GAPSA’s travel grants to help grad, professional students present their work

This the first year the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly has offered travel grants.

Chad Hamblin

In early November, graduate student Katalin Medvedev traveled to Portland, Ore., and presented her theories about clothing to an international audience.

Presenting at the conference was a vital part of her graduate learning, she said, but she could not have attended without a $400 travel grant from the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

“I’m eternally grateful, and I think this program should go on and more money should be allocated to it,” she said. “For the first time in my life, I feel that my student fees actually gave me something.”

This is the first year GAPSA has offered a travel grant program for graduate students so they can present their work at conferences around the country. The program is so popular that GAPSA is struggling to keep up with the high demand, said Karen Buhr, executive vice president for GAPSA.

The group has already awarded more than $9,000 in three months – more than half the travel grant budget for the entire year, said Mark Bellcourt, the vice president for grants. Thirty-one graduate students have already received travel grants at an average of $320 each, he said.

“It’s been amazingly successful,” said Buhr, who is also on the Grants Committee. “We’ve had so many applications.”

The program is successful in part because conferences are a great way for graduate students to get their feet in the door, GAPSA President Abu Jalal said.

“The first contacts you get, the networking that you get is through those conferences,” he said.

Jalal also said it gives graduate students the opportunity to present their findings and represent their school.

“You have to have your face present it; you have to have your face visible,” he said. “(Then), they’ll see Minnesota people doing something good, and maybe they’ll hire (that) person.”

Buhr also said the demand is so high because traveling to conferences can be expensive, and there aren’t many other places that will fund a graduate student to go and present at a conference.

“That’s a crucial part of the grad student experience, and that wasn’t being funded anywhere else,” she said. “There was just a real need.”

Buhr said many departments don’t offer travel grants for graduate students because they don’t have much money. But with a GAPSA travel grant, graduate students might get extra leverage to convince their departments to give them money.

Because of the program’s success, GAPSA plans to ask for more money from the fees committee to give more graduate students the opportunity to travel next year, Buhr said.