Moderate. My experience organizing a law reading group this past year informs this post. This post generalizes from this post on organizing a law group. That said, I know that not everything applies to everyone: please read with a grain of salt.
Why Organize an EA Graduate Student Group
Graduate students, by virtue of their credentials or institutions, can be well-connected and well-placed to make a significant difference in the world.
In the short term, graduate students motivated to do good are often organized, learned, and have relatively strong academic standing. They could use these skills to support different cause areas, especially those that complement their field of study.
In the long term, folks with graduate degrees have easier access to senior positions globally. Bachelor’s degrees no longer suffice to rise in many fields’ ranks. Plus, folks in graduate programs often develop some area of expertise, guaranteeing some clout or specialization.
Challenges Graduate Reading Groups Face
Graduate Students’ Commitment Restrictions
Graduate students often see this school as a stop on a long road. There is less incentive to invest heavily in relationships or activities than in undergrad since the degree’s duration and purpose are often prescribed. Moreover, the degree’s transient nature motivates extra-curricular pickiness: to make the most out of a short stay in a place meant to boost their career, grad students may often limit their off-time to activities that support their job prospects.
Possible Solutions for Group Organizers
Invest in the Group’s Social Dimensions: when not working on their careers, graduate students show an openness to engage in extra-curricular activities that are low commitment but highly social. Social graduate students moving away for their degree may appreciate this aspect. So, graduate EA groups would benefit from emphasizing their social functions over exploratory ones, e.g. reading groups or speaker events.
This idea does not suggest removing learning opportunities. Instead, it invites group organizers to treat social functions as the “in” they wouldn’t otherwise have to talk about EA. A small survey of EA community members suggests that friends are what would keep members in the community most. Hopefully, staying in the EA sphere longer translates to making higher-impact decisions.
Reading-less curriculums: these curriculums can feature only podcasts, videos, or shared readings to lighten the reading load. Alternatively, groups can host regular socials, where group leaders present the night’s conversation topic briefly at the start of supper.
Action-oriented activities: these activities invite students to get involved in, take charge of, or create a high-impact project. These initiatives would be designed so that they introduce students to EA principles and offer them opportunities for connection and growth. They are easier to frame so that they look good on a resume, e.g. by naming it a fellowship.