The 2016-17 GPSA presidential candidates presented their agendas to the GPSA Council in a meeting held in SUB Ballroom-A on Saturday.
The meeting gave prospective candidates a chance to introduce themselves the council and to discuss the annual GPSA budget.
Sally Barker, a public administration graduate student and a presidential candidate, said these are unsettling times for the University.
“Given the current financial challenges, it is important that graduate students have a strong voice sharing our thoughts and concerns, someone speaking for us who has experience leading through periods of change. I have more than a decade experience working in higher education and have served as your chief of staff for the last few months,” she said.
Barker said she has chaired the Constitution and By-Laws Committee, and has worked diligently to familiarize herself with the documents.
“I have managed the budget for the executive committees and general government accounts, and have made sure our funds are in order, and our record keeping is thorough. I have the experience and knowledge to successfully lead this organization,” she said.
Kelly Johnson, a physical education, sports and exercise sciences graduate student and another presidential candidate, said he was confident that all of his committee and service experiences up to this point had prepared him to become the next successful GPSA president.
“In my master’s degree, I served on the Student Fee Review Board for two years, where, like UNM, we were facing a budget crisis. As a graduate student at UNM last year, I served on the [College of Education] GPSA, now formally called ‘COE GSLA,’ as well as GPSA Council,” he said.
He said that, in his opinion, the University is clearly lacking a dedicated recreational facility.
If he were to be elected president of GPSA, Johnson said he will have four specific goals.
“I will bring needed attention to the opportunities offered to graduate students. I will break down the silos between Main and North Campus. I will increase funding grants, scholarships and seek new avenues to fund assistantships for students. I will continue to drive the importance of student voice on campus,” he said.
Glenda Lewis, a PhD candidate in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies, pointed to her experience as vice president of the College of Education Graduate Student Leadership Alliance, the UNM GPSA Student Support & Advocacy Committee chair, past president of the UNM Black Graduate and Professional Student Association as well as a UNM GPSA Finance Committee member.
“As a fourth year PhD Candidate in [language, literacy, and sociocultural studies], I understand the sacrifices and struggles students face while pursuing advanced educational opportunities and will be that voice of reason, leading and advocating on behalf of all graduate and professional students at the University of New Mexico,” Lewis said.
She said she will maintain solidarity across all UNM campuses, promote interdisciplinary collaboration and increase graduate and professional student funding opportunities.
“I dropped out of college for almost a decade. I joined different industries, where I learned a lot of valuable skills. I learned budgeting skills, management skills and problem solving skills. I will do my best to serve the graduate students,” Lewis said.
GPSA President Texanna Martin - who will have serves two years by the end of her tenure - informed the council about decisions taken at the Board of Regents, resulting in an increase in student fees and tuition.
The Board of Regents approved a 2.5 percent tuition increase for undergraduate and graduate students on main campus last week.
Martin said a 10.5 percent fee increase will accommodate the renovations to Johnson Gym, the Anderson School of Management and Smith Plaza.
She said tuition increases for the Gallup, Santa Fe and Valencia branches were done as per the request of each branch campus’ leadership. The Taos branch did not request a raise.
During the meeting, the annual budget of the council was also approved by the members. The council members also deliberated on March appropriations.
Sayyed Shah is the assistant news editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mianfawadshah.