Second-year Law School student Joe Friedman, who graduated from the College in 2009, was elected as the new chairman of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly on Wednesday.
GAPSA represents over 10,000 Penn graduate students from the 12 graduate schools. Friedman, who will assume the post on May 1, sat down with The Daily Pennsylvanian to discuss his ideas for GAPSA in the coming year.
The Daily Pennsylvanian: What will your main priorities be for next year?
Joe Friedman: The main priority is bringing students of different disciplines together while supporting students in their academic pursuits. We want to get students involved as much as possible in our funding opportunities, social events and cultural programs.
Another major goal for the Vice Chairwoman Nina Zhao,who is a first year at the [School of Medicine], and I is to make sure we build strong relationships with the student government leaders from the [12 graduate schools].
DP: Do you have any new initiatives in mind?
JF: We really want to make sure students are aware of what GAPSA can do for them and how we can provide support for them. That will involve overhauling our website, publicizing our events more effectively, advocating on behalf of students more passionately and assuring students are getting the most out of their graduate experience.
We also want to make GradFest a better experience. It is kind of like the graduate school Spring Fling. We want to make it more of a powerful event to get students excited for the upcoming year.
DP: What is the biggest challenge you face as GAPSA chairman?
JF: We have a large budget, we have great institutional resources, we have tremendous support from the University. There is so much potential for enhancing graduate student life. We want to do everything we can to ensure we meet that full potential.
DP: Why did you decide to run?
JF: As I was the vice chairman for finance this past year, I was responsible for tracking all of our expenditures relating to GAPSA. So I have a strong knowledge of the internal structure of the organization. And I also know the ways in which we can operate more effectively within the larger University framework.
DP: What is your leadership philosophy?
JF: I see my role as primarily as a facilitator … I will be extremely proactive at engaging students and meeting with them one on one in order to identify issues and work out solutions.
DP: As a previous undergraduate at Penn, do you miss Spring Fling? Do you plan to go to the concert this year?
JF: Yes, I do certainly miss Spring Fling! I remember it as being one of the most fun times of the year — I might be attending the concert with some friends.