New GPSA president talks tuition, transparency and inclusion
During her campaign for president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association, Texanna Martin said she would focus on funding, transparency, equity and inclusion if she were to be elected. Last week Martin snagged the presidency from contender Glenda Lewis. She will succeed Priscila Poliana as GPSA president in May.
The Daily Lobo spoke with Martin about how she plans to achieve her goals for the graduate student body next year:
Daily Lobo: This past year, graduate organizations requested more funding than was available. Do you have any plans to remedy the situation?
Texanna Martin: One of the things that we’re looking at is to find a way to reach outside of the community to pull in more funding. One of the ways we can do that is through fundraising, reaching out to our alumni to help grow our funding. Priscila has been working hard on an apparel project, and finding a way to get our apparel out there for the graduate and professional students. But the good news is that the Graduate and Professional Student organizations are growing, so we have a lot of more interest-based organizations. We definitely want to continue to have those interests grow and we want to find a way to support them.
DL: You also talked about helping to provide more grants for graduate students for research. Can you elaborate on that?
TM: I’d like to put together a subcommittee. I’ve already talked with our grant chairs to find ways to establish emergency funding. Our funding process is at the beginning of the semester, so one of the things that I want to look at is finding a way to provide funding to graduate students when they realize, ‘Oh, I have a conference in two months and the grant process has already stopped.’ I want us to establish an emergency conference fund, and maybe one of the ways we can do that is, again, reaching out to our community to help establish maybe a scholarship.
DL: How do you plan to increase transparency for GPSA?
TM: For GPSA specifically, I think we have been instrumental in working with the provost’s office, IT and the bursar’s office to develop a billing transparency project for student billing, which is the bursar’s account. I want to continue working on that program because I think it’s important that, as students, we’re educated, and we can understand what our fees are for and maybe create a way that we can look up those fees and find out where that funding is going. Another thing that I think is important is creating a committee to help evaluate differentials. I think that we need to, as students, understand where those differentials are coming from. To do that, I think putting a committee together to work on defining it is important. And again, that would be working in unison with IT, bursar’s, provost’s office and (UNM) President Frank to ensure that we can better understand what is happening and what we’re paying for.
DL: Did the recent differential tuition increases influence your concerns about this?
TM: Yes. I’ll be honest, from the feedback I’ve gotten from the students, it was a surprise. We did not get a tuition increase, but we did have differential increases and changes, and I think that a lot of students were affected by that. I think that it’s important that students who are affected by that get involved and help ensure that we create this program. My ideal program would be for them to present the differentials to the students for a discussion platform so we can all talk about it.
DL: On the night you were elected, you talked a bit about equity and inclusion. Do you have anything you want to add about that?
TM: Our current equity and inclusion chair at GPSA is Amber Duke. I have invited her back for next year, and she has accepted. I want to continue working with her for momentum to continue reaching out to the diverse community that we have here on campus. She’s on the Civil Campus Council board, and also on the Faculty Ethics Committee. She is working hard to make sure that we are getting more involved and becoming a safe place. We had the Safe Zone training yesterday that she set up with the LGBTQ Resource Center, and I think we’re working toward making GPSA one of the safe places on that map that LGBTQ is developing.
DL: Do you have any plans to address the issue of sexual assault on campus?
TM: We are looking into that because it is a factor, and it’s something that we want our graduate students involved in and getting out there. Kris (Miranda) is one of the representatives for that. He is a volunteer at the GPSA office and he does a wonderful job working with the Women’s Resource Center and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance. I think that with equity and inclusion comes safety, too.
DL: You said during your campaign that you want to build on what President Poliana has started this year. What specific policies do you want to continue that she’s started?
TM: One of the things that I think she’s been really good at is the (Student Fee Review Board), making sure that students are represented, and I think it is important that we continue to work on that too. I look forward to working with Rachel (Williams) and John Garrity at (Associated Students of the University of New Mexico) on this project. She has been instrumental in a lot of areas on this campus and I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot and I have a lot of takeaway from her.
DL: Do you have any other plans for collaborating with ASUNM?
TM: Not at this time, but we are working on getting a meeting together so that we can start working on projects together. We want to collaborate with everybody. We’re working with the Health and Sciences Center Student Council, the law school and south campus. We want to make sure that we’re collaborating with everybody, not just ASUNM. I really want to make us more of a united University.
DL: Do you have any other goals or initiatives you want to talk about?
TM: I think that an area that needs assistance is the international graduate students because they do have limitations on work options. They have specific guidelines on where they have to work on campus. What I would like to do is work with Career Services to help graduate students to prepare for the next step in life. One of those ways would be working with Career Services to see if we can have a representative coming once a month to the GPSA office who will be there for graduate students. This is something that is in negotiation.
Another avenue is that we have a lot of small businesses and large organizations outside of the campus, and I would like to create meet-and-greets, go out and build good relationships that can help graduate students really succeed.