The Graduate Student Association (GSA) at Buffalo State is electing a new group of executive board members beginning on April 21. The election marks the GSA’s second year of existence.
“Over the years, many graduate students have expressed a need for a GSA,” said Kevin Railey, associate provost and dean of the Graduate School. “It was incumbent upon us to act.” Railey, who has worked with three different groups of students to establish the GSA, believes it is the first stand-alone GSA among the SUNY comprehensives.
“Initially, there were just a few students,” said Jacqueline Schneegold, current GSA president and a key contributor to its founding. SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and President’s Distinguished Service Award winner Kaitlyn Beachner, ’12, was also an early leader.
The first step was to file the appropriate paperwork, and Schneegold credits Railey and the Graduate School staff with providing the assistance necessary to “jump through all the hoops.” Then the group presented its case to the graduate student body. In February 2012, 92 percent of the students who voted opted to create the GSA. In April 2012, a second vote resulted in the election of the first executive board, including Schneegold.
In October 2012, a third vote addressed the imposition of a mandatory graduate student fee to fund the organization. The fee of $2.22 per credit hour was approved by 76 percent of the voting students. Eight senators were also elected to the GSA, completing its governing body.
“The funding enables us to provide professional development opportunities for students,” said Schneegold. “We’ve been especially interested in helping graduate students who are presenting at conferences.”
Schneegold, who expects to receive her M.S. Ed. in childhood and early childhood education through the MIITC program in December, responded to an e-mail inviting students to help bring the GSA into existence. “I work full time at a law office,” she said, “so I understand the time constraints facing graduate students. But being involved with the GSA has been so worthwhile. It’s opened up many opportunities, and I’ve met so many people.”
Railey said that the GSA e-board met with President Podolefsky last fall and Vice President for Student Affairs Hal Payne this semester. GSA representatives have also met with several campus offices to discuss ways to improve services specifically for graduate students. “The Career Development Center and the library have been very receptive,” said Schneegold. “We may start a public-speaking club, too. If you’re willing to get involved, you can probably accomplish whatever you want.”
Schneegold believes the GSA can play an important role in securing services and benefits for graduate students. She said, “We’re really hoping that the students in the future will help it continue and make it grow.”