Like most British sitcoms, we had a two-year run. We took over as GSF Co-Presidents after Paul Dean and Les Andrist stepped down in the fall of 2008. Now, as the semester comes to an end, we can look back and identify a number of new processes, events and happenings accomplished during our tenure. But after all the Faculty Meetings have been attended and the minutes sent out, the GSF agendas compiled and the meetings run, we still have a bit more to share.
One of the most important activities was the rewriting of the GSF Constitution. Thanks to Molly Clever and her hard work in getting the GSF job descriptions up-to-date, some positions were eliminated and others added (such as making the Sociology News Editor a GSF elected position). Importantly, remaining positions have been organized into teams to foster collaboration and facilitate stronger communication among GSF members.
Another project tackled by the GSF during our first year as Co-Presidents was the development of new budget procedures. (Again, thanks to Molly Clever for stepping up and taking over the Treasurer position in the spring of 2009.) To make the Treasurer position easier, the GSF account was moved from a bank off-site to SunTrust on campus, expediting the dues collection process and reimbursements to students.
Rather than raising dues to ensure that the GSF had the funds to renovate the C. Wright Mills Lounge, continue providing recycled paper, and fund social events, the GSF asked for voluntary donations. Almost every student who paid dues contributed at least an extra $5 dollars, which was necessary to accomplish our goals and continue providing students with the amenities and events that have come to be expected in the department. In fact, the number of Happy Hours has been increased and Tea Times, a recent tradition of recognizing student and faculty achievements, are back. In sum, we leave with a substantial budget surplus that can be applied to buying recycled paper and to pursuing other projects taken up by the incoming GSF cohort in the fall.
When we took over as Co-Presidents, we prioritized the renovation of the C. Wright Mills Lounge (many other concerns were not feasible due to the fiscally conservative climate caused by the major University of Maryland budget crisis). Thanks to Marek Posard, this semester’s GSF Representative for the lounge space, the project quickly moved ahead. The bookshelves came down, new coats of paint went up, furniture was swapped out and replaced and art was hung. The new space is more open, inviting, and comfortable which allows us to put a better face forward when entertaining prospective students and hosting our various social events. Although this took almost two years, we can retire from our positions having seen the renovation completed (though we fully expect that the next cohorts will continue to improve upon this space).
We cannot forget one of the biggest achievements of the GSF: eliminating the mandatory third stats class. Students now have the option to take an advanced stats class or another methods course in their area of interest. This benefits all graduate students since students who are not interested in quantitative methods can take classes that better fit their research needs and quantitative students can have more advanced, faster-paced courses. Speaking of methods, the GSF made a strong push for qualitative hires last year, meeting success with the hiring of Rashawn Ray, from Indiana University, who will join the department in 2012.
The success of the GSF depends on strong interest and support from student members, especially in the first, second and third-year cohorts. We will be calling for nominations in the beginning of September 2010 in order to have the new GSF teams in place by early October 2010. There are numerous activities to pursue: one is connecting the GSF to larger University Politics, including having a student representative on the Graduate Student Government (GSG). While we will no longer be serving as your GSF Co-Presidents, we look forward to helping the new forum and committee representatives make smooth transitions to keep the institutional memory alive.
Thanks to all the grad students who have served and supported the forum, to all the faculty members who supported us and to the department staff who provided their assistance on our many projects.
We should all take pride in the fact that graduate students in this department are highly involved, organized and effective in creating our program. It is this that has made serving as your GSF Co-Presidents these last two years so enjoyable.
Heather Marsh & Nathan Jurgenson
Heather & Nathan are both third year PhD students.