GAPSA leaders collaborate

We were disappointed by the lack of depth in understanding and the leading, underhanded tone in the March 28 article about the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly’s upcoming presidential election. Even the title, “GAPSA pres. candidates to decide own race,” completely missed the point of our campaign and misrepresented our work as student leaders. Yesterday, the editorial suggested that the indication of a healthy governance body would be if we fought each other like American Gladiators, trying to knock each other off pedestals. Ours is a campaign that centers on the tenets of integrative and collaborative leadership. We have a strong team, dedicated to serving our University with roles we enjoy as a team of engaged leaders, and we are expanding that team to include direct representation from each member council next year. We choose instead to build each other up.

Center for Integrative Leadership Executive Director Laura Bloomberg said in a recent Star Tribune column, “Today’s best leaders are those most adept at empowering others, not the most charismatic or strong. If faced with an either/or proposition, a real leader rejects it.” The leader keeps searching for a third way. The CIL website says that acts of leadership flow from person to person, and it is important to foster a collaborative spirit.

Following an extensive evaluation and the adoption of various resolutions, GAPSA is currently restructuring itself to better address the needs of its student body. This race is less about any one individual becoming president and more about our commitment to work together in the upcoming year. We have collaborated on many projects this year, and we hope to continue this collaboration moving forward. To solidify these changes, GAPSA is directly incorporating the tenets of leadership espoused by CIL into our foundational documents and has established a supportive partnership with CIL.

If there is a lack of variation in choice in this election, it is because no one else filed. We are not competing with each other. We have utmost respect for each other and chose to file together as we continue to refine our structure, constitution and bylaws this spring. Lacking other candidates, we saw this election as a chance to talk about the CIL-GAPSA partnership and the potential benefits it will bring to each of our councils. Unfortunately, we have found the University structure, including the Minnesota Daily and All Campus Election Commission, to lack subtlety of understanding that democracy could possibly be a collaborative rather than competitive endeavor, which we find disappointing.

Throughout the 2012-13 year, we have continued to think about new ways to pursue democratic collaboration by embracing emerging technologies and civic engagement practices. This was first practiced using World Café at our Town Hall Forum with President Eric Kaler last fall and will be practiced again in an Open Space Technology E-Learning Forum with Provost Karen Hanson on April 17. We also used program evaluation techniques such as surveys and focus groups of stakeholders to inform our restructure. We are currently using an Open/Wiki process, kicked off by a policy sprint over spring break, to develop our constitution and bylaws. We welcome the entire student body to participate online.

We know that this approach of seeking a third way rather than either/or proposition is unconventional, but it is promising and beneficial. It is through the sum of our talents and leadership skills that we can further improve the graduate and professional experience. Integrative and collaborative leadership is a concept our own University is teaching, and we are choosing to support through practice.

During this academic year we met with various administrators, including the provost and vice provost for student affairs, and mentioned the importance of increasing the incentives for participants so that student leadership positions are comparable to graduate assistantships. This is a work in progress, limited by resources and bureaucracy. As mentioned in the editorial by the Daily, involvement in GAPSA from highly motivated students will benefit the whole student body and the University. We hope that all of the Executive Board and general GAPSA assembly positions become increasingly competitive, which is one of the reasons why we have restructured the Executive Board to include a member from each council.