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Enhancing the Graduate Student Experience

All smiles on a morning hike in the Smokies, during the graduate student retreat in August 2019.

All smiles on a morning hike in the Smokies, during the graduate student retreat in August 2019.

Graduate Researchers in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution (GREBE) is the graduate student association in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and plays several roles in enhancing the graduate student experience in the department.

“GREBE strives to foster an inclusive, dynamic, and enthusiastic atmosphere where graduate students feel supported, able to pursue their passions, and have access to the resources, training, and tools they need,” said Amanda Benoit, GREBE president.

Members of GREBE advocate for graduate students and organize elections for students to serve on departmental and university committees, contributing graduate student perspectives to decision-making at various levels. Members also organize professional development and science-based outreach opportunities, provide funding to support student travel to conferences, and link students to internal and external resources such as grants and fellowships. 

Through GREBE, graduate students have been working with faculty in EEB to streamline the process of adding experts from outside UT to doctoral committees, to serve members better as they pursue diverse lines of inquiry. GREBE created a new teaching and learning committee, which focuses on working with the department to create opportunities for graduate students to improve their teaching and to serve as instructor of record. 

In fall 2019, GREBE welcomed a new cohort of passionate and talented graduate researchers from around the US and the world (including students from South Korea, South Africa, and Cameroon). To help them settle in, get to know one another, and learn about East Tennessee, GREBE organized a welcome picnic and retreat at the EEB field station in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“One of our main goals this year was to provide a space for graduate students to connect with their peers academically and socially,” said Krista DeCooke, GREBE vice president. “These connections lead to mentorships, collaborations, and friendships that last.”

EEB graduate students organized sessions on mental health resources and drafting a personal mission statement. They hosted an ice cream social, trivia night, and more events and sessions. They are also working to help keep students connected virtually while they are dispersed physically. 

In addition to a website, graduate students can learn more about GREBE and connect via social media. Follow @GREBE_UTK on Twitter or join the GREBE UTK Facebook Group.

Have a topic of interest to share with GREBE? Email them at grebeemail@gmail.com. Members of the group welcome ideas and input from fellow EEB graduate students.