Benjamin Krinsky and his team has won NSF's Grad Challenge

June 18, 2013

Congratulations to GSA members Robert Arthur and Benjamin Krinsky, part of a team that won 3rd place in the National Science Foundation (NSF) 2013 Innovation in Graduate Education Challenge. NSF's Division of Graduate Education challenged graduate students to offer "innovative ideas to prepare them for tomorrow's opportunities and challenges...ideas with the potential to improve graduate education and professional development.” Ben & Rob’s team, The External Graduate Assistant Program, proposed graduate student externships in a variety of non-academic settings that would harness the structure already in place for teaching assistantships at the externs’ institutions.

Ben and Rob have provided GSA with a summary of the External Graduate Assistant Program:

For the NSF’s Innovation in Graduate Education Challenge, we worked in a diverse and multidisciplinary group of ecology and evolutionary biology graduate students from the University of Chicago. We sought to develop a program that would allow young scientists to improve their own career prospects while lending their talent to solve global challenges. Briefly, we proposed to create an external graduate assistant program that would allow graduate students to work part-time in extra-academic organizations, including NGOs, government offices, and private companies. These 

assistant positions would be similar in time commitment to traditional teaching assistantships, which most graduate students in the sciences already complete as part of their curricula.

The benefits of our proposed program are two-fold. First, students would get the opportunity to explore alternative career paths outside of the academy. Second, non-academic organizations would be able to harness the talents of young scientists, and in so doing address important problems using the latest knowledge and expertise. NSF would facilitate the program by connecting non-academic organizations and interested students, while providing small subsidies to universities. Overall, our goal was to create a feasible program that would catalyze meaningful connections and communication between young scientists and organizations outside of the academy.

Watch for the next edition of The GSA Reporter, where Rob and Ben will detail the motivation behind their groups' proposal and the challenges facing today's graduate students.