The "Meet Your Student Leaders" series provides graduate students and postdoctoral fellows an opportunity to get to know the students who run the various graduate student organizations at UAB.

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Q: What is your name, age and program of study?

A: “Melissa Bentley, 24, doctoral student in Graduate Biomedical Sciences (GBS).”

Q: What is your role within the organization?

A: “I am currently the President of Graduate Biomedical Student Outreach (GBSO).”

Q: What responsibilities does that role entail?

A: “Most importantly my job is to support the efforts of GBSO members and to serve as a voice for my fellow peers. I do not believe that this specifically entails having my own opinion on matters but rather listening to the voices of GBS students and making every effort to ensure that their graduate careers at UAB are as successful and happy as possible. More specifically I also do the following: serve as chairperson of the Executive Committee; appoint appropriate sub-committees and committee chairpersons; serve as an ex-officio, non-voting member of all sub-committees; perform other duties for the promotion and development of the organization; represent GBSO to the public and UAB Officials; enact executive decisions when necessary; and make executive decisions consist of any decisive action intended to foster the aims and stated purpose of GBSO.”

Q: How much time do you dedicate to the organization?

A: “The amount of time that I dedicate to the organization varies depending on the events we are organizing at a specific period during the academic year. However, it is a position that requires a high level of commitment and dedication to the organization.”

Q: How are you benefitting from this leadership position? How will it help you achieve your future career goals? What are you learning from this role?

A: “This position, in addition to serving as Vice President the year before, has been an incredible learning experience. It has taught me valuable leadership skills that will be applicable one day if I am fortunate enough to have my own laboratory. It has also allowed me to establish effective communication skills with my peers and with authority figures. Finally, it has taught me time management skills that are critical to any graduate student’s success later on in their career.”

Q: Why should graduate students get involved in student organizations?

A: “Student organizations are excellent ways to be involved in what is going on around you. By getting involved and participating in student organizations it gives you a platform to have your opinions and ideas heard. It also allows you to interact with other individuals who might share a common interest or goal.”

Q: Why should graduate students get involved in leadership positions within those student organizations?

A: “As a student there are a lot of decisions that are being made around you at the graduate school and institution level. These decisions affect you, your daily life and your personal welfare. As a student leader you can be a part of these decisions and be an advocate and voice for your peers.”

Q: How do you balance being a graduate student with the responsibilities that come from this leadership position?

A: "You learn how to manage your time very well. You also learn how to work well in a team so that no individual person has to carry too much of the load.”

Q: What else do you do (member of other organizations, volunteer work, family, etc.)?

A: “In addition to GBSO I also sit on the Graduate School Advisory Committee, and the Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine theme curriculum committee. I also try to stay involved in the Birmingham community by periodically volunteering with the Greater Birmingham Habitat for Humanity.”