By Paxton McLane
Sacred Heart University’s graduate program is home to over 5,000 students. The graduate program has a unique task of offering these students social events and assistance in their academic programs.
The graduate program created the Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC). GSAC is a unique committee unlike any other at SHU. Kathy Dilks from the office of Graduate Student Affairs is in charge of overseeing this unique committee.
“Students aren’t necessarily voted on, it’s a voluntary advisory committee. For example, if three graduate students wanted to be representatives for, say, the School of Communications, we would take on three people, if five people wanted to be representatives, we would take on five,” said Dilks.
Dilks describes GSAC as a cross between the Student Events Team (SET) and the undergraduate Student Government. They are in charge of both planning events for graduate students and making sure that they have a direct line to the Graduate Affairs Department, this way students can voice their concerns or opinions.
“My role is that I report to the Dean of students, so there is an advocacy piece. Then we also have the student life piece. Students really do attempt to decide how their events are run. They have a say in what they need,” said Dilks.
Dilks noted that the needs of graduate students aren’t the same as the needs of undergraduate students. SHU has a large number of graduate students that are international, representing many different countries and cultures.
These students have their own voice through GSAC in various programs. This has resulted in GSAC planning events for cultural holidays such as Diwali and Holi. GSAC also accomplished the establishment of the Muslim prayer room on campus.
GSAC has also helped graduate students fix issues in the classroom.
“There was a group who were in classes all day in this one particular new campus that we had, and there were no outlets. They came to me and their representative said, ‘Kathy is there anything we can do?’ And yes of course, we installed outlets,” said Dilks.
A portion of all graduate student tuition goes to GSAC in order to fund their events and projects. All graduate students have the opportunity and are encouraged to utilize GSAC.
Brenda Bryant, one of the representatives from graduate social work program, has utilized the full potential of GSAC.
“The GSAC community has provided SHU graduate students with an opportunity to socialize, network and experience their campus in a low cost and fun way. GSAC sponsors trips to Boston, NYC, as well as activities such as Grad Night at Reds and the annual Grad Gala,” said Bryant.
GSAC is hosting an upcoming grad’s night at Reds on April 5. The organization’s big event of the year is coming in the middle of April. The Graduate Student Gala happening on April 13 will be held at the Trumbull Marriott.
The students who have taken the initiative and joined the council have nothing but good things to say about the organization.
“It has been a great way to keep involved even in graduate school. When most campus programs are only for undergraduates, it’s a nice way to continue to be part of the SHU community,” said Eugene McDonagh, a representative from the Graduate School of Education.