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### Enhancing University Progress: Graduate Assistants’ Real-World Skill Development

Graduate Student George Perron

Each year, Seton Hall Graduate Assistants (GA’s) are assigned placements throughout the university. Since 2022, two GA’s have played pivotal roles in supporting significant initiatives. This article showcases the experiences of George Perron, who played a crucial role in the Middle States Accreditation Project. Additionally, Kat Diana has been instrumental in aiding the University Libraries Data Services team.

Mr. Perron, a third-year Counseling Psychology Ph.D. candidate in the Counseling/Psychology program, collaborates with Leigh Onimus, the assistant dean, and Professor , the department chair of Mathematics and Computer Science.

Onimus and Saccoman, who are co-chairs for the Middle States Self-Study for the University’s re-accreditation, highly value Perron’s contributions. Saccoman expressed, “Our requirements for the Middle States Self-Study necessitated someone with robust technical and data skills, and George perfectly fit the bill. The completion of the Middle States Self-Study would not have been possible without George’s significant contributions.”

Professor John T. Saccoman

Mr. Perron’s academic journey led him to Seton Hall after obtaining his M.S. in Clinical Research Methods from Fordham University. As a married father of two, Perron exemplifies the academically advanced returning student whose wealth of real-world experience rendered him ideal for a role in the Middle States Accreditation team. Saccoman elaborated, “George has meticulously curated and managed the extensive array of data and evidence documents essential for showcasing compliance with Middle States standards, affiliation requirements, and federal regulations.” He further added, “Collaborating closely with us on a major project that will significantly influence the University has provided George with the opportunity to engage with and establish relationships with administrators across the University in a manner that most graduate students do not experience.”

Similar to many graduate assistant candidates, Mr. Perron primarily pursued the position to benefit from the tuition remission assistantships offer—a significant advantage amidst the high costs of graduate education. His interest also stemmed from the opportunity to enhance his existing research skills. Perron shared, “My work as a GA on the self-study [for Middle States] granted me substantial insight into the administrative, strategic planning, and quality assessment facets of the university, offering me a perspective on how these areas impact the student experience.”

Another graduate assistant contributing to departmental support is Kathryn (Kat) Diana, the GA for Research Data Services in University Libraries. Diana is pursuing a Masters in Psychological Studies with a concentration in Sport Psychology. Reflecting on her experience, Diana highlighted the valuable exposure to “data analysis, data visualization, research data management, and grant writing skills – all of which hold relevance across various professions. Additionally, I had the opportunity to collaborate with students and faculty on software consultations.”

With experience as a registered behavior technician working with individuals with autism and traumatic brain injuries, Diana possessed a profound understanding of the research process and demonstrated a willingness to swiftly acquire new skills. Lisa DeLuca, the Assistant Dean for Public Services, commended Diana, stating, “Kat has excellently managed DataLab, an Academy funded by the Provost’s Office, overseeing applications, guiding students and faculty through their semester-long projects, and ensuring students have a platform on campus to present their research.”

Both Perron and Diana emphasize the importance of strong time management skills for graduate students seeking assistantships for the fall 2024 semester, especially considering the additional responsibilities many advanced degree students manage alongside their studies. Perron recalled, “Balancing the assistantship with my other commitments required adept multitasking and deadline tracking. Staying organized was paramount for me, and I heavily relied on digital calendars and task management apps to stay on top of everything.”

On the supervisory front, Saccoman and DeLuca advocate for the expansion of the GA program at Seton Hall. Drawing from his own experience as a former GA, Saccoman recognizes the valuable skills gained through such roles that are beneficial for future careers. He emphasized the need for Seton Hall to offer more of these opportunities to attract promising graduate students. Saccoman stated, “These opportunities should be more widely promoted, highlighting their impact on students’ educational journeys and their contributions to the University.”

In 2023, the Office of the Provost awarded approximately 132 graduate assistantships, most of which are granted for an academic year with the possibility of renewal based on performance. GAs may also receive a scholarship covering up to twenty-four credits in their program. These assistantships provide full tuition coverage and a stipend in exchange for supporting various University divisions in specific capacities. For more information, visit Seton Hall’s official website.