Last year GSA hosted the 27th Annual NAGPS conference at WMU, while this year they had the opportunity to network and share best practices as well as present at the 28th Annual National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) National Conference at the University of Missouri November 6-9. 12 members of the GSA attended the along with hundreds of other graduate students from around the nation. WMU has built their presence on the national level with four GSA members elected to the regional and national board of directors Executive Committee. Damon Chambers, President of GSA, was elected as the Director of Outreach; Marlies Hagge, GSA member, was elected Director of Administration and CIO; while Denisha Griffey, GSA Legislative Affairs Chair, was elected Midwest Regional Chair for NAGPS; and Danielle Smith, WMU GSA Outreach Chair and Graduate Ambassador, was elected Midwest Regional Director of Outreach. In addition to these prestigious elections, the WMU chapter of NAGPS was named Midwest Regional Member of the Year and Overall NAGPS Member of the Year for 2015!
NAGPS is a nationally and internationally recognized association of graduate students that advocates for institutional and structural changes to improve graduate and professional education in the United States. Their mission is to develop, sustain, and expand their member network to connect graduate and professional students and facilitate sharing information, resources and best practices. One of their major concerns is to empower and amplify student voices to campus, local, state and federal policymakers especially as regards to student debt issues. For more information on NAGPS, please visit their website at www.nagps.org.
Through their presentation “Building a Presence: Intertwining Successful Leadership through New and Innovative Programs,” Denisha Griffey and Chartanay Bonner, GSA Communications Chair, shared programs and strategies that have been implemented on Western’s campus. Some notable events have been the Graduate Ambassador program, which came into being through the auspices of the Graduate College under the direction of Dean Susan Stapleton, the Grad Talks Series, the name change from Graduate Student Advisory Committee to the Graduate Student Association, hosting the 27th NAGPS convention, and winning the 2014 Regional Member of the Year award.
On November 19, the leadership of GSA participated in the “National Call Congress Day.” This is one of many advocacy efforts that take place yearly through partnership with NAGPS and their “Grads Have Debt2” campaign. WMU students joined graduate and professional school students from across the country to phone their representatives in the nation’s capital to advocate for attention to graduate student debt. The main focus is to reinstate subsidized Stafford loans and reduce student loan interest rates.
Other activities which have kept GSA busy and served graduate students across campus this past year included a free wellness forum to promote well-balanced lifestyles through workshops focusing on physical, emotional and financial health for graduate students. In October members met with President Dunn to discuss issues of concern to WMU graduate students, including housing on campus, improving disability access, and funding for research. During finals week GSA sponsored relaxing free chair massages for graduate students. All graduate students were invited to a free holiday social at Monaco Bay nightclub in festive downtown Kalamazoo to celebrate the winter holiday season.
Other activities sponsored by GSA include an annual trip to Michigan’s Adventure Theme Park, bowling nights, and a trip to Washington D.C. in March to represent the WMU chapter of NAGPS during their spring legislative action days.
The end-of- year Make A Difference Award Ceremony and banquet at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo took place in April. A Mardi Gras theme gave attendees a chance to dress up and wear flamboyant masks with feathers, sequins and red-hot flames! Over 200 students enjoyed dinner, dancing, a “red carpet” photo opportunity, and listening to speaker Britne Amos, past chair of GSAC and Ph.D. candidate in Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology, give an inspirational speech. The new ambassadors for 2015-2016 were introduced, and numerous awards were bestowed. All graduate students are invited to all GSA sponsored events, and are encouraged to participate for networking, fellowship and fun! Please visit their website at www.mich.edu/gsa/ for more information.