The Graduate and Professional Student Council elected their new board for the 2013-2014 academic year Tuesday.
The roles of president and vice president will be filled by Amol Yadav, a third-year doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering, and Shannon O’Connor, a fourth-year M.D./Ph.D. student at the School of Medicine, respectively. Although any full-time graduate or professional student at the University can apply for a position on the GPSC executive board, only General Assembly members can vote on board members. The GPSC serves as the umbrella student government for Duke’s nine graduate and professional schools and the primary liaison between individual schools’ own student government organizations.
Yadav served as GPSC treasurer in the 2012-2013 academic year. He said this position focuses primarily on the financial aspects of the organization. As president, however, he will get the chance to explore the policymaking side, as well.
“I [am] more interested in the…decisionmaking role, so that I [can] reach out to the administrators and the entire Duke community at large,” Yadav said.
Yadav said he also hopes to increase the involvement of the graduate student community on campus and make sure they stay informed about everything GPSC is doing.
“One of my goals is to increase student advocacy on campus,” Yadav said. “I feel like the graduate students don’t have a strong voice on campus.... I want to work on that this year.”
Yadav noted the differences between the Duke Student Government presidential executive board elections and those for GPSC. Although graduate students are interested in GPSC events, he said, they do not take as much interest in who is running the organization and how that will affect their experience at Duke. Unlike DSG elections, GPSC presidential and vice presidential candidates do not have to campaign for their position.
O’Connor will serve as vice president for the second year in a row. She agreed with Yadav’s concerns about student involvement, noting the various events GPSC has had this year to change this sentiment.
“The president and I went to a bunch of orientation meetings at the different schools to try to increase awareness about how to become representatives from your school, and we hope to continue to do more of those next year,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor also mentioned that she hopes to increase community amongst GPSC general assembly members, noting the “Meet the Reps” segment she has introduced into meetings to accomplish this goal. This initiative had general assembly members introduce themselves to the GPSC at the beginning of the year in the hopes of fostering a more inclusive and familiar environment.
Ultimately Yadav, an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, said his mentor has taught him that effective communication can be achieved within any environment as long as it is done peacefully and honestly.
“If you are honest and doing the right thing, it’s easy to communicate with people,” Yadav said. “If you give people all the information they need and you make it clear what they can do for the organization and how they can participate together, there isn’t a difficulty.”
Other newly elected members of the executive board include Brad Hover, a doctoral candidate in the biochemistry department, as attorney general; Eden Ellis, a first-year master’s in public policy and MBA candidate, as treasurer; Betty Jiang, a third-year medical student, as executive secretary; Shanna Lehrman, a first-year law student, as university affairs coordinator; Yilin Liu, a graduate student in the Medical Physics department, as academic officer, and Abigail LaBella, a graduate student in the Program in Genetics and Genomics, as student group liaison.