By Melanie Wiser
Although the Graduate Student Association began in 2000, it is just now starting to stand on its own feet and make changes for the almost 3,000 graduate students on BYU”s campus.
The association is a non-profit organization that began to help graduate students get their voices heard as well as to make their lives happier and easier.
“The Graduate Student Association was organized to improve the graduate culture for graduate students,” said Bonnie Brinton, dean of Graduate Studies. “It is to help them become part of the scholarly and creative community on campus.”
Every graduate student is automatically part of the association, with each department having one representative that brings Brinton students” concerns and problems.
“She really likes to be connected with the departments and know what”s going on,” said Sarah Warburton, president of the GSA and doctoral student in biochemistry. “Not only from the administration from the departments, but also from the students in the graduate program.”
Warburton, who became president of the association in April, said for this next year they are working on several things to improve graduate students” lives.
“That is our purpose now, to find any information we can that serves the graduate students in any way,” said Andrew Johnson, vice president of the association.
Among other things, the association is planning a leadership retreat with the council and Brinton to plan the next year and have team building activities.
“The purpose of this retreat is to start off the year quickly, create strong friendships and trust right away,” Johnson said. “Also, introduce them to us, the presidency, and the Office of Graduate Studies.”
Each year the association hosts two workshops to help graduate students. The first one, which takes place in the fall, always focuses on surviving graduate school while the second one, during the winter, focuses on life after graduate school.
The association also gives research presentation awards twice a year, to students who have presented their research at a conference.
“The money is specifically for them,” Warburton said.
This year the association is working to make the application for these awards available online.
Another part of the Association”s objectives is to make graduate students lives happier. To achieve this goal, religion classes are free to all graduate students, but do not count for credit.
The association also holds a faith-centered symposium once a year to help students balance their scholastic and religious pursuits.
“It”s perfect to help the graduate students at BYU balance their academic scholarship as well as their beliefs,” Warburton said. “I think that is something that is really unique to BYU.”
For this year, the association is also trying to organize intramural teams for graduate students so they can have an opportunity to meet other students from different departments.
“We”re trying to make the whole graduate school experience better, and physical exercise makes everyone”s life better,” Johnson said. “Also, we feel that there is not enough interdepartmental mingling.”
While the association is open to all departments, there are still several departments that are not yet represented.
To learn more about the association, its activities or how to get involved, visit their Web site at http://www.byu.edu/gradstudies/gsa.