Week honors grad students’ work

by Ken Eisinger

Have you hugged your TA today?
Sunday kicked off Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week, marking the fourth consecutive year Gov. Arne Carlson has made such a proclamation. The observance is sponsored by the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.
Although no specific commemorative events are being planned, it’s meant to recognize graduate students “who contribute through their research, through their teaching, writing, course completion and degree completion, no matter what the obstacles are,” said J.P. Maier, president of GAPSA.
To prepare for the week this year, two of the assembly’s representatives travelled to the Midwest GAPSA conference in Chicago over spring break. They networked with other graduate students on issues like health insurance, career services and loan repayments.
“A lot of times what we find out is that Minnesota is doing well, compared to other Big Ten schools,” said Susan Giesler Daniels, one of the assembly’s representatives. In a comparison of graduate students’ pay scales and benefits, she said Minnesota is ahead of the pack.
Conference members also addressed the need to devote focus to students who enter graduate school after a few years away from college. These nontraditional students are entering graduate school with extra-academic obligations, such as children, a second job or homeownership.
Third-year medical school student Deb Kietzer fits into the nontraditional category. She has been married for eight years, owns two cars, rents a house in St. Paul and is raising two children.
“It’s hard for me to find as much time as I’d like to spend with my family,” Kietzer said. However, she said having a family puts school in perspective.
“Now I’m a better student,” Kietzer said. “And I make a better doctor. I think it’s a major benefit.”
There are more than 8,000 graduate students at the University. Of those, 4,200 graduate students have assistantships and fellowships allowing them to teach classes and assist with research.
“In the chemistry department, the grad students do most of the work. They are the ones who are actually in the lab doing the research,” said first-year chemistry graduate student Simon Shannon.
At least one undergraduate student, advertising junior Rebecca Nathan, isn’t planning to go out of her way to recognize any teaching assistants because “none of them has moved me to that point.”
“Some TAs are really smart, but just because they’ve mastered their subject doesn’t mean they know how to teach it,” Nathan said.