Q&A with the leaders of the Graduate and Professional Student Council
Marie Teemant was recently re-elected president of UA's Graduate and Professional Student Council for next year. Dustin Tran, current GPSC administrative vice president, was elected to be executive vice president.
Teemant, a third-year Ph.D. student in art history, will be in her third year of being involved with GPSC. Tran, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering, has been involved for three years, going on four.
The Daily Wildcat sat down with Teemant and Tran to learn more about their experiences with GPSC and what their plans are for leading the organization next year.
Daily Wildcat: What was it that made you want to run again for GPSC president?
Marie Teemant: You know, we've made a lot of really great changes this year. We've really been able to focus on graduate students and, you know, the experience of getting to advocate on behalf of graduate students and see even marginal change is really satisfying. You spend so much time figuring out this position and how to get things to move, it seemed like the right decision to stick with it for another year and solidify some things.
DW: What made you want to run for executive vice president?
Dustin Tran: There's a lot of changes we've made. There's a lot of things we want to continue doing, and I just wanted to throw my hat in the ring and see if I get elected or not. If I do, great. If I don't, then, you know, we have new blood. If I threw my name in, then at least we'd have some sort of institutional memory, knowing how, moving forward, what we were trying to do.
DW: What's something you've started in your first term as president that you want to continue and work on more in your second term?
MT: Advocating for student parents. We have been asking for there to be a family study room in the library with all of these renovations. Most of the renovations and aims for the Student Success District are geared completely towards undergraduate students, and I don't think it's much to ask for a family study room. I also hope to continue advocating for child care on campus, which is something both myself and [Faculty Chair] Jessica Summers at the Faculty Center are working on. Just more resources for student parents and giving them visibility on campus.
DW: What are some new ideas you plan to implement next year?
MT: You know, we've made a lot of changes this year. I think some of what we would like to add to be new is really looking at how things worked this year – what worked, what didn't, what needs to be adjusted, you know. We entirely changed the rubrics of our grant programs, so I think we want to take a hard look at that and make sure that it's surviving as many graduate students as possible. And where it isn't, make those adjustments.
DT: We're looking for different ways to serve graduate students – finding professional development opportunities, figure out what kinds of things students want. Are they looking to learn more soft skills, are they looking to pick up some additional skills that will help them with their research or their education?
MT: Yeah, the council this year is working out, trying to figure out, how to fund a GA for professional development. So that person's role would be to connect graduate students to professional developments on campus already but, as Dustin said, create new opportunities, workshops, internship connections, working with the graduate center on micro-credentials and really trying to help graduates be marketable when they go out to find a job.
DW: What have you learned during your time in GPSC?
MT: You learn new things every day. I would say the greatest thing to learn is the kind of research actually happening on this campus. A lot of graduate students live in the corner of their world and within their labs or within their departments, and you really get this great opportunity to see everything else that's happening on campus. It's been really such a great opportunity to meet colleagues from across the campus and see the amazing research that's happening and really hear different graduate student's stories to better understand where the needs are.
DT: It's sort of like how to bring students out, how to communicate effectively to students, because a lot of students don't follow the traditional ways of responding to emails because they're so busy. So, finding ways to reach them. And that's not only been a challenge, but something we've learned this year.
MT: Communication efforts have been big.
DW: During your time in GPSC, what accomplishment have you been most proud of?
MT: I think I'm most proud of getting to outreach to more students. This week was Graduate Professional Student Appreciation Week, and we really revamped how we did it. It used to be that we would have a breakfast here on the [UA] Mall and maybe do one other evening event during the week. While that's a start, as I've said, kind of understanding where graduate students [are] and how they act, most of them don't come by the Mall. So we've had an amazing council this year who's really put a lot of effort into rethinking how we do things, not just sticking with the status quo. As a result, we had breakfast all across campus all week, we brought food trucks in on Thursday and got to serve 200 graduate students there. We did a bowling night [Saturday]. We're doing Autobahn. Tonight we're having a social, which we normally have at No Anchovies. I think what I'm most proud of is being able to help the council brainstorm and getting them all involved in really moving forward things that graduate students like and appreciate ... I'm pretty proud of, not just what I've done on that end, but really how everybody's jumped in and been a part of that.
DT: I think starting conversations around child care, starting conversations about how to look at tuition and fees from the graduate perspective. I think that's something we talk about a lot.
DW: Why did you first get involved with GPSC?
MT: I first got involved with GPSC because of a policy the university has that graduate students can't teach gen-ed, which is a ludicrous policy. We're the only university that I've seen that has that policy. Those are the classes that make the most sense for graduates to be teaching, and for departments like mine, where it's a small department and so many of the classes are considered gen-eds, you really cut off the professional development of those who want to go into higher [education] and who want to teach. I could teach these same classes at Pima, but the problem becomes for international students; they can't because they can't work off-campus. I saw that as a really big problem and I initially jumped onto GPSC wanting to really tackle that, and we've made some headway with that. And we're still trying to get that policy overturned, but, you know, it kind of introduces you to the whole array of things you could be advocating for, certainly.
DT: I started getting involved with GPSC because I came out to some of the events, starting with orientation, starting with some of the socials, and it felt like something I wanted to be involved with. As I got more and more involved with it, I got more invested into the programs they'd been running and sort of had some ideas on how to make things better and it went from there.
DW: What do you see as the future of GPSC?
MT: I think the future of GPSC is a lot of what it's always been about, which is advocacy. Advocating on behalf of graduate professional students and making sure that we're really pushing and asking for the things that are going to make that experience that best it can. I think we've really moved into an area in which the council, whether or not we always agree on the same things, that that agreement doesn't turn into a dissolution or devolving into people fighting with each other and instead trying to get to the best solution and then go forward and advocate for it. Because no matter how we think the best way to approach those things [is], if we're all pulling the same direction we actually get somewhere.
DT: I see a lot of it as, not only what what Marie said about advocacy, but trying to reach out to students, connecting students to each other and figuring out what their needs are. Because I think that's sort of the direction we're moving in. Since I've doing GPSC I think our reach has increased dramatically, so I think we just continue that trend, being able to reach more students, getting students involved and being able to advocate for what they want.
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