The following information is intended to provide useful links about opportunities outside of academics to engage with the Northwestern community.  It is by no means comprehensive; we encourage you to explore The Graduate School pages for more information.

Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative

Graduate students are encouraged to participate in the Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative. This initiative is designed to help graduate students at Northwestern foster connections with students and faculty in other programs with whom they have intellectual affinities. Interdisciplinary clusters in effect provide a second intellectual home for incoming and current graduate students. Clusters offer their own discrete courses as well as sponsor a number of activities and events. Graduate students who are interested in the initiative should visit the Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative page for more information about the various clusters. Prospective students have the opportunity to select on their application form the cluster with which they might like to affiliate. However, graduate students may affiliate with a cluster at any point during their course of study at Northwestern.

Current interdisciplinary clusters are:


Graduate students in Political Science are encouraged to seek out and attend relevant conferences.  The linked PDF contains a list of recurring annual conferences organized by subfield.

You can learn more about presenting at a conference by viewing a presentation by current student Chris Sardo entitled ‘Applying for and Participating in Academic Conferences’.

The Commune has collected a database of information about conferences that current and past students have attended.  Please consult this database to learn more about each conference and what you might expect to gain if you attend.  [Note: This document is more easily read if downloaded as a PDF or Excel file.]

Should you attend a conference, we ask that you contribute to this database by completing a short survey


There are many resources to assist new and returning Teaching Assistants (TAs) with developing lesson plans and improving their teaching skills. 

The Graduate School has a number of opportunities for TAs, the most important of which is the New TA Conference, held annually at the start of the academic year. 

The Searle Center for Advanced Teaching and Learning also offers numerous training sessions and workshops, as well as classroom observations and peer-feedback. 

The Department has also created a Teaching Committee, whose members, upon successful completion of the year-long program, receive a Graduate Student Teaching Certificate with a $500 award.  

Graduate students interested in receiving department recognition of their teaching must achieve the following requirements. Participation in the Searle Graduate Teaching Certificate Program, which might optionally be completed for additional recognition, would also fulfill some of the requirements for department recognition.

To pursue the award:

  • Student must have served as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for at least three Quarters

To complete the award, the student must complete the following steps:

  • Write a statement of teaching philosophy
  • Produce a portfolio documenting their teaching
  • Be observed and evaluated by a member of the department teaching committee or department faculty or a Searle Center staff member
  • Be trained in how to conduct observations and observe at least one TA section or graduate student workshop and complete a feedback report
  • Obtain a nomination from a faculty member for whom they have served as a TA
  • Attend quarterly department teaching committee meetings and lead at least one professional development experience or service project, described below

In order to be eligible for recognition, students must commit to serve on a departmental teaching committee, which will operate as follows:

  1. Members of the committee will be all graduate students currently pursuing the department teaching recognition, any previous awardees who would like to continue their involvement, any current Searle Center Graduate Teaching Fellow(s), and the Commune Co-Chairs (ex officio) and the Directors of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies (ex officio).
  2. Graduate student members of the committee will be responsible for coordinating at least one professional development experience or service project for fellow graduate students.

The Commune also provides resources for TAs as they prepare their discussion sections.  The TA resource website is updated quarterly with new materials.  You can view a presentation about ‘Teaching Sensitive Subjects’ by current student Erin Lockwood.