Service and Participation

  • Gregory M. Colón Semenza


Of the three most important activities performed by the majority of graduate students—service, teaching, and research—service is the least important. In the 2001 scientific survey of “What Search Committees Want,” service was ranked 3.42 on a scale of one to six— slightly less than important, in other words.1 This fact is quite misleading, however, since service will be of major importance at the assistant professor level, especially for those individuals hired by smaller colleges and universities. Paul Hanstedt claims that in many so-called teaching colleges, “service almost surpasses teaching effectiveness as the main means of establishing institutional suitability.”2 Since “Potential for making a positive contribution to the institution as a whole” receives the highest ranking of any category (5.36), the study sends the clear message that although your service record won’t get you hired, it will make you a considerably stronger job candidate for all types of institution.3 How you approach your service obligations as a graduate student not only suggests to potential employers how likely you are to contribute to their departments should they hire you, but also how efficiently and effectively you will be able to do so. In this relatively brief chapter, I consider the following issues related to institutional service and participation:
  • Differentiating useful and useless service activities

  • Participating in specialized-field activities

  • Maintaining efficiency in committee work

  • Avoiding “service exploitation” as a minority student

  • Taking on student leadership roles

  • Understanding service obligations after the Ph.D.


Faculty Member Graduate Student Minority Student Department Head Reading Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 4.
    Piper Fogg, “So Many Committees, So Little Time.” Chronicle of Higher Education 50.17 (2003): A14.Google Scholar

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© Gregory M. Colón Semenza 2005

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  • Gregory M. Colón Semenza

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