“The purpose of this event is two-fold,” said Susan Belmonte, Pre-Graduate Advisor and VGSS Planning Committee Co-Chair.

“We hope to bring a diverse audience to our own graduate programs and connect our undergraduates with post-graduate opportunities at Tech and throughout the nation.”

The event is now on its fifth year, having started in 2017 as an in-person event.

However, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March of 2020, the event has shifted towards a virtual format, much to the benefit of the faculty and students involved with it. When asked about the reasoning behind offering the event virtually, Nazanin Tork, Assistant Director of Graduate Studies and VGSS Planning Committee Co-Chair, stated, “By offering our showcase virtually, we are providing students from around the globe the convenience of meeting graduate programs, while alleviating the challenges associated with travel and large in-person events.

“Graduate programs and current graduate students are excited to engage with prospective students, answer questions, and share their own experiences.”

When asked if there was any difference between the online and in-person styling of the event, Belmonte pointed out that turnout has actually been better, both with students and vendors from other universities.

“We’ve actually noticed that it has become easier for vendors to meet with us. People from California or other places that may have had a harder getting to the Institute due to traveling and hotel fees can now simply log on from their computers in their homes, which has undoubtedly made it easier to commit to showcasing what their program has to offer.”

When asked if the Institute intended to change back to the in-person format following the end of the pandemic, or stay in a virtual format, Belmonte noted that, “While we don’t know anything for certain, there’s a high likelihood that we keep the virtual format due to the benefits that it’s offered us.”

The Virtual Graduate School Showcase will be divided into two parts. The first will be a “Meet Georgia Tech” session from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., students will have a chance to attend information sessions and other events hosted by graduate programs in all six of Tech’s colleges, allowing for an opportunity to get a more personalized experience than one might expect to receive when simply researching universities online.

The event is intended to highlight everything that the Institute has to offer, and is a part of its plan to continue to expand and improve its graduate schooling efforts.

The second will be a “Chat with Recruiters” session from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., where students will visit with program representatives from Tech and other schools in a virtual fair format, allowing for students to get an idea of a wide range of possible options for where they may consider pursuing their masters or Ph.D. at a graduate level.

In addition to the various recruiters and staff members on the “Virtual Floor” VGSS advisors will be available at a virtual help desk to answer any questions students may have about the graduate school experience as a whole.

In a continued attempt to make education more accessible, the showcase has been made free to all students from around the country who wish to attend, as long as they register beforehand on the Office of Undergraduate Registration’s website.

The event is open door and non-committal, and students may leave and return to this day-long event whenever they choose. At the time of writing, 760 students from universities across the globe have already registered for the event, and more than 60 programs, including representatives from MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Columbia, have signed up to staff virtual tables and meet with prospective students.

Full details about visiting recruiters are available on the VGSS website.

The list of recruiters continues to expand, so any students interested in attending the event should check the website regularly for updates on which schools have been added to the list of attendees.

The Pre-Graduate and Pre-Professional (PGPP) staff at Tech have hosted an in-person graduate school fair since 2017, and have been quick to point out that the closure of the Student Center and COVID-19 gave them and the Office of Graduate Studies a chance to innovate.

With input from an exploratory committee of faculty, advisors, and graduate program coordinators, the planning team decided to move forward with a virtual model that would encourage greater participation from all stakeholders, remove barriers to attendance, and welcome students from across the world.

“The Showcase has really been a team effort,” said Director of PGPP Advising Shannon Dobranski. “Although PGPP and [the Office of] Graduate Studies have led the effort to make it happen, we could not have pulled it together without the support of all the members of the planning committee.”

The Virtual Graduate School Showcase is free to students, but pre-registration is required on the Office of Undergraduate Education’s website.

When asked how students could make the most of the event, Belmonte suggested for students to come ready to talk with recruiters.

“Just come prepared with questions for the schools and programs that you’re most interested in, and put your best foot forward. Schools are looking for students too.”

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