An Undergraduate Perspective on Working with Graduate Students

May 15, 2015

By Kay Hasegawa

One of the greatest features of the Bass Connections program is that undergrads are able to collaborate and work with grads. Although undergraduates and graduates see each other on a day-to-day basis—after all, we do share a campus—hardly do we ever interact with them. None of my classes have had students in grad school in them, and this seems to be the norm at Duke. In my opinion, this is a waste of potential for undergraduates to network and gain some valuable advice on future coursework and possible career paths.

As a prospective double major in environmental science and economics, I would love to pick the brain of someone who is getting a degree at Fuqua or the Nicholas School. As a sophomore who just recently discovered her passion for energy, it is a rare yet valuable opportunity to call graduate students “peers,” and even more amazing that I get to work with them in teams to create projects that will be of use to the United Nations Environment Programme.

Although it could be quite easy to fall into the ‘follower-leader’ pattern and simply listen to what the grad students think, our team leaders challenge us with assignments that do not allow us to do that. They make sure that each individual contributes to the project and have reinforced this attitude with the collective Team Charter that we made at the beginning of the semester.

Working as an equal with graduate students on mutual topics of interest has challenged me intellectually. Listening to them address topics with passion and expansive knowledge is very inspiring. Each week, I have grown to become more confident in articulating my ideas and recognizing that my ideas can enrich a project—even one that is led by a graduate student! This Bass Connections project allows each individual to contribute their skills and feel like an important asset to the team.