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Incoming GPSC President Anthony Monroe reacts to new Ph.D. stipend, talks upcoming goals

Anthony Monroe, a dual biomedical Ph.D./MBA student, will serve as the 2019-20 president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council. The Chronicle’s Stefanie Pousoulides spoke with Monroe, also a 2019 Chron15 Leader, about his plans as president and the issues affecting graduate and professional students.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Chronicle: What are your goals as next year’s Graduate and Professional Student Council president?

Anthony Monroe: I have four main goals. The first is about internal organization, structure and revamping for GPSC. Last year, former GPSC President Travis Dauwalter and the executive committee did a tremendous job working on the by-laws and really trying to restructure the organization and make sure that we’re giving power back to General Assembly.

They also tried to make things more efficient for the General Assembly, so we could be more productive and do things that really matter to graduate and professional students. I want to continue this trajectory and establish more of a streamlining of the GPSC protocols and focus on how to go about making our organization better. Last semester, we sent out a General Assembly satisfaction survey because we really wanted to get their feedback on speakers that talk to the GA and to get a general sense of how they thought the General Assembly proceedings went for the past year. 

One of the major things was access to information was a little lacking as well as being able to participate using the current system of procedurals and orders that we use. I really want to address that, and one of the things that we are planning on doing is revamping the website to make it a hub for getting information that you need. We are actually looking at how we can better inform our representatives of how the procedurals should go, try to get more people to voice their thoughts and opinions and get them more familiar with the process of how we run meetings.

The second goal I have is to expand our GPSC resources. We have had a tremendous start with the funding of the Emergency Travel Fund and the Community Pantry, which have taken off this past year. So one of my huge goals is to try to find ways to fund these two resources, not directly taken from the student activities fee as it currently is, but really trying to get Duke University and the nine graduate schools to contribute to these resources that are really beneficial to graduate and professional students.

My third is really to look at the events we offer. I think we did a really great job last year through our student life committee, led by Amy King, who really revamped it and tried to get a diversity of social events that include both events centered around alcohol—like tailgates and winter formal—and a mix of non-alcohol related events—like hiking or a trampoline park. I think we were pretty successful in expanding upon those events, but I would really like to see a lot more planning of events for academic purposes and really expanding upon community outreach. I think it’s paramount that Duke graduate and professional students not only interact with community members but also give back, especially because a lot of us are very privileged who come to Duke.

The last one is to build greater ties between the different graduate and professional schools. GPSC is unique in that it is one of the only instances in which individuals from across the University come together. In this upcoming year, I would really like to expand upon building these connections between these people even if it is just a social connection, you being introduced or generally just meeting people out of your program as a GA representative. I think that’s really important that you can get a more well-rounded understanding of the different components that make up the university.

TC: Which new initiatives does GPSC have for the upcoming academic year? Which initiatives are continuing from last year? 

AM: One initiative that we set aside in our budget for a complete website overhaul. What we are hoping to accomplish is having an essential focal point that people can go to access the information they need. This effort is being led by our vice president, Alyssa Florwick, and our director of communications, Amy King. We want to make our website easier to access, aesthetically pleasing and easy to use, in addition to having the correct information and the ability to contact the executive committee more easily than it has in previous years. 

Another initiative is to engage with the General Assembly more and to give them the tools that they need to be as effective of a general assembly as we can allow them to be. This includes educating them on the process on how we conduct meetings, how they can contribute their opinions, how they can better bring about their concerns and issues to the broader general assembly. Hopefully this will be accomplished by a series of interaction events, as well as we are planning an introductory retreat to give the new GA reps an introductory small course to what is expected of them and how they can contribute as GA representatives. 

The final initiative is looking at the Young Trustee Screening Committee and that process as to how we choose Young Trustee. I am hoping to form a task force that really delves into how we conduct the process and how we can make the process better. 

I really want to delve into how we run our organization and making sure the General Assembly is the real individuals with the power to change or lead where GPSC is going. I see the role of the executive committee as helping to achieve what the GA wants. I am hoping to continue that trend that Travis started last year. 

TC: What are the latest updates on the GPSC Community Pantry?

