COGS and PSG see more initiative collaboration

The Council of Graduate Students and the Professional Student Governments are collaborating on some projects while staying separate on others.

Kait Ecker

Unlike in previous years, the University of Minnesota’s professional and graduate student governments have been collaborating more on projects.

Late last month, the Professional Student Government voted to partner with the Council of Graduate Students on their campaign to destigmatize mental health. This collaboration is one of many the two groups are working on.

COGS invited PSG to take part in the mental health initiative and after technical details were worked out, PSG quickly voted to join the partnership. COGS also invited PSG to partner on a sexual misconduct town hall last month. The groups plan to continue collaborating on issues relevant to both governments, even with the incoming leadership turnover.

In 2015, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly disassembled and two groups, COGS and PSG, formed in its wake. Since their creation, they haven’t had much collaboration until now. Toward the beginning of the school year, group leaders say they made conscious efforts to connect and discuss possibilities of collaboration.

“We’ve been happy to partner with them more in the last year,” said PSG President Alanna Pawlowski. “Leadership in each of our organizations has been interested in issues that happen to cut across student populations.”

Pawlowski said both groups are interested in sexual misconduct and mental health, but other things, like student health insurance, are better handled separately.

“We’ve been [discovering] where there’s enough overlap and enough similarity so that if we partner on advocacy, it can be more effective than us fragmenting efforts,” Pawlowski said. “At the end of the day, we’ve been looking for issues where our advocacy will be stronger together.”

Besides student advocacy, the two groups invite each other to bonding and socializing events, said COGS President Sean Chen. This fall, that included tailgating at Gopher football games. 

“In my mind, whenever there’s something that we’re planning or we’re asked to do, I always think, ‘Does this also relate to PSG people?’ If so, I will always reach out to say ‘Hey, PSG are you interested in it?’” Chen said. “We want to have a good relationship so we can always share opportunities when it comes up.”

The two governments are currently working on negotiations with Gopher Athletics to arrange for free tickets to the first home football game for new graduate and professional students, similar to what is offered to incoming undergraduate students. This last year, President Eric Kaler’s office granted free admission to incoming graduate and professional students, which was a one-time occurrence.

Despite all of the shared advocacy efforts and bonding events, leadership from both groups see the need to remain separate. 

“The reality is that our populations are completely different,” said Scott Petty, speaker of COGS.

Petty was involved in the Graduate Students and Professional Students Assembly (GAPSA) when it split, and said he sees the educational experiences of professional and graduate students as very distinct. Graduate students are at the University for a longer period of time, Petty said, and they study the theory of the topics rather than the application, as professional students do. He also said the career paths of professional and graduate students are very different.

“In many topics we share the same interests and we often collaborate together, but there are things that are somewhat different,” Chen said.

Pawlowski sees student health insurance, stipends and other financial topics as ones that distinguish professional and graduate students as well.

“Despite the overlap on some issues, the interests of graduate and professional students are distinct, and the concerns in the area of advocacy that tend to be most relevant are distinct,” Pawlowski said.

With the two groups remaining separate, leadership of both groups see communication as being key to continuing their collaborations. This includes sharing research, data and survey results. After the upcoming March student government elections, both groups are planning to keep the communication channels open.

“I hope our two groups will continue to collaborate with each other. I know it’s something that I will certainly stress to my successor and to the leadership that follows,” Pawlowski said. “In prior years, COGS and PSG have not always had the best relationship since GAPSA split, and I think it’s counterproductive to not work together.”