Creating a connection

The Graduate Student Life office plans a semester of on-campus meetings and events to inspire and bring together Liberty graduate students

TOGETHER — Grad-Connect events like the one held in the Jerry Falwell Library Feb. 28 allow graduates students to learn from distinguished professors and build community. Photo Provided

TOGETHER — Grad-Connect events like the one held in the Jerry Falwell Library Feb. 28 allow graduates students to learn from distinguished professors and build community.
Photo Provided

Liberty University Graduate Student Life hosted its monthly Grad-Connect event Feb. 28 to gather graduate students for an evening of community and encouragement in the Jerry Falwell Library Scholar’s Lounge.

Executive Director of Outreach to Asia Nationals Chris Gnanakan spoke to the students about his journey from life in India to his current position at Liberty.

In addition to his position with Outreach to Asia Nationals, Gnanakan is a professor of Pastoral-Theological and Biblical-Missional studies at Liberty and an author of several books.

“When you keep doing what God wants you to do, he’ll give you breakthroughs,” Gnanakan said.

“You don’t need to look for (breakthroughs).”

Gnanakan described his life as a transition from “Krishna to Christ,” as he was born into a poor Hindu family.

By telling his story of redemption, Gnanakan hoped to encourage graduate students as they prepare to step into the workforce.

“Grad-Connect is a place to learn from professors and connect with your peers,” Elizabeth Hixson, a graduate student assistant and strategic communications student, said.

“It’s a place to hear stories. You have opportunities to cast connecting points with your own experiences.”

Other influential Liberty professors have spoken at the Grad-Connect events.

Douglas Mann, Karen Prior, Stephen Parke and Sylvia Frejd, among others, encouraged students by sharing their unique experiences and opening the floor for questions.

“Many graduate students do not have the opportunity to engage with other students like undergraduates do,” Gretchen Cline, assistant director of Graduate Student Life, said.

“We’re trying to bring that (community) and provide the opportunity to connect.”

In addition to offering enriching speakers, Grad-Connect aims to be a casual event for students to mingle and build lasting friendships and connections.

The event is not limited to a specific program or school, and graduate students of all degrees, ages and stages are welcome to attend.

“I just wanted a connection point in graduate school,” Hixson said.

“It’s nice to have a place where we can get together. The more you learn, the more you’re able to make connections which give light walking forward in the future.”

The two-hour event opens with time for conversation — coffee and snacks are provided.

Usually, there is an icebreaker game before the keynote speaker shares his or her story with the students.

Finally, the floor is open for questions and discussion.

According to Cline, many of the graduate student activities are academic in nature.

However, Graduate Student Life hosts tailgates during sports seasons and gathers groups for student activities.

The Graduate and Commuter Student Life Center located at Green Hall 1875 also opened this semester to provide a casual space for studying or relaxation.

Graduate Student Life, a subdivision of Student Life, is a young office, having started in spring 2016, and is still building momentum on campus.

By hosting events such as Grad-Connect, the office hopes to offer graduate students educational and fun opportunities.

Grad-Connect will meet March 28 and April 25 in the Jerry Falwell Library and has several other events on the calendar for the semester such as heritage month celebrations and movie nights.

The Brown Bag Luncheon Series is also an opportunity for graduate students to connect while practicing an academic skill March 21 and April 18.

The event gives students an opportunity to present their research in a casual setting and gain experience in sharing their findings, Sam Landa, graduate student assistant program coordinator, said.

“The goal of Student Life is anything outside of academics,” Jimmy Foster, Director of Student Life, said.

“We want graduate students to have something informal and fun outside of academics.”

A full list of graduate student life activities can be found on its Facebook page: facebook.com/LibertyGSLife.

Smith is a news reporter.

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