February 5, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 70  

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SOGS serves up beer, money and bus passes

By Lorraine Forster
Gazette Staff

University becomes a very different place when you’re a graduate student. How, you ask?

According to Daryl White, president of the Society of Graduate Students, graduate students are walking in the middle of the road between undergraduates and faculty; campus life becomes a very different experience.

In order to soften the transition into the world of graduate studies at Western, White says SOGS, the oldest autonomous graduate organization in Canada, provides students with a wealth of services, ranging from a health plan and bus pass to academic, social and financial services.

Each year SOGS gives out approximately $80,000 in bursaries, White explains, and they also provide emergency loans. “If grad students find themselves in dire need, we have a fund that we hope to be able to help people out with,” he says, noting this is because graduate students may find themselves in unexpected situations and are not often in a position to draw upon reserves of savings or extended credit.

In terms of academic services, SOGS also hopes to improve the lives of their constituents. Teaching Assistant awards, The Western Journal of Graduate Research and the Western Research Forum are just a few of the services SOGS provides, White explains.

According to White, the Journal is a peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary journal published annually by SOGS since 1989. “[The goal is] to showcase the talent and experience of [Western] graduate students, while providing students with the opportunity to have their work published in a recognized journal that is held in libraries across Canada.”

The two day WRF conference allows graduate students to display the highlights of their research. “The WRF is truly a highlight of the academic calendar,” he says. “It allows students from different faculties to come together and share their research in a non-specialized setting.”

SOGS provides a strong social atmosphere for students as well, most notably centring around Western’s own Grad Club. “[The Grad Club] in some ways it the most essential service,” White adds.

Bruce Fyfe, manager of the Grad Club, explains that it has been located in Middlesex College since 1979, but has existed as a social club since 1968. In the past, the club has run social services such as sports events and they are currently looking seriously at expanding the club and its services, he adds.

The Grad Club acts as a separation between undergraduate and graduate students, White says, providing the latter with their own space on campus.

White, who completed his undergraduate degree at Laurentian University, says the benefits of grad school depend on why you’re there. In his area, history, he says “most [students] there are looking to become a faculty member and grad studies is the only way to do it. Nobody goes into grad studies for the money; most have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.” he admits that some students are afraid of life beyond the academic gates.

“When you come to the end of your four years of undergrad you have been in school for a long time,” White says. “There are times when I’m sure a lot of people question their decision. It puts people’s lives on hold in a way that many people don’t find appealing.”

“In some ways there are no advantages,” he says, adding that in the coming years however, graduate degrees will become increasingly important due to the competitiveness of the job market. “There is an increasing belief that compared with the [United States], Canada does not produce enough advanced degrees and of those, we lose a lot. If we don’t retain these we will find ourselves at a disadvantage.”



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