March 26, 2013

New Plan Sets ‘Strong Forward Direction’ for Graduate Community

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The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly approved the graduate and professional community initiative — a plan detailing projects to benefit the graduate and professional student community —  Monday. The plan targets frequent graduate student concerns including housing, advisors and community.

According to GPSA Vice President Nicole Baran grad, the document is an update of the 2007 GCI, which was described as a “needs assessment” for the Graduate School. The initiative is a strategic plan, whereas the 2007 document was “more of a vision statement,” she said.

“[The initiative] both summarizes the needs of our community and makes specific recommendations for what can be done to improve graduate and professional student life,” Baran said.

The initiative includes eight  sections ranging from career resources and mental health to family services and transportation. GPSA President Mitch Paine grad said GPSA representatives endeavored to put the document together in a “collaborative, comprehensive and strategic way.”

“I would bet that those students who do take the time to read the document will find that we actually have captured their experience — their struggles with their adviser, anxiety about finding a job after graduation [and] challenges finding an apartment in Ithaca,” Baran said.

Paine said one objective of the initiative is to work toward a partnership with the Student Assembly to push the University to allocate more funds to the Off-Campus Housing Office and help graduate students find housing.

As for on-campus housing, the initiative calls for changes to the two main graduate housing options, Maplewood Park and Hasbrouck Apartments, in response to concerns about room allocation and the cost of parking for residents, Paine said.

One particular objective of the initiative, converting the food service area in the Big Red Barn to a coffee shop, aims to create a more interactive and comfortable atmosphere for graduate students to gather, according to the document.

Max Spector grad said this would be a welcome addition to the Big Red Barn’s International Coffee Hour event on Thursdays. In addition, he said the cafe environment itself presents a comfortable alternative to his department’s facilities.

“[Having a coffee shop] would be nice, since, [as a computer science major] there are few places to collaborate in the computer science buildings,” Spector said.

According to Baran, one of the biggest challenges throughout the process of revising and reworking the 2007 document to better fit the current needs of graduate students was “[learning] how to listen to student input and translate that experience into specific actionable recommendations.”

The GPSA will spend the upcoming months distributing the document to the community and discussing the specific recommendations contained within the initiative with administrators. On April 8, the initiative will introduce a resolution to form a GPCI Working Group, a sub-committee consisting of relevant administrators and students who will implement the initiative.

“My goal is to distribute the document as far and as wide as possible,” Paine said. “I want every dean to have seen it, every director of graduate study and all members of the administration who work with graduate and professional students to have the [initiative].”

Both Baran and Paine said they expect the initiative to be well-received by the administration, and they hope that members of the graduate and professional student community also take time to read the document.

“If the administration uses the document to improve the graduate and professional student experience, then we have done our job,” Baran said.

Administrators also expressed optimism about the plan.

“The GPSA leadership has spent quite a bit of time consulting with administrators, and as a result, it is both visionary, while at the same time, its goals are arguably realistic,” said Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’67.

Susan Murphy, vice president of Student and Academic Services, said, however, that the plan will encounter economic constraints.

“It is an ambitious agenda in a time when our resources, especially financial resources, are very constrained. Nevertheless, I look forward to working with the GPSA to support their work on the goals that fall within their purview and to consider carefully the requests of the administration,” Murphy said. “It sets forth a strong forward direction.”

Original Author: Nikki Lee