Fed up with what they call stalling efforts on the part of GW, Student Association leaders are pushing administrators to prioritize graduate student issues, saying the group is sometimes isolated and ignored.
SA President and Executive Vice President Ashwin Narla and Abby Bergren say they want to create a separate orientation program, a graduate student lounge – possibly in Gelman Library or the Marvin Center basement – and new policies allowing groups to serve alcohol at their events.
Groups of graduate students, who comprise almost 60 percent of GW, told staffers last year that they wanted a tighter community, better academic and career advising, and more study areas.
The findings, compiled by presidential administrative fellows, who are master’s candidates that receive full tuition to work for GW departments, were presented to administrators last April after a year of research, focus groups and surveys.
The University has made some headway on the plans, but ideas like the student council and orientation program remain years away, officials said.
“It’s something that’s important. It’s something the University has lagged behind on and it’s our job to push these processes forward,” Bergren, the SA’s executive vice president, said.
The Center for Student Engagement also outlined goals for graduate students last spring, like offering more graduate student programming, helping with child care services and increasing representation in advocacy organizations, based on its own research.
Last semester, CSE added a handful of career events for the Graduate School of Political Management but CSE director Tim Miller said taking additional steps is complex because students are in different stages of life with their careers and families.
He acknowledged that the University has mostly failed to connect with graduate students who have families and full-time careers.
“It’s hard to commit them to coming to things,” Miller said. “We’re building a community for the ones that aren’t going to go to the happy hour.”
CSE Director of Graduate, Distance, and Professional Student Experience Andrew Goretsky, said he is working to create a week-long orientation program, rather than the current half-day program. The current offering includes a welcome ceremony, a graduate student services fair and a meet-and-greet with officials.
Most of the changes are far off. Graduate student Elizabeth Barnett, who worked on the report, said “we should see some movement on all of them in the next few years.”
Creating a separate graduate student council, though far off, would mean about a 25 percent budget cut to the SA, Vice Chair of the SA’s Finance Committee Ryan Counihan said.
Graduate students get to keep about 75 percent of their student activity fees, going to organizations like the Student Bar Association, while the rest is doled out for University-wide events like Fall Fest. The SA’s budget is about $1 million a year.
SA Sen. Shashwat Gautam, SoB-G, said a graduate student committee could lessen tensions in the SA. It is hard for graduate senators to attend SA Senate meetings on Monday nights, which often coincide with their classes.
Narla agreed that the populations’ varying needs can make it tough to work on projects together.
“It definitely is difficult having undergraduates in the same room as graduates. It’s a hard relationship,” Narla said. “What we’re trying to do now is ask what can we do given the benefit of being together and make this work.”