Fall 2007 Welcome Letter

Dear fellow Graduate Students,

On behalf of the 2007-2008 Graduate Student Association Executive Committee, I am glad to officially welcome you all to a new academic year. To new students, welcome to Brandeis University – it is a pleasure to have you as colleagues. To returning students, welcome back - I trust you had a fulfilling summer break. The semester is well underway, and I trust you all have adjusted and had a feel of the academic and social life in Brandeis, Waltham and the Greater Boston area. This is the first of a series of the 2007-2008 Graduate Student Association (GSA) President's letter. This letter will highlight key initiatives of the 2007-2008 EC and Senate.

The 2007-2008 EC is committed to building upon the foundations laid by last year's team and establishing some new initiatives to strengthen the graduate student community. I would like to thank Alwina Bennet, Assistant Provost for Graduate Student Affairs and Jessical Basile, Graduate Student Specialist for their help and support during the summer and for making the transition to the current EC a success. We have had the opportunity to work closely with them and look forward to a rewarding year. The initiatives of the 2007-2008 EC, so far, include:

  • Increased presence during orientation activities to promote awareness of the GSA and Grad Senate: Executive Committee officers were prominent in major orientation activities including the traditional tour of Boston, Graduate Welcome orientation, TGIF (Thank Goodness It's Friday) and Graduate School orientations, when possible. The objective of this increased presence was to promote the Association and to encourage Graduate students to be a part of the community. I am glad to say the level of appreciation and interest was overwhelming.
  • Building a formidable Grad Student Government by establishing the 2007 - 2008 GSA Senate: Sequel to orientation activities where we promoted the GSA and Senate, we received a commendable number of requests/ applications from enthusiastic Graduate students who showed interest to be a part of the Graduate Government. Consequently, the GSA EC had elections and selected 19 Senators. Vice President Fuad Mahmood was instrumental in coordinating this. The Senate has subsequently met, joined various Brandeis University committees and is currently working with the EC to improve processes. We encourage Graduate students who would like to contribute to take a look at the various committees available on the website and contact EC officers to find out how to contribute to the Graduate student body. Please check out more details on your Senators, the committees and how you can contribute to the Graduate Student Government on the website.
  • Increased awareness of the Graduate Student Center: With special thanks to Alwina Bennet, Jessica Basile and the 2006-2007 EC, the Graduate Student Center has lived up to expectation. Graduate students from all 3 schools have found a home in the new center and we are pleased with the popularity of the center.
  • We have had a number of presentations at the center and hope to utilize it even more. Available resources including day lockers, flyers, informational brochures, movie tickets, coffee and snacks are available at the center. In addition, EC officers have scheduled office hours at the center daily. You can check out pictures of the center on the website.
  • Built working relationships with faculty and administration: Through the representative to the Board of Trustees, Carlos Yepez, the GSA has introduced its goals and presented concerns of Graduate students to Brandeis administration. Some of the issues presented include: Increased MBTA discounts for commuters, increased hours of Crystal shuttle service, charged printing for Graduate students and provision of emergency housing for new International students among others. We need your support to speak with one voice. You can contact Carlos (cyepez @ brandeis) or Senate representatives to express concerns and share your ideas.
  • In addition, representatives at the International Business School were part of the student group who took part in the recent AACSB International (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) peer visit. The objective of this visit is to assess the University, Business School and curriculum for the MBA program for accreditation/ recognition. We are optimistic of the final result of this visit.
  • Improved and updated GSA website: Alex Williamson, Web and Communications Coordinator has given the GSA website with a new, cool look. You can find information on the GSA EC officers and their contact details, information on the Senators who represent your respective Graduate school as well as their contact details, GSA EC office hours and social events schedules. Please refer to the website for information on upcoming events, share your thoughts and ideas via the feedback portion on the homepage and communicate with your elected officials.
  • Coordinating social and fun events: Not withstanding the new policies and limitations on campus, Social coordinators, Eileen Kranz and Jordan Kerns have done a wonderful job of coordinating the traditional TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Friday) and making sure Graduate students have a steady flow of fun. In addition, we have had successful events including Kayaking on the Charles River, Movie nights, Welcome reception and Orientation lunch. There will be more events to come and we encourage you to sign up to the GSA list serve and check out the website for more information.
  • Supporting Clubs: Various clubs have reached out to the GSA for chater or recognition. The GSA provides small grants to clubs to support their activities and events. The chatered clubs are open to the Graduate student community and a complete list of clubs is available on the website (www.brandeis.edu/gsa) New clubs may petition the GSA for chater/ recognition and grants. Contact Vice President, Fuad Mahmood (fuad23 @ brandeis) for more information.

We have also supported various cultural, social and religous events including the Chinese Mid-Autum festival in conjunction with the Chinese Students and Scholars which was a big hit

  • Series of presentations to promote awareness of resources available to Graduate students: In conjunction with the Graduate Student Affairs, we have had presentations to promote awareness of the athletic facilities, medical facilities and the insurance plan for graduate students. Other events to come include: Graduate Students' spouse brown bag lunch; in conjunction with ISSO; Winter Coat Drive – November 1 and 2, in conjunction with the office of Graduate Student Affairs.
  • Improvement of processes:
    • The Travel and Research Grant Coordinator, Olivia Wei is currently working with the office of the Graduate Student Affairs and the Provost to improve the application and subsequent approval of requests for grants. Graduate Students seeking grants can contact Olivia (likewei @ brandeis) for more information. Application forms can also be found on the website.
    • Asif Karimbux, this year's Treasurer has worked tirelessly to improve transparency and accountability of the GSA budget. We are happy to have the Senate and the office of the Graduate Student Affairs work with us on this. As one of the objectives of the EC, we strive to ensure accountability at any point in time and continuity of the GSA budget.
    • The office of the Journal and Symposium with Jane Harries as Coordinator is currently being redefined. We have a number of programs and receptions planned and will apprise you as events unfold. We will also call out to Graduate students who will be willing to offer their time and support for the success of the activities. You can contact Jane (jharries @ brandeis) to share your ideas.
  • Promoting the Global Citizitenship Campaign: We are currently working with the Undergraduate Government to recognize and celebrate the diversity in Brandeis. This initiative will present various activities, guest speakers and reach out to the greater Boston area. Details will be posted on the website as they are confirmed. In addition, we seek Graduate students who are interested in writing regular (or one-time) articles in the Undergraduate weekly magazines.

Thank for your attention. Remember to check out the complete version of this letter online at www.brandeis.edu/gsa. In addition, you can find more details on what the GSA Government is doing on your behalf. Please contact me, the EC officers or the Senators with your ideas, comments or suggestions. I look forward to meeting with you at your respective schools and at organized events.

Have a successful and fun-filled semester.

Best regards,
Ijezie Nwokomah
President, Brandeis Graduate Student Association 2007 - 2008