MIT’s graduate students will see new representation this coming year in the Graduate Student Council’s (GSC) officers-elect, who will take office in May: President Caleb Waugh, Vice President Alex Guo, Treasurer Parth Trivedi, and Secretary Chris Smith.
The quartet described itself as a group of GSC “outsiders.” Except for Guo and Trivedi, none of the officers knew each other, and none of them had previously been a GSC officer, though Guo had been on an executive committee. The group is currently in a month-long transition period with the outgoing GSC. “There’s an enormous amount of programming that we have to transition,” said Waugh about the GSC’s events, which include the entirety of graduate orientation, “and there’s a lot of understanding about the relationships and the channels that we have for communicating graduate student needs to the administration that we need to pass on.”
Waugh said that the group has outlined three major goals for the next year — rebranding the GSC and increasing its publicity efforts, tapping into the ideas and energy of students, and influencing developments in Kendall Square.
In representing all 6,700 of MIT’s graduate students for the next year, one of the GSC-elects’ goals is to turn to the student body for ideas.
“We feel strongly that the most valuable asset that MIT has is innovative, entrepreneurial students that are excited to do new and different things,” said Waugh, “the solutions we need are at the bottom with students that want to do things.”
Waugh hopes that students will be entrepreneurial in the sense of coming up with ideas for events and activities that the GSC can support with resources like the funding board. Last year, the funding board allocated over $130,000 to activities and student groups. “It’s important to have a bottom-up approach,” said Guo. “… Not a top-down, bureaucratic, solutions-come-from-the-top approach,” added Waugh.
The challenges they see include reaching all the students, given that they are dispersed across different departments and living areas. Nevertheless, the executive officers hope to create communication channels to make students comfortable with coming to the GSC with ideas. Smith said the GSC hopes to maximize publicity and engage students on fronts like social and print media. The GSC has a Facebook group, but it currently has only 476 likes, and its last tweet was on Feb. 6 of this year.
“[Publicity] is a constant challenge for the GSC, and we want to make sure that we’re working on it,” said Smith. “It’s both high-tech and smart deployment of low-tech, more personal methods.” Smith added, “It could be something as simple as holding events off-campus that make it easier for off-campus [students] to attend.”
The executive officers also recently met with the co-presidents of the Sloan senate, the representational body for Sloan graduate students, in an attempt to establish closer relations.
“We’re trying to have all five [Sloan] spots filled so we can know what they care about and how we can help them,” said Guo, referencing Sloan’s five spots on the GSC general council, which contains representatives from every department and dorm, and off-campus representatives.
“We’ve got big shoes to fill”
Waugh said that in terms of impact, last year’s GSC was incredibly successful. Headed by Brian Spatocco G, the GSC piloted a new childcare program and began to collaborate more with the Undergraduate Association (UA), releasing a joint vision last May. Waugh said that this GSC hopes to continue working on those issues, having recently met with Sidhanth P. Rao ’14 and Devin T. Cornish ’14 — the UA President- and Vice President-elect — to discuss how the UA and GSC might work together in the coming year. Waugh mentioned that the collaboration might include the formation of a grad/undergrad mentorship program of some sort.
However, said Waugh, “If there was one thing we would want to be involved with in the next year and be able to influence, [Kendall Square] would probably be one.” Waugh said that last year’s GSC was very involved in the Kendall development and with the City of Cambridge, and that a lot of the work in the coming year will be understanding how the Kendall and MIT 2030 redevelopment programs will affect graduate students.
Overall, though, “no revolutions,” said Waugh about their plans. “[We’ll be] focusing on entrepreneurial students, helping people do what they want to do.”