How Graduate Student Government Plans to Enrich Campus Life
Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.
The Organization Previously Known as the Graduate Student Governance Association sets its sights high for the coming year, with a mission to make campus more welcoming and connected than ever before.
The door to the Graduate Student Government (GSG) office hangs open and the inviting aroma of freshly brewed coffee spills out into the halls of Steger Student Life Center. Inside, members of the executive board gather around couches and chat nonchalantly, as if they are old friends. Sporting their “crispy” new name – as President Sid Sridhar describes it – after rebranding away from the “Graduate Student Governance Association”, the board is excited and energized, ready to usher in the new academic year.
Meet the Executive Board
The executive board is comprised of four members who each operate in differing roles:
- President – Sid Sridhar; a PhD candidate who studies Aerospace Engineering and conducts research on drones
- Vice President – Mohan Pillai; a PhD student studying philosophy with a passion for social advocacy
- Treasurer – Abigail Richard; a PhD graduate who studied mathematical sciences and loves engaging others in learning
- Campus Ambassador – Vamshi Kore; a PhD student pursuing Mechanical Engineering and can be found on the cricket field whenever he has free time
This year’s executive board has a wealth of experience, with 3 of the 4 members returning to the board from the previous year. This experience will inform how they go about interacting with students and getting them involved more with their campus. Vamshi says that “it was made clear that graduate students are living in their own little bubbles. They have their research, they have their classes, but it was a tiny little world for them, and they weren’t really venturing outside the comforts of it”. The GSG plans to burst these bubbles and - through intentional programming and event planning - get people to interact.
In addition to the executive board, there are several departmental Graduate Student Associations (GSAs) that are overseen by the board. These GSAs are given money to host their own department-focused programs to get people connecting, which Abigail Richard says often take place at “the beginning at the of the year to get graduate students talking and making friends, or at the end of the year as some sort of celebration.”
How the GSG Operates
GSG’s outreach stretches across nearly every facet of campus; they are an organization that wears many hats. The GSG works to create an inviting atmosphere for graduate students on campus and looks for ways to enhance student life in any way they can. Sid lists this as the GSG’s “primary agenda” this year; they plan to achieve this through hosting intentional programs and events that connect different members of campus with each other.
Importantly, the GSG operates as the primary liaison between students and campus administration. Vamshi explains, “If there’s any feedback that the administration needs to know from the students, we convey it to them. If there is anything that the administration wants to convey to the students, that is where we’re involved.” This gives them insight into the behind-the-scenes operations of campus and gives them, as well as the students they represent, a voice in directing how resources are allocated.
The quickest way to give the GSG feedback is to submit through their "Talk to Us" form on their website. Abigail says that "there are a wide variety of concerns we receive via that form" and that the executive board works together to address them all.
There are two goals at the heart of the GSG’s mission this year: 1) to expand graduate students’ horizons by getting them more involved and educated on their campus and 2) to fiercely advocate for mental health and wellbeing by partnering with campus resources that champion holistic wellbeing and growth.
The programs that the GSG has planned are designed to help intentionally tackle both of these important issues. They will be partnering with other campus offices, such as CAPS and Student Affairs, to make these programs successful. Returning from last year, the GSG will host their signature Grad Cafés where they have informal gatherings for students to come and network with people from other disciplines. Vamshi recollects that there was an interdisciplinary research project borne out of a chance meeting between an engineer and a design student. Mohan, the vice president, touches on how these functions benefit students by saying, “I think that social element goes a long way in terms of mental health building and creating networks around campus”.
Mohan challenges more graduate students to personally invest themselves in student life on campus. “I would love to see more grad students take initiative for organizing things,” he says. “If you look at the undergrads who have a vibrant community-club culture going on, there are hardly any such spaces for graduate students. If anyone was interested in starting say, a hiking club, they can use our resources to help get that started”. Not only is the GSG working to build a better campus, they are here as a resource for you to do so as well.
In addition to organizing events such as the Grad Cafés, the Spring Ball, and various other holiday parties they throw throughout the year, the GSG also supports students through scholarships. Funding that the GSG awards include Excellence Awards, as well as Group Grant Awards, Research Fellowships, and more.
Make the GSG Your Own
If you are interested in getting involved with the GSG, a great way to do so would be to visit their office in 683 Steger Student Life Center. Sid offers another way to get involved by saying “We encourage students to start attending the general assembly meetings or even on the department level, through GSAs”. General assembly meetings are also open to any graduate student; they take place once a month. At these assemblies, the entire body of the GSG – both the executive board and the GSAs – convenes to discuss initiatives and issues they are hoping to tackle in the coming weeks. The first meeting of the year will take place on September 11 in the African American Cultural & Resource Center (AACRC).
Vamshi is especially passionate about getting more people involved on campus, concluding with “we don’t want students to just sit in their labs or just come to campus for their courses and then go home. We want them to get involved because when you have more and more students, you get more and more ideas and that’s how we grow. It’s how the university grows.”