GAPSA will broaden its executive board

A ‘taxation without representation’ setup will be changed.

by Tyler Gieseke

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly is preparing for a makeover.

Though only half of the University of Minnesota’s 10 graduate and professional schools are represented on its executive board this year, GAPSA plans to modify representation to include the presidents of all of its member councils next fall.

The group will also partner with the Center for Integrative Leadership to provide leadership training for its members.

GAPSA is made up of an executive board and 10 member councils that represent different groups of graduate and professional students.

Currently, the majority of GAPSA’s executive board members are elected to preside over the entire graduate and professional student body, said GAPSA President Brittany Edwards.

Although all graduate and professional students pay a GAPSA fee, Edwards said not all schools are represented on its executive board.

“It’s kind of taxation without representation,” she said.

Of the nine current GAPSA executive board members, two-thirds are made up of the Council of Graduate Students and the Graduate Students of Education and Human Development. The remaining three are from different professional schools. 

Dentistry senior Brian Blackwell has noticed this skewed representation. He said he feels GAPSA mostly represents graduate students rather than those in professional programs.

According to a fall 2012 GAPSA survey of 939 graduate and professional students, more than 60 percent of respondents are represented by either of the dominant graduate member councils, COGS or GRAD SEHD.

It also showed 75 percent of graduate and professional students don’t know the board members that represent them on GAPSA, and two-thirds said they have never attended a GAPSA event.

The expanded executive board will debut in fall 2013, Edwards said. The move is an effort to increase communication across the graduate and professional sector of the University.

If holding a council president position and a GAPSA executive board position was too much to balance, the council president will be able to appoint another representative, said Alfonso Sintjago, GAPSA executive vice president.

GAPSA will also partner with the Center for Integrative Leadership beginning next fall, said Merrie Benasutti, CIL associate director.

CIL is an initiative of the Carlson School of Management and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and its mission is to foster cross-sector leadership, Benasutti said.

She said the center recently trained GAPSA leaders to facilitate a town hall conversation held with University President Eric Kaler.

“I think that leadership skills are needed to address public problems but also to advance our common goals,” she said.

The change in executive board makeup and the partnership with CIL will be reflected in GAPSA’s student services fees request due in mid-January, Edwards said. For 2012-13, GAPSA received about $392,000.

Edwards said GAPSA has yet to take a formal vote on the changes, but the group has been supportive of the ideas.

These changes to the GAPSA organization are part of an ongoing self-evaluation that will continue through the end of the year, Sintjago said.

Edwards said the evaluation has included a survey of the graduate and professional student body and focus groups with member councils.

“We’re excited about being able to make GAPSA something better and more relevant,” Edwards said.