Jory Korobanik is not one to run away from a challenge. Quite the opposite, actually.
He reacts like a magnet, pulled toward the degree of difficulty or the unknown components of a new task or opportunity. That’s what led him, after one year of undergraduate studies, to change his major from neuroscience to physics. He’s now working on his doctoral degree under the supervision of Prof. Fereidoon Razavi.
“I read a physics course description and couldn’t understand a single word and thought wouldn’t it be cool if I knew what this was all about,” he says. “My research in physics focuses on magnetic and transport properties in materials. It’s the most difficult thing that I have ever done and I love it.”
Finding new challenges is also what compelled Korobanik to become involved in graduate student politics. Last year, he served on Brock’s Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) as the representative for the physics program. That was a warm-up to this year and his new role as the 2013-14 GSA president. He’ll lead the association’s work on behalf of approximately 1,600 students studying in Brock’s 42 graduate programs.
“It’s big a learning curve but I’m fortunate to have a great team helping me,” he says.
No sooner had Korobanik assumed his new GSA responsibilities than he was asked to serve on the newly created presidential task force conducting the program review of all administrative and academic programs, units and services at the University.
“My job is to advocate for graduate students,” he says. “The best way to do that is by becoming aware of how the University operates and to be involved in the decision-making processes and work alongside people to find solutions.”
The GSA supports graduate students in very practical ways, such as administering health and dental care plans, bus passes, fitness memberships, and financial support in the form of bursaries and conference funding.
The GSA’s broader mandate – and the more challenging role – is to promote the development of a graduate culture and community at Brock. The GSA has been working diligently for the past few years on community building and Korobanik plans to continue that momentum. New social events for this year include a GSA semi-formal on Oct. 25 as a fundraiser for Wellspring Niagara. The GSA also plans to increase its volunteer activities for local organizations. These include a Christmas drive to collect gifts for needy children around the world.
“Graduate students have a tendency to operate in silos because of the demands of their academic and research lives,” he says. “Grad work is stressful and it’s important to support each other. The GSA holds pub nights and organizes other social activities as a way for grad students to connect and to share experiences in a fun and inclusive environment.”
As GSA president Korobanik also hopes to encourage graduate students to think beyond their academic work particularly in the area of professionalization.
“I used to think strictly about academics and research,” he says. “But you need to have a broader focus and to take time to do other things that you enjoy, that inspire you and that benefit you. You need to work on yourselves and develop a full skillset to get where you want to be. University isn’t just about training in your field. It’s about becoming a better person.”
Korobanik adds that a visible graduate student community also brings awareness to the work that graduate students carry out to advance research, scholarship and innovation at Brock. One example of that is the annual Mapping the New Knowledges Graduate Student Research Conference.
“The GSA is proud to be part of events that showcase the graduate student community,” he says. “We are looking for more ways to have graduate students connect and to become engaged with wider audiences to talk about what they do and how they hope it makes a difference.”