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.

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