Graduate, professional student leaders talk goals for upcoming year

Both student governments plan to meet regularly with President Joan Gabel this year.

Josh Clancy, left, President of Professional Student Government, and Kriti Agarwal, right, President of the Council of Graduate Students pose for portraits on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

Jackie Cortopassi

Josh Clancy, left, President of Professional Student Government, and Kriti Agarwal, right, President of the Council of Graduate Students pose for portraits on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

Emily Sizen

The Minnesota Daily recently sat down with Kriti Agarwal, the Council of Graduate Students president, and Joshua Clancy, the Professional Student Government president, to discuss advocacy and goals for the upcoming year.

Joshua Clancy, Professional Student Government president

How does PSG plan to work with President [Joan] Gabel this year?

We’re already working with her. I’ve met with her probably four to five times, some of my other executive cabinet members have met with her as well. She’s very active in seeking student voices … and so that’s something that’s great. We’re working with her on the new dining services contract and she is meeting with all the student government leaders kind of throughout the semester. 

Last year, PSG passed a resolution in an effort to support diversity training and inclusion within professional schools. Will PSG continue to introduce diversity initiatives in the coming year? What would those look like?

One thing that we’re working to do is try to include equity and diversity throughout all our initiatives and all our policies. So, we’ve implemented an equity and diversity grant program so students groups can apply and get funded for hosting events that focus on equity and diversity. We’re working with the Provost[‘s] Office in their new search for an Executive Vice President and Provost and one of the key stipulations that we’ve had during that is we want someone that fosters those ideals of equity and diversity. It’s something that we’re trying to incorporate throughout our entire organization in every advocacy effort that we make.

What are some issues specific to professional students that you hope to advocate [about]? 

I should say professional students, you know, they kind of serve in many different roles. They’re students, a lot of them are working or interning or going into the workforce and they’re also research assistants, they’re teaching assistants … which means they kind of have a unique perspective on a lot of things. I’m going to continue the work that PSG has done being a leader in, you know, preventing sexual misconduct on campus. 

Kriti Agarwal, Council of Graduate Students president

As president what are your biggest goals for the upcoming year?

I think my biggest goal would be to get the graduate school funding confirmed for grants. Right now COGS gives out about $80,000 per year in grants, and given that our budget is $120,000, that’s almost all of our budget. Given that we have over 13,000 grad students … we’ve been pushing the graduate school to get about $100,000 in funding as well for grants.

How does COGS plan to work with President Gabel this year?

I’ve only had two interactions so far with President Gabel. One of them was the dining initiative. The Aramark contract that’s coming up and how we can improve dining on the campus. I feel like she’s really great and she’s really open about having graduate student interactions and just even student interactions. 

Are there any new initiatives that COGS will be working on or that you hope you will be working on this year? 

I know one of the things would we always work on is grad student recognition. The University research that actually gets done, that the University gets credit for, has been done by graduate students sitting in lab for hours on end, sitting in an office for hours on end and we don’t see them mentioned anywhere. 

Last year … [COGS] passed the policy on sexual misconduct. We want to see how that gets implemented and we want to see a determination because if you just pass a resolution and then it doesn’t get taken forward that’s nothing and we want to see real change in HR policy. 

Mental health is an issue that COGS has advocated for in the past. Are there any mental health initiatives COGS will either continue to work on this year or any new mental health initiatives?

What I’m hoping to achieve this year is kind of like a mental health handbook, because we have all these resources on campus. I only came to know all of maybe about 80 percent of them by my fifth year. 

I want to get that information to the students. There is no such comprehensive information guide that exists anywhere. We all know we have the Aurora Center, we have [the Disability Resource Center]. Each of them has their own web page, but they’re not all linked together anywhere.

Is there anything else you want people to know about COGS and the upcoming year? 

I would want people to know that we’re here. We have representatives from every college on campus. So we are here for you. If you have a problem, contact a COGS rep. If you feel like you’re not getting a voice, contact us and we will make sure you have a voice.