VILLANOVA, Pa. – In its ongoing effort to improve the graduate student experience at Villanova, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) approved a new position designed to ease the administrative burden on graduate students and ensure that they are taking advantage of the opportunities available to them. Brooke Erdman, who earned her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Villanova in 2016 and most recently served as Graduate Program Coordinator in the English Department, takes on this new role with a desire to help graduate students succeed and make the most of their time at the University. As a student at Villanova, Erdman was a graduate assistant in the Graduate Studies Office and helped with a number or administrative tasks. Below, Erdman talks about her new challenge and her path (back) to the Grad Studies Office.
Student Services Coordinator is a new position for Grad Studies. Why was this role created, and what are your basic responsibilities?
My position serves all students currently enrolled in CLAS Graduate Studies at Villanova. I am the primary point of contact in our office for students from enrollment through graduation, supporting a variety of student needs such as changes to records, withdrawals, community-building and graduation. I also facilitate the enrollment and graduation processes for our Bachelor/Master programs. We have a number of staff in our office who focus on different areas from recruitment to admissions to international student services, but the missing piece was a position that could directly serve as a resource for current students and their needs and questions.
What are the broader implications of your position? Why is it important for Grad Studies to focus on student services?
This new role was created to improve the overall graduate student experience. It is important because graduate students now have one contact for student services and one person to whom they can direct questions—instead of having to go to a number of people in a number of departments and offices on campus.
What goals do you have for this new position?
One of my goals is to get to know more students in different programs and learn what their needs and wants are during their time at Villanova. The success of the students is important to me, and I hope to be able to learn and initiate ways to contribute to their success and to their experience here. The Grad Studies office also doesn’t have a lot of face-to-face interaction with students once they are enrolled, so I hope to change that and create more of a community among the graduate students and our office. I also hope to revamp our Orientation program, connect students across disciplines and plan a Graduate Student Research Symposium.
Where did you go for undergrad, and what was your major?
I went to Rider University in New Jersey. I majored in American Studies and History, but my main reason for attending Rider was the opportunity to study abroad as a student and to volunteer for a service learning trip abroad as an alum.
Why did you choose Villanova for graduate school?
When I was in my last year of undergrad I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to go for a master’s degree. I worked in admissions as a tour guide while at Rider, and I had an idea that I would possibly want to pursue a career in an admissions setting. I found the Liberal Studies program here at Villanova and loved the idea of being able to set my own path and basically create my own curriculum. I came to visit campus and heard about the graduate assistant opportunity in Graduate Studies, so once I applied and was awarded that assistantship it all just fell into place.
What are some of the highlights of your experience as a grad student here?
The biggest highlight of my time as a graduate student at Villanova was the opportunity to study for a month in Egypt with Dr. Kelly-Anne Diamond. It was an amazing experience, and it ultimately guided the trajectory of my studies in the Liberal Studies program, which led me to complete my final requirement of the program by creating a virtual model of an Egyptian temple for the CAVE on campus. Another highlight of my time as a grad student was my graduate assistantship opportunity. My experience as a GA here fueled my passion for higher education, and I wouldn’t be (back) here without that experience.
How did your time as Graduate Program Coordinator for the English Department help prepare you for your new role?
I transitioned to the English Department as the Graduate Program Coordinator right after I earned my MA degree. In my more than two years in that position, I had the opportunity to get a program-specific perspective of graduate studies. One of the best parts about that position was being able to meet and get to know the graduate students. The department has a welcoming community feel to it, and the grad students are an important part of that community. There are almost always graduate students in the department lounge and they were so valuable to my success in that role, which ultimately pushed me to jump at the opportunity to work with graduate students in all of our programs by pursuing this new role in Graduate Studies.
Was your time as a GA in the Grad Studies Office a part of the reason for accepting this new position? If so, what about that experience made this new job appealing?
Absolutely! I knew rejoining Graduate Studies would provide the opportunity to work as part of a team, which was something I felt was important for me at this point in my career in higher education. I also had some background of the different student service related duties and tasks I would be taking on from my time as a GA here, which I felt would be helpful, and the opportunity to take these different duties and tasks on and make them my own and further contribute to the success of Graduate Studies was very appealing to me.
Did you ever think that you would have a career in higher education? Why do you think you’ve gravitated to this career, and why Villanova?
Since my first semester of undergrad I had an idea I wanted to work in higher education, but my time as a GA in Graduate Studies really pushed me in that direction. I had a great experience as a graduate student here, but once I started my position in English I knew I found a home here at Villanova!
Can you talk a bit about your hobbies, interests? What do you like to do when you are not working to make the graduate student experience better?
I have a passion for travel! I’ve been to about 15 countries, and I love exploring new cities and cultures. I’m also a Villanova basketball fan!