Justine Sefcik, a fourth-year doctoral student in the School of Nursing, was elected chair of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly on Wednesday.
Sefcik will serve alongside 11 other officers on the executive board of GAPSA, the official student government body for Penn’s 12 graduate schools. Sefcik, who has worked as a nurse for 17 years and served as vice chair for research students this year, is pursuing a Ph.D. so she can focus more on research.
The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with Sefcik to discuss GAPSA’s plans for next year.
Daily Pennsylvanian: What do you see as the main responsibilities of the GAPSA chair?
Justine Sefcik: I think first off ... that primarily I’ll be helping the new board members get acquainted to their positions and up and running and transitioning well. Also, main responsibilities would include being an advocate for all graduate students — both professional and graduate Ph.D. students — and working with the university administration to let them know what our concerns are as students but as well as letting them know what we’re really happy with. So I think it’s important to discuss both with them.
DP: Looking forward, after the transition, what are some of the things you plan to try to do next year?
JS: I’d like to first work with all the board members and see what their strategic commission is for the year to make sure that everyone’s goals are aligned and that we all are aware of what everybody’s doing, what they’re working on and to help different chairs collaborate, as well ... And then I’ll take a step back and see what else really needs to be done from my perspective. So I think it’s a little early to give a real broad statement for the entire year.
DP: Given that you worked so closely with the chair and the other board members this year, is there anything that you plan to continue that was started this year, or anything you plan to change for next year?
JS: If you haven’t heard of PennSHAPE, it’s definitely a program to look into a bit more. Charlotte Rose, who’s the current chair for student life, has been working on that project and has really taken it to the next level. So I’d like to work with the new chair [for student life] and make sure that that continues at the same rate that it’s been going and seeing what else we can do. She’s really worked on expanding it — it’s not just a physical challenge where people work to lose weight and eat healthy but she extended it so that it includes mental health programs as well for students.
DP: Are there any new initiatives that you would be interested in starting?
JS: Again, I think it’s a little early to get into that because I think it’s going to take the summer to complete the transition and to make a good assessment of what is needed. Because I don’t want to just jump into new initiatives if they’re not needed. I think we really need to survey all the graduate students and see what their needs and concerns are.
DP: In terms of the summer, will everyone still continue to meet and work on things?
JS: We’ll be in touch and talking. Plans are already underway for the September GradFest. And that’s what the vice chair works on. So a lot of things have to get up and going during the summer, so that there’s a nice smooth transition in the fall when the students return.
DP: Looking back on this year, what were some of the main things that either you personally or the board did that were some of your biggest accomplishments?
JS: I think that as a board as a whole, we’ve been very productive. One of the new initiatives that was started primarily by the current vice chair ... and this is something I helped him work on — [was the creation of] the GAPSA advisory services, where, when we’re giving large amounts of money to student groups to do their events, we’re offering services where we can guide them ... Also the Select Committee for Pluralism and International Affairs is something that was up and running this year, which was a new initiative.
DP: Do you have anything else you just want to say about the new board or about looking forward to next year?
JS: In general, I really enjoyed working with the board that is transitioning out, and I’m really looking forward to working with this incoming board as well. It’s been a great experience working for GAPSA and serving all students, so I’m really excited about this year.