Grad, professional students welcomed with feast

Some graduate students said they focus on their work and forget life outside their departments.

Jens Krogstad

A huge buffet with a four-foot roasted pig centerpiece awaited 400 first-year graduate and professional students inside the Loring Pasta Bar on Tuesday evening, courtesy of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

As part of the annual reception for incoming graduate and professional students, attendees feasted on pork, and University President Bob Bruininks and GAPSA President Todd Powell welcomed the new students to campus. Students also got the chance to mingle with each other.

A live jazz trio plucked, strummed and wailed away while first-year Carlson School of Management graduate student Nick Greenbergh took in the sights and smells of Dinkytown.

“We’re pretty much stuck on the West Bank, and I haven’t seen the other side of campus yet,” Greenbergh said.

He said his typical day lasts 17 hours, including a two-hour commute, which does not leave time to meet students outside his program.

“They really kind of bury us,” he said.

Greenbergh’s experience is not uncommon, Powell said.

“Graduate and professional students are scattered all over the (University), and a lot of times, there is a real disconnect,” Powell said.

GAPSA’s role, he said, is to promote the entire graduate and professional student experience – including social events such as the reception.

Graduate and professional students like Greenbergh sometimes become so involved in their work they forget there is life outside of it, Powell said.

“You become so very focused on your department that you don’t realize there’s an entire community out there,” he said.

Because their livelihood depends on it, he said, graduate students have to work tirelessly.

“A graduate student’s bread and butter are assistantships,” Powell said.

In an assistantship, a student works for a department and receives monthly stipends – usually around $1,000 a month – in addition to having most, if not all, of their tuition paid.

Because graduate school often costs two to three times as much as an undergraduate education, assistantships – which last anywhere from one semester to 12 months – are essential to many students. However, they are often not found until days before the semester begins.

“We’re trying to find a lot of departments that are paying an hourly wage and turn it into an assistantship,” Powell said.

The administration is also playing a role in helping cash-strapped students find work, Powell said.

“The administration has been very supportive for research and teaching assistantships, and (are encouraging) the departments to support their graduate and professional students in these tough financial times,” he said.

GAPSA also works with student groups to assist them in putting on events.

This August, the Turkish-American Student Association held a barbeque and social with a $750 grant from GAPSA, which Powell said produced a good turnout.

GAPSA is also a resource for international students, most of whom are in graduate school.

“Especially in this post-9-11 climate, it’s so important to let international students and students of color know they are part of the community,” Powell said.