Op-ed: Graduate and undergraduate students should form partnerships

Stuart Portman is the president of the Public Health Student Association. Helen Clemens is the president of the Student Bar Association. Justine Clow is the president of the MBA Association. Andrew Ligon is the president of the Elliott School of International Affairs Graduate Student Forum. Erin Matthys and Ben Alencherry are the co-presidents of the Medical Center Student Council. Austin Barlow is the Master of Public Administration president of the Trachtenberg Student Organization.

As the leaders of graduate student umbrella organizations, we are working to ensure that students gain a better understanding of the traditions of the GW student body. There are over 24,000 students at the University working to learn about the pressing issues of the day, how the past informs the future and how a liberal arts education imbues a professional career with greater purpose.

Some are undergraduates, seeking a degree to launch a career and develop a focused interest in one of many academic fields. Others are graduate students specializing in a particular area to become thought leaders in disciplines ranging from law, medicine and public health to business, higher education and international affairs. All are Colonials, and like the American colonials who developed this great nation, we are strengthened by our similarities.

The graduate population at GW surpasses 14,000 students, who are enrolled in full-time or part-time programs. It is no secret that our graduates go on to become industry innovators and compassionate practitioners of the skills they learn. How they accomplish this, though, can continue to evolve.

Greater partnership between graduate and undergraduate programs stands to benefit both sub-populations of GW. Undergraduates can gain mentors and contemporaries willing to push how they apply critical thinking to their interests, and graduate students can better understand how academia is changing with new student populations.

This partnership is essential to a well-functioning university, and anecdotally, GW is thriving. But systematically, there is room for growth.

Both undergraduates and graduates have traditions in their own way, but how we bridge these essential elements to our student experience reflects our intentions. From this point onward, we are seeking collaboration. We are seeking partnership. To be a great institution that values excellence, we must foster a diversity of thought.

Our mutual love for this university is guiding us to be more involved in this year’s Student Association elections and future events that impact the entire GW community. We intend to work together to unify the graduate voice while concurrently preserving the individual interests of our programs.

This letter has one purpose: to demonstrate to the GW community that graduate students care. We came to the University in various stages of life, but we should all be promoting an academic experience, not just a degree.

With the help of dedicated undergraduate and graduate citizen-leaders who understand that school spirit must include everyone, we will reach new heights as the foremost academic institution in our nation’s capital.

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