Thursday, Sept. 28, Committee Representative for Academic Affairs Gwendolyn Galleher ’24 represented the student body’s perspectives, alongside the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly President Sydney Thayer ’24, in the Committee on Academic Affairs board of visitors meeting. As a physics major undergoing research in nuclear fusion energy and plasma physics, Galleher offered insight into the accessibility of student research opportunities. She used several examples of research opportunities in the physics department to demonstrate the value of experiential learning for students at the College.
“I would say it was really accessible. I didn’t need any prior experience. She didn’t ask for a resume. She didn’t look at grades. It was really mostly like, do you actually like this? And are you going to be involved? Are you going to be, you know, a good personality to be a part of a team and stuff like that? So I would say it was one of the most accessible opportunities I’ve had so far,” Galleher said.
College President Katherine Rowe spoke on the important correlation between getting an internship during a student’s time at the College and getting a job after graduation. She stated that 70% of students from the College have an internship before applying to jobs.
“First generation students, students of color, women, are disproportionately unlikely to have an internship,” Rowe said. The correlation between having an internship and getting an offer for a job is extremely high.”
Along similar lines, Galleher expressed her thoughts on how the research opportunities she undertook helped advance her professional goals. She praised the easy application process, highlighted how her research opened up new academic areas of interest and high-profile networking possibilities.
“I think it opened up a portion of physics that you don’t really interact with at William and Mary in the general education process,” Galleher said. “Plasma physics is a more natural area of study that we don’t have classes for. And so that sort of expanded my knowledge a lot. On top of that, I was able to go to a conference in Spokane, Washington last fall, the APS DBP Conference, and I got to present my research there. I met grad school professors, I met members of national labs. That was really great for networking and skill building and sort of, you know, has opened up a lot of doors post-grad for me.”
Coming from a family with no higher education past college for several generations, Galleher felt supported by her mentors during the research program and by the resources given to her to help find Ph.D. programs after graduation. Galleher felt hopeful after assisting board members at the meeting on academic affairs, noting that many of the areas of interest for the board aligned well with the entire student body’s interests, as well.
“I’m happy to see that the areas of interest that the Board has aligned really well with a lot of student interests – small class sizes I think are something that is a big draw to William and Mary,” Galleher said. “I see it as a tour guide a lot, people coming to look at their school really emphasize they want that small class size and that personal relationship with professors, which I know is part of the reason I chose William and Mary. On top of that, I think the discussion that arose about the registrar’s office and sort of, you know, making classes more accessible during the registration period is really hopeful for the future.”