Grad Report Highlights Community-Building Techniques

The Graduate and Professional Student Experience and
Satisfaction Committee recently released a report containing recommendations
meant to transform the campus environment and improve both graduate and
undergraduate life.

The committee, formed at the request of Dean of Graduate
Studies Richard Attiyeh and former Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W.
Watson in spring 2006, spent the last year collecting student input through
thousands of public interviews, as well as surveys like the Graduate Student
Association’s Graduate and Professional Student Experience Survey, which was
conducted in 2005.

Graduate Student co-Chair Derek Lomas encouraged students to
take advantage of the administration’s request for suggestions as to how the
university could improve.

“For students who are interested in change in general, this
is the kind of thing that you can get behind,” he said. “The more the changes
are supported by students, the more likely they are to happen.”

The report outlines five major areas in which it claims
improvement is needed for graduate students: sense of community, academic
life, housing, student support services and communications. It also recommends
the formation of a permanent GPSES Steering Committee and creation of an
assistant dean of graduate student life position.

However, Lomas stressed that a sense of campus community,
which he considers to be the report’s principal topic, is not something that is
specific to one group of students.

The report’s proposals include everything from the creation
of ethnic food carts to landscaping the area around Geisel Library to allow for
recreational space, ideas he said would benefit the campus as a whole.

“Changes that improve community for graduate students will
also improve community for undergraduate students,” he said.

Lomas said that in contrast to the Undergraduate Student
Experience and Satisfaction Committee report of 2005, which received criticism
for being too long-winded and broad, Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies Tim
Johnston praised the GPSES committee for limiting and consolidating the issues
that it addressed.

“The intent was to focus attention on major issues and give
the steering committee a direction and goals rather than specific action
items,” Johnston said.

He added that the report will allow the permanent steering
committee to base its actions on current situations rather than previously
mandated instructions.

However, Lomas emphasized that the report only contains
recommendations.

“We didn’t release policy,” he said. “We provided a vision
of graduate student life for five years down the road.”

In one survey, just 10 percent of graduate students reported
feeling a sense of community, a figure Lomas said should upset all students and
inspire them to voice their concerns.

“We need to pay attention to the things that don’t get
measured by academic performance,” he said. “We are really trying to change the
thinking in the administration.”

The report argues that a high academic standard is not the
sole determinant that makes a great university.

“The ‘mastery’ of an academic discipline is not the solitary
goal of the graduate education,” the report said. “‘Connectivity’ is also a
primary value that must be consciously cultivated.”

Johnston said that he is confident that the report will be
successful in influencing future university decisions.

“I think they did a great job at putting the report together
and collecting information, and I am looking forward to seeing some of their
goals implemented,” he said.

Johnston said that Attiyeh and Vice Chancellor of Student
Affairs Penny Rue are scheduled to appoint members to the GPSES Steering
Committee by the end of Fall Quarter.

He added that on-campus departments, student groups and
service units have already begun to consider several of the recommendations of
the report.

The report is available online at www.vcsa.ucsd.edu.