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Programs hailed as prototypes

As faculty and administration turn to the task of improving graduate education (see related article above), the students themselves have been achieving success on many fronts.

A case in point is WSU’s Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), whose members earned two national awards this year and whose president, DaVina Hoyt, is the new vice president of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS).

Firas Akasheh, a doctoral student and teaching assistant in mechanical engineering, received one of two NAGPS 2004 President’s Awards for outstanding service. While maintaining a 3.98 grade point average, he also is a seasoned member and past senator for GPSA. He earned one of the WSU Graduate School’s 2004 President’s Awards for excellence in leadership and service.

As a double minority — an international student of color — Akasheh worked as a senator to make sure the issues of concern to all graduate students were heard, Hoyt said. He promotes collegiality among students from all racial and ethnic backgrounds and has inspired many graduate students to become involved in GPSA.

“It is because of his leadership, mentorship and inspiration that I felt capable of running for GPSA president this past year,” Hoyt said.

Programs praised
A group of GPSA students won the second NAGPS award, one of four awards bestowed for outstanding programs. The winning program was the New Student Orientation offered for new and returning graduate students in August 2004. Co-sponsored by GPSA and the Graduate School, the program expanded on earlier new-student events that were more college-oriented, Hoyt said.

The program has garnered interest from other universities, she said, and it will be repeated again at WSU, with some modifications, this August.

Though not nominated for an award, two other projects by GPSA senators earned acceptance for presentation at the national NAGPS conference and have since gained attention from other universities and scholars:

• Graduate Educators Mentoring Students (GEMS) is the brainchild of Hoyt and a group of new graduate students she began mentoring in fall 2004. Sanctioned as an official WSU student group, GEMS encourages hierarchical mentoring — from administration, faculty and professionals, to graduate and professional students, undergrads, high schoolers and on down.

“There were not a lot of role models who were able to help me with achieving a higher education where I grew up, in my low-income neighborhood” Hoyt said. “I found my mentors mostly among some of my teachers. Mentoring became very important to me.”

• A survey of international students conducted at WSU by GEMS in fall 2004 yielded feedback about obstacles these students encounter. WSU administration was supportive of the project from its inception, Hoyt said, and the results are being solicited by the administration and various departments for their own improvement.

The survey is being copied by other universities, she said, not only so they can assess their service to international students but also in hopes of encouraging administration support and interest similar to that shown by WSU.

Presentation of this project has been accepted at an international conference on diversity in education set for Italy in April. The presenters are trying to secure funding in order to participate.

Projects move ahead
Meanwhile, other GPSA projects are moving forward:

• The bylaws and constitution have been revised to enhance consistency and update obsolete language, and will be voted on at the March senate meeting.

• Elections are set for March 8-9, the first time in recent history that GPSA and ASWSU elections will coincide. Hoyt will run for re-election.

• Health insurance — especially rising costs and inequities of coverage between graduate and professional students, TAs and non-TAs and other categories of students — continues to be of concern. GPSA is continuing work to improve coverage, Hoyt said.

• The annual Dr. William K. Wiley Exposition of Graduate and Professional Studies, where graduate and professional students present their original research or scholarship to peers, faculty and the general public, will be noon-7 p.m. Monday, March 28, in the CUB ballroom.

Due to innovative leadership by Chair Duane Hoch, Hoyt said, this year’s presentations will feature not only an area for research posters, but also an area for panel or PowerPoint presentations and a stage for music and other performances.

Faculty are asked to encourage their students to participate and also to volunteer as judges.

Abstracts are due by 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 8. For more information, see http://www.wsu.edu/~gpsa/Programs/ResearchExpo.

• Nominations are being solicited by March 18 for Advisor of the Year. See http://www.wsu.edu/~gpsa/Programs/Advisor/index.htm for more information.

• The deadline is April 4 to apply for grant money to cover registration and travel costs to attend conferences and make presentations during the summer.

Applications for spring registration grants more than doubled from spring 2004 to spring 2005, and Hoyt said she wants to see that trend continue. There were 40 applications for money to cover registration for spring 2004 and 15 applications for travel money. For spring 2005, there were 82 applications for registration money and 18 for funds to cover travel.

For more information, see http://www.wsu.edu/~gpsa/Programs/Travelgrant/index.html.

For more on GPSA, see http://www.wsu.edu/~gpsa.

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