Fall 2008 Presidential Letter

Dear fellow Graduate Students,

On behalf of the 2008-2009 Graduate Student Association Executive Committee, I officially welcome all of you to the 2008-09 academic year. We welcome the first year students to Brandeis University; it is a pleasure to have all of you here. And, welcome back to returning students as well. The semester is well underway, and by now, you must have adjusted and gotten a feel of the academic and social life not only at Brandeis but also in Waltham and the Greater Boston area. This is the first of a series of the 2008-09 Graduate Student Association (GSA) President’s letters. This letter will highlight key initiatives of the present EC and the Senate.

The 2008-09 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 Bennett, Assistant Provost for Graduate Student Affairs and Robin Hennessey, at the Graduate Student center 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 2008-09 EC, so far, include:

  • Improved coordination with the three graduate schools during orientation:We have had an increased presence during the various activities to promote awareness of the GSA and the 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 individual 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.
  • Strengthening of Grad Student Government by establishing the 2008-09 GSA Senate: Sequel to orientation activities where we promoted the GSA and Senate, we received a commendable number of nominations from enthusiastic graduate students who showed interest to be a part of the Senate. Co-Chair of the Senate and GSA Vice President Mete Tuzcu was instrumental in coordinating and selecting the new Senators. I am also happy to announce that all the Senators have been associated with University and student committees and will be providing key feedback to us shortly.
  • I am also happy to announce that the 2008-09 GSA Budget has been passed with a 100% majority in a joint meeting of the EC and Senate earlier in the semester. An approved copy of our budget is available on the GSA website for your review.
  • Increasing awareness of the GSA EC and Senate members in the individual graduate schools is critical to reduce barriers of communication between the GSA and the student body. Henceforth, we will be organizing several meet-and-greet events within the individual graduate schools, and more information about this event will be sent to you shortly.
  • Increased awareness of the Graduate Student Center: With special thanks to Alwina Bennett, and the past EC, the Graduate Student Center has lived up to expectations. Graduate students from all 3 schools have found a home in the new center and we are pleased with the popularity and usefulness of the center. Available resources include day lockers, flyers, informational brochures, discounted movie tickets, coffee and snacks, etc. Please stop by the center located in Kutz Hall and experience it for yourself.
  • Building working relationships with faculty and administration: Through the representative to the Board of Trustees, Carlos Yepez, the GSA will be presenting the goals and concerns of graduate students to the Brandeis administration. If you have a comment or issue that you would like to present before the University administration and staff members, please feel free to contact Carlos (cyepez@brandeis.edu) or any Senate representatives from your school.
  • Shifting the GSA Website to Content Management System to better align it with the university website: Jonathan DeCoster is the newly appointed Web and Communications Coordinator and will be working closely with LTS in this project. We will also be working on making the website more useful by adding a lot of relevant information including list of Senate and EC members, contact info, office hours, meeting minutes etc.
  • Increasing the number of social and fun events: We have also appointed two new Social Coordinators, Jane Harries and Mike Strom who will be working towards improving the TGIFs and making sure graduate students have fun activities to take their minds away from school work! We have already had several successful events including movie nights, a welcome reception, and an orientation lunch. There will be more events to come and we encourage you to sign up to the GSA listserv and check out the website for more information.
  • Supporting Clubs: Various clubs have reached out to the GSA for charter or recognition. The GSA provides small grants to clubs to support their activities and events. The chartered clubs are open to the graduate student community and a complete list of clubs is available on the website. New clubs may petition the GSA for charter/recognition and grants. Please contact GSA Club Co-Sponsorship coordinator Eileen Kranz, (ekranz@brandeis.edu) for more information.
  • The Travel and Research Grant Coordinator, Lebo Sello (lebo.sello@gmail.com) will be working with the office of Graduate Student Affairs and the Provost to improve the application and subsequent approval of requests for grants. Graduate students seeking grants can contact Lebo for more information.
  • In addition, we have Ieva Jusionyte (ieva@brandeis.edu) who is the Education and Programming Coordinator who will be working on putting together several programs in the upcoming year and working closely with the Graduate Student Council members in this initiative. In closing, I would like to thank you once again for your attention. To find more details on the initiatives and goals for the GSA Government, feel free to contact me, 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.

We wish you a successful and fun-filled semester ahead and look forward to working with you and serving you this academic year.

Sincerely,

Ram Iyer 
GSA President 2008-09 
Brandeis University