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Restructured graduate student government seeks to promote student representation, connect with DSG

For nearly a year, Duke’s General Assembly of the Graduate and Professional Student Council has been restructuring into the Graduate and Professional Student Government.

While the organization previously had more of a student council role—organizing events and providing funding for student groups—GPSG now hopes to form liaisons with Duke Student Government and the Office of the Provost, wrote Johanna Kluck, GPSG vice president for advocacy and graduate student at the Nicholas School of the Environment, in an email.

GPSG’s newest mission is to “reach beyond simply event programming and more toward advocacy and representation-driven initiatives,” Kluck wrote. She added that the GPSG hopes to allow students to get involved through their expanded legislative committees and have their voices heard at a university-wide level.

“I think the fragmentation that exists between students and all the various schools and programs is tremendous at the graduate schools compared to the undergraduate student body, which has a lot more of a sort of shared basis of experience,” said Jay Lusk, GPSG president and graduate student at the Fuqua School of Business. 

He added that he hopes that this new structure “is much more well-supported, well-resourced and has a much bigger vision and mission associated with it.”

So far, Lusk said that the biggest hurdle in restructuring has been drafting, revising and passing reform within the government. GPSG members were not able to meet in person due to COVID-19 and had to negotiate the entire process over Zoom. 

On the flip side, Lusk noted that in some ways the COVID-19 was the right time to usher the restructuring because it urged GPSG members to look at existing issues, giving them a drive and purpose to accomplish the change.

He added that the GPSG is also aiming to forge a greater connection between the undergraduate and graduate student population at Duke. He said that a more well-resourced GPSG will allow for more connections between the two student governments. To do this, the GPSG hopes to expand their student life programming and interdisciplinary engagement, Lusk said.

“A big part of this is trying to facilitate more engagement between students who otherwise would not come into contact with one another,” Lusk said. “We're hoping that this structure will equip graduate and professional students to continue to play an increasing role in that sort of cross campus governance ecosystem.”

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