Grad school database aims to strengthen community


GAPSA's student group database added 100 groups this semester




With a new database of graduate student clubs and organizations, Penn’s Graduate and Professional Student Assembly is attempting to strengthen the bonds of the University’s graduate school community.

Last semester, GAPSA launched an online database that includes listings of student groups from all of Penn’s 12 graduate schools in a PDF format. The database — which included 120 organizations in the fall — was updated with an increase of 100 groups this semester.

“This is a fantastic new tool for the graduate and professional student community with the goal of further integrating the student body,” GAPSA Chair and third-year Law School student Joseph Friedman said.

Organizations on the database are categorized by 11 different criteria — such as athletic, religious and business — so that graduate students can easily find groups that match their interests.

The database also includes contact information for group leaders, as well as membership eligibility requirements.

Before planning for the database began in spring 2010, Friedman said he saw the “wonderful diversity of student organizations at Penn,” but found that most students only took advantage of groups that were based within their own schools.

“I thought that it would be a terrific way of showcasing the richness of Penn’s graduate student experience,” he said.

GAPSA Vice Chair of Operations and second-year School of Design student Jason Cantu added that he wanted to find ways to bring many graduate students together.

For both Cantu and Friedman, getting the necessary information was the most difficult part of the project.

“It was challenging to try to get the names from everyone in charge of the organizations in every school,” Cantu said. “Getting all of them to even respond to emails took awhile.”

But the process of soliciting information from individual groups became easier once the first version of the database was posted online at the beginning last semester, since more groups were inclined to reach out to GAPSA themselves, Cantu added.

In the near future, GAPSA may consider transforming the PDF file of the list to an online interactive tool, according to Cantu.

Third-year Engineering doctoral student Lisa Chen welcomed the creation of the database, but said its impact may take more time to be felt by more graduate students.

According to Chen, who is in charge of outreach for the Penn Chinese Dance Club, most graduate students currently pick groups to join by word of mouth or through friends.

Though her club’s membership totals have not been impacted since the database launched, Chen expects more awareness of clubs to come as the tool is more widely used.

In particular, she said it can be useful for international students who may be new to Penn and are looking to get involved with various cultural groups.

“I remember when I first got to Penn and looked for student activities, I had nowhere to go,” she said. “In the near future, it could be a bit better.”

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