Dean Keoni Kauwe encourages graduate students to find community in their academic life

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Students flocked to the New Graduate Dinner seeking guidance in their educational path, as well as the promise of free food and prizes. (Jessica Wanlass)

New graduate students met in the Wilkinson Student Center Ballroom on Sept. 12 for a night of food and fun. Many of the students weren’t sure what to expect from the night, but the promise of potential reward money and the guaranteed free meal were incentives for some.

The New Graduate Dinner is an annual event that celebrates the accomplishments students have made to further their education at BYU. Leaders in graduate studies had the opportunity to address and encourage these new students.

Though advancing into BYU’s graduate programs can be a notable achievement, for many students, it can also be difficult transition.

“As a new graduate student at BYU, there are so many things I don’t know,” Brandon Moore, a graduate student studying accounting, said. “You have more freedom to do more work. It can be difficult since you aren’t used to dictating your own schedule that way.”

For others like Ariana Avila, a new TESOL graduate student, it has been difficult getting back into the routine of school after having a large gap of time between her undergraduate and graduate studies.

As the dinner progressed, the newly-appointed graduate school dean Keoni Kauwe addressed the students.

“You are not just obtaining information. You are not checking boxes,” Kauwe said. “You are trying to develop a skill set that is valued, that can allow you to make meaningful and novel scholarly contributions throughout the world.”

Find mentors and community

Kauwe thanked the students for their attendance, then continued his address by relaying his experiences reaching out to different peers and mentors while he was in graduate school.

“I had engaged a mentor that was truly exceptional,” Kauwe said. “I found somebody who was willing to talk to me, push me and help me excel in my field.”

Kauwe said there are many ways to find help and guidance in graduate school — such as senior students, faculty and other staff members. He said all of these people helped him in various ways, because he reached out to them.

“Mentors and community in your program will save you from many mistakes,” Kauwe said. “Find mentors. Learn from them, listen to them and you will facilitate your own success greatly.”

Work hard and develop passion in your field

Next, Kauwe said he wants students to find passion in their field of study, rather than going through the motions to get a worthy grade.

“Your job (as a graduate student) is to be an elite scholar in your field,” Kauwe said. “To have knowledge that can change the world, you have to learn to make your specialty a part of you.”

He promised that as students work hard to do this, they will have increasing success, better job offers and more opportunities.

“As you seek to excel, you are building the opportunities for tomorrow,” Kauwe said. “There is nothing worse than working hard today, and having the terrible, terrible time trying to decide what amazing path you’re going to follow tomorrow.”

Find happiness now

Kauwe said it can be easy to constantly think of tomorrow and the next chapter of life, especially for new students. He cautioned the graduates to not dwell on the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“You need to be happy today,” Kauwe said. “You are part of an incredible community, and have an opportunity to learn and grow in ways that are truly unique — to develop yourself intellectually and spiritually.”

For students who aren’t happy with their graduate career, Kauwe advised them to talk with their BYU community and to work on finding joy in their profession with the help of others.

“I can promise you that your Heavenly Father will guide you on your path,” Kauwe said. “He’ll consecrate your efforts to bless your life, the lives of your families and any others in your path. I’ve seen it unfold in many students’ lives.”

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