GAPSA wins organization of the year

The award recognized the group’s dedication in grad student leadership.

The University of Minnesota’s graduate student government was recognized last month at a national conference for its lobbying work and handling of the Graduate School restructuring. The University’s Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA) received the organization of the year award from the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) at the group’s national conference in Nebraska. GAPSA President Kristi Kremers said the group, which represents more than 25,000 graduate and professional students at the University, received the award for the first time because it has served as a model for similar organizations across the country. The national award acknowledged GAPSA’s lobbying efforts on issues of student indebtedness and student loans. NAGPS President Julia Mortyakova said GAPSA was chosen because they exemplified dedication and perseverance in graduate student leadership. Kremers and Jacob Chin, a graduate student at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, created a how-to guide to lobbying for change titled “Lobbying 101.” GAPSA hosted a press conference with Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., which discussed changes in a student loan program that would save the nation nearly $87 billion over 10 years. “We’re an organization that holds lobbying as an essential aspect of advocacy,” Kremers said. GAPSA’s work with University officials during the restructuring of the Graduate School also set them apart from other graduate student organizations. “We were successful in stopping [the closure of the Graduate School] thanks to support from [the community],” Kremers said. Five University students presented at the NAGPS conference highlighting issues of student community engagement and advocating for increased communication between legislators and students. The conference, which was held at the University last year, connects hundreds of graduate and professional students from 70 universities. GAPSA Vice President Jasmine Blanks said the group plans to continue its work and lobbying efforts relating to student debt. The group hopes to work with administrators and legislators to increase students’ options for financing higher education and to create more employment opportunities post-graduation. “Especially in the current economy, we need to promote issues like indebtedness that impact grad students, because we’re not guaranteed jobs,” Blanks said.