Maria Dykema Erb
THE GRADUATE SCHOOL CO-DIRECTOR OF DIVERSITY AND STUDENT SUCCESS
3 1/2 years working at Carolina
What’s a typical day like in your job?
Not typical! I lead the diversity and student success program with co-director Kathy Wood. The four initiatives that I’ve created are Carolina Grad Student F1RSTS, Global Grads, Military-Affiliated Grad Students and Queer Graduate and Professional Students, as well as the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Grads empowerment group. The idea in creating these groups is to build a network of support for our graduate students from diverse backgrounds. I might start the morning at a Military-Affiliated Grads Women’s Breakfast, then lead a workshop for Global Grads and finish the day with a networking event for the Carolina Grad Student F1RSTS.
How does your work support Carolina’s mission?
We prominently support the University’s diversity, inclusion and equity mission. We assist our students with overcoming barriers they might encounter throughout graduate school to make their experience a better one here. A lot of institutions across the country are thinking more about the diverse graduate student experience. We are seeing a shift where more student affairs services are being provided to help students transition into graduate school and provide community while they are here.
What do you like most about your work?
The fact that I get to work directly with students every single day — they’re my top priority. And, that I get to build this with Kathy Wood. We’ve created this tight-knit team of staff and graduate assistants who collaborate well with one another. We all love coming to the Graduate Student Center every day because of the wonderful work we get to do by making a direct impact on graduate students’ lives.
How did you come to this job?
I’m originally from Vermont and worked at the University of Vermont for 20 years before moving to North Carolina to escape the snowy winters. I’ve been in higher education and student affairs for 27 years. As a first-generation college student from a working-class background, I never dreamed that this was a career path. Building a program for graduate students from diverse backgrounds rounded out my career trajectory. In some ways, it was not what I intended, but it’s where I’m supposed to be.
Is there an initiative you have a personal connection to?
All the initiatives are special in their own way, and I’m passionate about each one of them. For me, it’s a gift to be able to work with so many students from such diverse backgrounds. That’s why I love the work that I do.
Carolina People is a regular feature in each issue of the Gazette that asks one of your fascinating colleagues five questions about the work they do for the University. Do you know someone with an interesting or unique job at Carolina? Please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and put Carolina People in the subject line.