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.

sarah rutland full

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

A: “Sarah Rutland, 26, Medical Sociology PhD.”

Q: What is your role within the organization?

A: “I serve as the community service committee chair.”

Q: What responsibilities does that role entail?

A: “My responsibilities are to organize diverse community service events that everyone can enjoy. I prioritize both events around the needs of the UAB community, as well as the greater Birmingham area.”

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

A: “I spend time meeting new community stakeholders who could use the committee’s help and organizing events for the semester. On a service day, I may be out with my stellar committee members cleaning a park or collecting and organizing donation items for several hours.”

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: “I am mastering skills in communication and teamwork that I would not get just working in my department. The networks I build by meeting stakeholders all across campus and Birmingham could help me get a job when I graduate and create a legacy of service for GSG. I am learning that service can ease the stress of graduate school.”

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

A: “Graduate school is stressful, we all know that. But when you’re working in your lab or office all day you miss what is going on all around you. It can be grounding to get involved in student organizations, and most importantly it can remind you that you’re not alone in this difficult journey.”

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

A: “There is only so much you can learn in a classroom and by following protocols. So many skills required to be successful like effective verbal and written communication, empathy and professionalism are learned through engaging with your environment and practicing first hand.”

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

A: “Community service is a form of self-care for me. I would like to think that my research helps people, but I do my research mostly on computers and sometimes I can go a whole day without speaking to someone on campus. When I help one person or organization with community service in person, it helps provide that balance to my life and makes juggling the responsibilities worth it.”

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

A: “At least twice a month I volunteer as a rape response advocate at the Crisis Center in Birmingham. I try to always be reading a book for fun, even if it takes me months to finish it. I play Pathfinder with friends as a character very unlike myself, which is challenging but always a good time.”