Candidates for the Graduate and Professional Student Association’s president and council chair positions discussed collaboration, funding and accountability at a forum Tuesday afternoon in the Student Union Building.
Glenda Lewis, a doctoral student at the College of Education, said if elected as president, she would aim to increase collaboration on campus and to continue the work of the current GPSA administration.
“There needs to be more participation on campus and off campus, more inclusivity,” she said.
Lewis said she can bring years of knowledge about the University to the presidential position, if elected.
Graduate and Professional Student Association presidential candidate Texanna Martin answers an audience member’s question during a GPSA election forum on Tuesday afternoon. Martin, a public administration graduate student, has been working with GPSA as a project assistant.
“I’ve been involved with the UNM community in some capacity for 25-plus years, as a student, as a graduate student, as an instructor, as a researcher,” she said.
She said one of the issues she is most passionate about is promoting interdisciplinary research across campus. She said she plans to accomplish this by working with other academic resources at the University, such as the Graduate Resource Center.
“Within those shared learning spaces, I would hope that we can develop a sense of community,” she said. “Because that’s why I’m here.”
Lewis said she aims to address the needs of some subgroups of the UNM demographic that feel underrepresented by student government.
“As the current president of the UNM Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, I can tell you that there are many of my black colleagues who do not find that they are being served on campus,” she said.
Texanna Martin, a student pursuing a master’s degree in public administration, said she has worked with GPSA for more than six months and graduated with two bachelor degrees from UNM. She said she has experience with skills in management and administration, which could help her draft policies to help the University.
“I have already moved forward by creating platforms for everybody,” she said. “Under (GPSA President Priscila Poliana’s) mentorship… she’s given me the opportunity to develop different organizational ideas.”
Martin said that as GPSA president, she would aim to increase transparency, to improve funding and to provide equity and inclusion to students.
She said her ideas regarding funding include making a new emergency research grant for graduate students who need the money for last minute conferences. She said the goal would require teamwork, but creating the grant is feasible with time and effort.
“I have done the research, and there are programs out there at other universities that do this, that already have a platform,” she said. “I can develop a subcommittee to help me develop this for the University of New Mexico.”
Martin said she would also reach out to students on north and south campus, who, she said, feel disconnected from GPSA.
“I would say stop the separation and engage all graduate students at law school, medical school and in the athletics department,” she said.
Daniel Gray, a master’s in public administration student, was the only candidate for council chair to attend the forum.
Council chair candidates Jessica Marshall, a law student working on her juris doctorate, and Sai Uppu, a mechanical engineering student, did not attend for academic reasons.
Gray said he aims to improve communication with administration about tuition and fees and reach out to the veteran students on campus.
“I know there are roughly 200 to 300 military veterans on this campus who are graduate students who don’t involve themselves at all in GPSA,” he said. “And I believe that’s one of the areas that GSPA can grow in overall.”
Gray said that as council chair, he would aim to hold graduate student representatives more accountable for attending meetings and keeping their constituents up to date on graduate student affairs.
“I feel that accountability, attendance, is a priority at council meetings,” he said.
He said he would also use funding for what he considers to be more appropriate use.
“I’d really like to work on using our budget to promote graduate students to ensure that their money is better used to give out to, what I consider, projects that are appropriate instead of giving out a budget to an individual group so they can spend $40 on food for a meeting,” he said.
Gray said he also had ideas about providing financial opportunities to graduate and international students. He said one possibility would be recreating the Graduate Scholarship Fund so it is not based on need.
“I personally would like to see it shift into the possibility of using it for a research grant or funneling out that money to where it will be utilized for all graduate students, not just those who need funding due to need,” he said.