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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

GPSG makes sure grad, professional students’ voices are heard

Graduate+student+Borja+Barbero+said+the+research+team+discovered+a+unique+trait+that+prevents+DNA+from+being+damaged.
Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver

Graduate student Borja Barbero said the research team discovered a unique trait that prevents DNA from being damaged.

At times, it can be difficult to navigate the struggles of being a graduate student, but there is an organization on campus that is helping facilitate those needs.
With a current student population of over 70,000 students attending Texas A&M, only 21% of the total student population is comprised of graduate and professional students. Graduate and Professional Student Government, or GPSG, works closely with the A&M administration to ensure the voices of graduate and professional students aren’t lost on such a large campus.
GPSG advisor Robert J. McCaffery said it has been an enlightening experience getting to work alongside A&M’s graduate and professional population after working with the undergraduate population. 
“Working with graduate and professional students has been eye opening,” McCaffery said. “There is a completely different set of needs that this population actually has. Being able to properly meet those needs can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that’s worthwhile. In the end, we are here to serve our students.” 
Being a relatively small population in the A&M community, McCaffery said many graduate students may feel as if their issues on campus aren’t being addressed, though GPSG and the university are working to help tackle these issues.
“I think in terms of meeting the needs of graduate students, the university is definitely taking several steps to really try and address those concerns and issues that come up with our graduate student population,” McCaffery said. “The graduate and professional school has made really big strides too, but as with anything in education, there is room for improvement.”
Graduate Student Body President Staci Rende said the current climate for graduate students at A&M is a growing one, which has been impressive to see.
“Graduate students come from different backgrounds that vary from an undergraduate experience or perspective,” Rende said. “On my governance board alone we have a mother, international students and students who do not have English as their first language.” 
However, the graduate school’s climate has also been made stressful because of COVID-19, Rende said. 
“Coming out of the pandemic, a lot of students had some impact on their funding, impact on their graduation date and research,” Rende said. “But it has also proven to be resilient. These graduate and professional students are truly remarkable for ways that they figure out to make the world a better place.”
Additionally, Rende also shared her personal experience going to graduate school during COVID-19. Rende said it was difficult not having a middle period in between undergraduate and graduate school but she appreciates what it has taught her.
“The journey of graduate school started off really tough, but since then, it has turned into something really beautiful. I’ve loved getting to know more about people’s research and passions. It’s so unique and awesome to see students my age devote their entire career to an area of research for the rest of their life.”
Grad Camp is one of the many events hosted by GPSG, where the organization helps new graduate students smoothly transition into A&M culture. In the past year, there were over 600 students registered for the event, Rende, who is also a Grad Camp director, said.
“Coming to A&M can be a lot especially if you are not an Aggie by family or by proxy. With grad camp we try to bridge that shock factor as well as help you get more comfortable before you start here. We try to give them more support and resources so they know where to go if they have questions about stuff that goes on,” Rende said.
Research and Brews is another event that GPSG hosts to help make graduate students’ connection to A&M stronger, Rende said. The organization works alongside a brewing company called Blackwater Draw to bring this event to life. 
“We let two graduate and professional students present their research for about 10 minutes to the brewery,” Rende said. “We get to chat with people in the community about research and what graduate and professional students do at A&M. Graduate and professional students have the opportunity to practice in front of a live audience and answer questions so if they go to conferences they can work on that in real time.” 
GPSG also offers travel awards to help facilitate the financial need of traveling to research conferences; they award over $10,000 a year but due to COVID-19, they are awarding $20,000 this year. Rende said this is done to foster an environment of growth, learning and research. 
Rende said Research Week is another big event GPSG hosts, which is not only available to graduate students, but undergrads interested in research as well. 
“Student research week is the largest symposium in the country,” Rende said. “What student research week really does is break that gap of preparing you for life outside of your time here at A&M.” 
Additionally, Rende said students can get involved with GPSG by running for senate, attending office hours and volunteering for research week, but these options are not just limited to graduate students.
“Anyone is welcome to our events, you do not have to be involved with GPSG,” Rende said “We have a very diverse set of students from all walks of life that would love to talk to you about the challenges and about the really awesome parts of being in these programs.”

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