by Harleen Kuar Dhillon
The Graduate Student Association (GSA) works to advocate for and better the experience of graduate students at UW.
In 2018, the organization strengthened internal functioning to become more effective in achieving their goals.
The New Year is set to bring increased advocacy and better events and services for grad students.
Naima Samuel, President of the GSA, has spent 2018 pulling the GSA together. Samuel has worked on implementing new policies and improving the internal structure of the organization since May of this year.
In particular, councillors of the GSA improved their communication with students and departments to gain feedback on the most important issues facing grad students.
“We’ve been able to identify some of the biggest challenges for grad students. [councillors have] been reaching out to students to identify what some of the issues are,” Samuel said. “Some of the issues that we’ve identified are funding levels for grad students, and then there is also supervisor-student relationships, and housing is another one that has come, and I think another really big issue is grad community.”
In addition to Town Hall meetings with students and faculty, Samuel will present a strategy for advocacy in early 2019.
Her strategy is based on student consultations, and more feedback is always welcome.
“I will be presenting a strategy to our council and board on what advocacy efforts will look like… we’ve been advocating successfully at the university level or the faculty level, but I think my advocacy strategy will focus on how do we improve on that,” she said. “How do we advocate for students at the regional, provincial, and federal level?”
Mental and physical health of grad students are also major points of concern for Samuel. She said that events like Thrive Week, which GSA participated in, were not applicable to grad students.
She pointed towards isolation as one of the major barriers that grad students face as a result of the nature of graduate studies.
“We want to make students aware of what resources are there for mental health… with me, I think that sometimes the resources are out there and the students don’t know that they have access to these resources, and we educate students on what mental health is,” Samuel said. “In addition to that, we have been looking into peer support programs for grad students.”
The GSA is also considering the importance of building community among grad students with the help of physical activity programs.
“We’re trying to partner with athletics and recreation to create more programs for grad students and we would also be offering regularly scheduled programs to grad students so that can participate in different sporting activities… it’s just building that grad community where people can connect,” Samuel said.
After a major overhaul of the inner working of the organization throughout the year, the GSA is ready to increase efforts in advocacy and communication in the New Year.