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Shamila Janakiraman, PhD candidate in Learning Design and Technology in the College of Education Shamila Janakiraman, PhD candidate in Learning Design and Technology in the College of Education

August 19, 2020

Supporting graduate students in times of need

Shamila Janakiraman, a PhD candidate in Learning Design and Technology in the College of Education, was just “one step away” from graduating when COVID-19 hit. Following a surgery, she was immunocompromised, but still able to work on her dissertation. Then the pandemic prevented her from taking certain medications, confined her to home, and caused a delay in post-surgical treatment.

“This caused immense anxiety and uncertainty about my health, treatment, and recovery,” said Janakiraman.

Adding insult to injury, when Purdue went on lockdown, she had limited access to resources that she needed to complete her dissertation, and at the end of the summer, her funding ran out.
While she was expecting to graduate in August 2020 and start a new life, the pandemic forced her to pause and reconsider her plans.

There were several such students at Purdue whose spring or summer 2020 graduation plans were disrupted by COVID-19, throwing them into funding hardship. The Graduate School provided emergency COVID-19 assistantships for eight such students who were nominated by their college.

“The COVID relief fund assistantship came as a godsend when I was trying to find some kind of assistantship for just another semester to complete my dissertation writing, defense and graduation,” said Janakiraman.

For her dissertation, Janakiraman explores the effectiveness of digital game-based learning in promoting positive attitudes and behaviors toward environmental sustainability.

Janakiraman felt strongly that her defense needed to be completed in 2020. She was concerned about finding a funding source, and she was “very anxious about postponing because of the uncertainty with everything.” Thanks to the emergency assistantship, she expects to graduate in December 2020 and will soon begin her search for a faculty position.

In addition to the emergency assistantships, The Graduate School also launched the COVID-19 Scholarship Program to assist graduate students impacted by COVID-19 through illness, family illness, job loss or cutback, unexpected costs, or other hardships. The Graduate School will award 80 scholarships to full-time Purdue graduate students seeking a degree, teacher license, or graduate certificate and who have a 3.0 cumulative GPA. The application was distributed to students at the end of July with a deadline of August 24. 

Supporting graduate students who are also parents

Adefolarin Bolaji, PhD candidate in Cyber Security and Artificial Intelligence in the Polytechnic Institute

Pictured left: Adefolarin Bolaji, PhD candidate in Cyber Security and Artificial Intelligence in the Polytechnic Institute

Independent of the pandemic, there is a persistent need for the smallest members of the Graduate School community—the children of graduate students. The Graduate School and the Purdue Graduate Student Government (PGSG) provide childcare grants for those who are juggling the challenging roles of parent and graduate student at the same time.

The Graduate School awarded 79 childcare grants from 2017 to 2020 to help offset the costs of childcare, while PGSG awarded 76 childcare grants for the same period of time. Additionally, in the academic year 2019-20, PGSG awarded 16 Grad Parent Support Scholarships.

Adefolarin Bolaji, a PhD candidate in Cyber Security and Artificial Intelligence in the Polytechnic Institute, has received four semesters of childcare grants between 2017 and 2019, two from PGSG and two from The Graduate School. Bolaji’s wife is a PhD candidate in Computer Graphics Technology. Together, they have three children aged 18 months, 6 years, and 8 years old.

“This benefited me by providing extra assistance for my family to send our youngest son to daycare while my wife and I were attending classes and working at the University,” said Bolaji. “If our son was not attending a daycare at those periods, it would have been harder to cope with working and studying at the same time.”

Bolaji aspires to become an IT solution consultant to organizations. “I like solving both hardware and software problems. I am also passionate about impacting knowledge, so I hope to eventually find myself teaching upcoming scholars in the near future.”

More information about PGSG childcare grants is available at: https://www.purduegradstudents.com/child-care-grants

If you are interested in supporting Purdue graduate students in times of need, please consider making a gift to The Graduate School emergency fund during Purdue Day of Giving on September 9, 2020.

Writer: Korina Wilbert, kwilbert@purdue.edu

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