Graduate and professional students gathered to meet Brittany Edwards, the sole presidential candidate for the University of Minnesota Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, in an open forum Thursday night.
Edwards listed several of her priorities, including restructuring GAPSA, listening to student concerns and making the organization more enjoyable for those involved.
She said that to attract more interest, GAPSA members need to “have more fun” and form stronger relationships, otherwise the organization would suffer.
Critics of GAPSA put additional stress on members, she said, and might have contributed to the resignations of past executives.
“I wish critics could maybe experience the joy of personal attacks you sometimes face when you’re in a public position,” she said.
If elected president, Edwards said she would make it a priority to address the lack of civil discourse in graduate students’ exchanges and to have proactive outlets for communication.
It was the uncivil discourse that drove her to become involved in GAPSA in the first place, she said.
“I was embarrassed as a grad and professional student to see the way that people exchange with one another,” she said.
Edwards said her classes at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs also prepared her for the role. She has taken courses in leadership and running public organizations and said she is looking forward to applying those skills as GAPSA president.
When asked what quality is her biggest weakness, she said her directness and refusal to give up can be both a strength and a weakness.
Going forward, Edwards said she plans to advocate against semiannual tuition increases and making the fees process more transparent.
But she said the GAPSA president’s annual stipend, usually in thousands of dollars, is justifiable because the time commitment to GAPSA is “all the time.”
“I think that if folks who were graduate and professional students could step into my shoes for a day and see the amount of time and energy that goes into this position, they would have a pretty quick understanding,” she said.
Edwards added the stipend doesn’t actually bring her profit because she must frequently leave work to attend GAPSA meetings during the day.
“I don’t know who you’re going to find that just has endless hours of spare time to give for free to be able to represent the graduate and professional population in the capacity that it’s needed and expected,” she said.
In her closing statement, Edwards asked the graduate student population for “the benefit of the doubt,” adding that she welcomes new ideas and involvement.
“I think that too often we get wrapped up in our stress-filled, busy lives, and we forget that we’re all in this together, and we’re all a University community,” she said.
Students will be able to vote on April 2–4 either at voting stations around campus or online.