Derek Schardt: So much more to a grad program

By Derek Schardt. Posted June 24, 2014.

This is so much more to a graduate program than you probably know!

If you have a general understanding of what graduate school is like, you probably know that the classes are more difficult, your area of study is more focused, and there are opportunities with graduate programs that you cannot take advantage of during your undergraduate experience. These opportunities can include such things as working under a graduate assistantship or writing a peer-reviewed thesis. An undergraduate may think that about sums up the opportunities available to graduate students, but there is so much more.

This last summer I was given an opportunity to travel to Atlanta, Georgia as part of a UNL case competition team. The case competition was just one piece of a large conference focused on issues facing the food and agribusiness industries (I am an MBA student focused in agribusiness). Apart from the student case competition, there was a symposium where academics submitted papers for judging, speakers who presented about issues from top levels of government and Fortune 500 companies, as well as special social events at places like the Jimmy Carter presidential library and the Coca-Cola world headquarters. As you can probably imagine, it was a lot more fun than it was work. It was inspiring to see so many people discussing a variety of issues that were important to me and my specific area of study.

This trip was not something that the average graduate student gets to do during their time in school. The Office of Graduate Studies and UNL graduate advisers do an excellent job of seeing what unique events are available to students outside of the normal experiences associated with your course of study. During my time as a graduate student I have been given the opportunity to do many things that have helped direct and focus my career interests. Each program of study in the graduate department has the ability to enhance your graduate experience with opportunities, similar to the one I described above. Whether it is case competitions; special trips; research fairs; or academic symposiums, a UNL graduate student can count on the University’s graduate school to provide student-unique opportunities to enhance your learning outside of the classroom or traditional research position.

research fair

The vast prospects are one of the reasons I chose my program. I had called the graduate chair (now my advisor) to ask what set this program apart from a regular MBA or Agricultural Economics degree. The first thing he told me about was the many ways I could participate in several unique events that potential graduate students never think about when they are applying to graduate school. These were not things that required much work relative to the work required for the traditional program, and these events gave me the opportunity to travel and network with others in my career field and area of study. The great thing about the graduate programs at UNL is that teachers not only facilitate your learning, they also work to find things that will help you succeed that you otherwise may never have known about!

To find out what special opportunities exist in a particular program, just contact your prospective graduate department. Contact information specific to each area of study is available via Programs Offered A to Z.