Advice from graduate Students: A summer well spent

The academic year is fairly easy to structure with assistantships and required courses. However, the three months of summer offer a variety of opportunities to advance your graduate work that aren’t in the Office of the Registrar’s schedule of courses. This past summer, several graduate students in the department were working hard and developing valuable skills as researchers, teachers, and students. We asked some of these students to share their experiences and advice for students interested in exploring similar opportunities this upcoming summer. 


Posard Marek

I was a summer associate at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA. I worked on a project that advised the U.S. Department of Defense about gender integration in the U.S. Special Operations Forces.

Much of my research advances theories from the group processes tradition of sociology. I also have done work in military sociology. My time at RAND gave me the opportunity to incorporate group processes research with military sociology. I hope to continue this line of research in the future.

I would advise other graduate students to think about the policy implications of their own research. We don’t learn about that kind of thing a whole lot in PhD school, at least not explicitly. But, there are tons of constituencies out there, like the Department of Defense, who need sociologists to help them design and implement new public policies. The D.C. metro area has tons of these constituencies looking for the skill sets that we learn at the University of Maryland.

Marek is a Doctoral Candidate.


Laybourn Wendy

This summer I attended both 4-week sessions of the Inter- University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research at the University of Michigan. I took classes on regression analysis, structural equation modeling, categorical data analysis, and methodological issues in quantitative research on race and ethnicity.

Attending ICPSR contributed to my graduate work in a couple different ways. First, I learned additional quantitative methodology and developed skills to critique quantitative research. These skills will allow me to incorporate mixed methods in my own research as well as to be a conscious consumer of data and findings.

Second, I was able to network with other scholars and professionals and learn how they employ quantitative methodology in their own work. This enabled me to think about other ways to utilize my quantitative skills and gave me the opportunity to build connections that will hopefully lead to collaborations in the future.

I encourage grad students to talk to their advisor/mentor and other faculty about opportunities as well as to talk to faculty about their research interests. I would not have known about ICPSR’s summer program had it not been for my advisor, Rashawn Ray, and I think part of the reason why he suggested this program to me was because he knows my research interests, both in regards to specific RQs as well as methodology.

Wendy is a 3rd Year Graduate Student.


Cox Jonathan

I spent this past summer working two different jobs. For most of the summer, I was a qualitative research assistant for a post-doc at the University of Maryland’s National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Annapolis. The quick and dirty of it is that I sat in on various group work meetings as a non-participant observer, taking observational field notes that the supervising post- doc used for a qualitative layer to her analysis of mental models.

My second job was a teaching position for the Civic Leadership Institute, a three week service learning program for high school students that is a collaboration between Northwestern University and Johns Hopkins University. For the second summer in a row now (I love this job!), I served as the instructor for about 16 students, teaching everything from leadership to social justice. It’s very intense—I taught 2-3 sessions per day, everyday, for the entire 3 weeks—but it is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. As long as they have a position for me, I’ll probably keep going back.

The work I was able to do definitely added to my graduate work. For the research project, I got some “real life” experience doing observation, which is helpful given my desire to do qualitative work, mostly involving interviews and observation. The teaching was especially helpful, as I love teaching, and the subjects I covered were very similar to the material I teach in my social problems course on campus. The practice is invaluable.

My advice to other graduate students is to network like crazy. Both positions I was able to secure came about because of connections between the individual(s) looking to fll the position and people I knew-other professors, professionals outside of the university. Talk to your professors, let them know about your professional aspirations. Also check with other friends or colleagues not in sociology—you never know what might come up!

Jonathan is a 3rd Year Graduate Student.


Pepin Joanna

I received the Graduate School Summer Research Fellowship for the summer to support my efforts to submit a solo-authored paper to a major peer-reviewed journal. Although I intended to work on a class paper, the frst week of the summer I received a rejection notice for an article I had submitted a few months prior. I therefore spent the summer substantially reframing and revising this paper and resubmitted it for review to another journal.

In addition to the obvious benefIt of submitting an article for potential publication, the summer funding also enabled me to be productive in numerous other ways. I submitted the paper I initially planned to focus on over the summer to a conference (awaiting results). I also presented two co-authored projects at two of the three professional conferences I attended. I learned much from the conference sessions I attended and I made invaluable connections with some of the leaders in my areas of interest. I continued to advance these conference papers, another research project, and submitted a co-authored paper for review.

Applications for summer funding are usually due to the Graduate Coordinator in February. Talk with your advisor early and often about your intentions for applying for summer funding. You’ll need a strong endorsement from them that your project is sound and that you will be productive over the summer. Also, you’ll need to be fairly far along in your research and writing early in the spring semester in order to make a case that your goals are feasible. In my opinion, getting the funding is only half the battle. The other half is making good use of the unstructured summer time. Strategically planning how to build structure into your days and weeks is critical (recurring meetings with your advisor, start and end times to work days, planned vacations, mini-deadlines, etc.).

Joanna is a 3rd Year Graduate Student.


Young Eowna

This past summer, I began working as a research intern at AARP’s Research Center in the State Research department. At first, I was given various assignments, but quickly began serving as Content Manager of Livability    : reports. I prepared and assisted on numerous state and county level reports that assess the presence and need for community resources that allow persons to age in- place. In the time I spent at AARP, I was trusted enough to contribute meaningfully to projects, which has led to my authorship.

Okay, but here are the real perquisites: the building is in downtown D.C., they have an amazing cafeteria, and do many free giveaways. Oh, and let’s not forget that the internship is paid; and pays well.

AARP studies topics that align with the current demographic concern on the aging America. I’ve built a great deal of knowledge on age distributions, which is handy for my graduate concentration in demography. The perspective that I developed while interning at AARP has increased my understanding of how important it is to incorporate a life course perspective into my work.

Do not underestimate yourself. You currently have the skills to adequately perform the required tasks. If you can dedicate 40 hours a week this summer, you should apply! I’m still in contact with one of the hiring managers. When the summer research intern position is posted, I can send the information out to the department.

In the meantime feel free to check out their intern’s page: internship/

E is a 2nd Year Graduate Student.


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