AM: We have been able to serve more than 130 students so far, which is pretty incredible. We were awarded the Kenan Biddle Partnership award. This is in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill community pantry, which primarily serves undergraduates, so we are looking to see how we can expand our pantry services to potentially serve undergraduates as well through this initiative.

Nicole Stantial—who was last year’s director of operations and who also oversaw the Community Pantry—next year will be the director of the Community Pantry. She has great vision and she has been doing an incredible job at making sure that we can serve as many people as we possibly can. There are also talks about expanding the Community Pantry through collaborations with other schools and seeing if we can expand our clothing option. Trying to get the deans from the nine different graduate schools to contribute to the Community Pantry is a huge goal that we are trying to get for next year.

TC: What is your reaction to all Ph.D. students being on a 12-month stipend starting in 2022?

AM: This commitment is pretty incredible. I am coming from a biomedical scientist program, so I was already on a 12-month system. But I knew numerous humanities individuals who had to struggle to maintain their academic prowess during the summer but also had to support themselves financially. 

The fact that the Graduate School has committed to making sure that these students can actually focus on their academics and not worry how they are going to afford their living expenses is really incredible. We at GPSC can help the administration and the students who are involved with this initiative and see how we can make sure that this commitment is carried out and work alongside these individuals to see it come to fruition.

TC: How will Duke joining the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education in April affect graduate and professional students in the upcoming academic year?

AM: Graduate students are among the population of students that are the most affected by sexual harassment, especially women of color and the LBGTQ+ community. Duke making this statement to be in this collaborative partnership with other top institutes across the United States can only help to improve the situation. My hope is that the collaborative highlights a need in promoting an education initiative that includes proper workplace behaviors and also education about the LBGTQ+ community, as it relates to the greater identity and safety within that community. 

As a member of the LBGTQ+ community myself, I am always strongly advocating for increasing the general public’s knowledge about LBGTQ+ issues, especially about pronoun usage and how that alone can make someone feel very much included in an environment. One of the main goals coming out of this collaborative is showcasing the improving of the education of not only students but also administrators, and how a more inclusive environment can also help the harassment situation that is not only going on at Duke but also nationwide. 

TC: What do you envision will be the most difficult aspect of your tenure, and what do you think is going to be the most rewarding aspect?

AM: I think for me the most difficult aspect will be trying to keep a balance between feeling really productive and overloading myself. I’m one of those people who wants to do and accomplish so much that I take a lot onto myself. I know from talking to talking to past GPSC presidents like Rashmi Joglekar and Travis Dauwalter that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and to try to pace yourself and focus on things that are crucial for you to accomplish. So I think that the hardest part for me is to try to scale back and set a balance to make sure I’m not overwhelming myself and to prioritize what is most essential for GPSC to accomplish this year.

In terms of what I think will be the most rewarding, having served last year on executive committee as executive secretary, I really enjoy working with people who have a similar outlook to giving back to our Duke community. I was really astounded by how incredible everyone was on executive committee last year. So I’m really looking forward to working with this new group of individuals—some of them are repeating—to just see what they are capable of and how I can best support them. As president, my role is to support these amazing individuals to help them accomplish what they would like to accomplish. 

I also hope to continue to work with Duke University administrators. I got to serve on a few University committees last year, and I saw how much some of the administrators really care, and I think that’s sometimes lost in translation when certain things come up. 

But I have been working with Jacqueline Looney, senior associate dean for graduate programs and associate vice provost for academic diversity, and Paula McClain, dean of the Graduate School, this past year, and they have been phenomenal and really care about students. I am excited to continue working with them and other administrators across schools and seeing how we can best work together and serve the students.

TC: Is there anything else you would like to add?

AM: As an organization, GPSC relies really heavily on graduate and professional students’ personal inputs. We really highly encourage the student body to reach out to us even if it is just about sharing an idea, potential collaboration, concern or feedback about something that we are doing. We really want to hear from them. So contacting me or GPSC Vice President Alyssa Florwick, we really encourage reaching out to us. We are always willing to listen, and I am always willing to meet and talk about your concerns.

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