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The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly will hold executive board elections today, using a system quite different from that of their undergraduate counterpart — the Undergraduate Assembly.

According to second-year Engineering masters student Rajatesh Gudibande, GAPSA’s vice chair for equity and access, the election process takes five and a half hours on average. 

He and second-year Engineering Ph.D student David Sun, GAPSA’s vice chair, feel this lengthy process is worthwhile, however.

“It gets a bit intense, but at the end of the day, it’s a very big responsibility — deciding people who will take care of a nearly $1 million budget,” said Gudibande, who is the leader of the elections committee said.

The GAPSA Executive Board consists of 12 positions, each leading at least one committee and handling a budget for the projects that pertain to their role. Select executive board members sit on various administrative University committees, such as the Board of Trustees and the Division of Public Safety Advisory Board.

Those running for positions submitted written statements describing their experience and qualifications to Gudibande, which he distributed to the GAPSA General Assembly — which consists of representatives from each of Penn’s 12 graduate schools. 

Today, each candidate will be allotted three minutes for a speech, followed by a question-and-answer period that is open to members of the GA and all attendees. Afterwards, the candidates will leave the room, allowing the General Assembly to debate about the best choice of candidate. The 56 members of the GA will then cast their votes, and the GAPSA Chair, Dental student Steven Lin, will announce the winner.

The members of the GA are elected by each of the 12 individual schools either in late April or in September. Each school follows their own process for selecting GA representatives.

Although the entire graduate student body is not permitted to vote, Sun explained that the GAPSA election system “helps people to make more informed choices.”

Gudibande agreed. “We don’t open to the entire Penn community and just vote blindly,” he said. “The GA takes time, debates, deliberates and chooses the best candidates.”

The GAPSA elections will take place at 6:00 p.m. in the Ben Franklin Room in Houston Hall. 

The following is a description of each of the positions on GAPSA's Executive Board, along with the name of the current position holder.

Chair, Dental student Steven Lin

The chair acts as an advocate and diplomat for graduate students to the University administration by sitting on committees such as the Board of Trustees. He oversees the entire executive board and all of its projects.

Vice Chair, Engineering student David Sun

The vice chair is the chief of staff, executive manager and moderator of executive board meetings, held on a bi-weekly basis. He is responsible for organizing Grad Fest — the graduate students’ version of New Student Orientation, including weeklong festivities in September such as happy hours, a student activities fair, a carnival and a gala. After GAPSA allocates funds to graduate student groups, the vice chair leads GAPSA’s advisory services, offering consultation to these groups in terms of budgeting, marketing, event-planning and logistics.

Vice Chair for Communication, Graduate School of Education student Luyao Wang

The vice chair for communication is responsible for managing GAPSA’s social media and serves as their spokesperson to the media. She also organizes GAPSA’s weekly newsletter, which compiles information on cultural and social events open to graduate students.

Vice Chair for Equity and Access, Engineering student Rajatesh Gudibande

The vice chair for equity and access leads the elections committee and oversees appointments of GAPSA representatives to University committees. He also leads the Select Committee for Pluralism and International Affairs, an graduate student initiative to support underrepresented minority groups on campus. This committee works with ethnic, religious and cultural umbrella groups across the 12 graduate schools to facilitate a sense of belonging for all students.

Vice Chair for Finance, Wharton student Steven Mong

The vice chair for finance oversees the GAPSA budget and the individual budgets of each of the vice chairs’ committees. He leads the G12 Synergy Fund, which promotes interdisciplinary work by granting funds to any interest group project that involves more than two graduate school student governments. He also manages student event and group funding and leads the GA Discretionary Fund, which votes on student requests for grants of more than $2,000.

Vice Chair for International Affairs, Nursing student Paule Valery Joseph

The vice chair for international affairs is a strong advocate for international students on campus, who form nearly half of the graduate student body. She organizes social events for international students and helps them navigate the complicated legal processes associated with the U.S. immigration system. She attends meetings of the International Student and Scholar Services and is currently organizing a “buddy system” that will match incoming international students with established Penn students to help them adapt to the new environment.

Vice Chair for Operations, Dental student Katherine France

The vice chair for operations is the moderator for the General Assembly’s biweekly meetings. She provides logistical support for GAPSA in terms of catering, room reservations and booking venues. She serves as the interface between the executive board and the General Assembly and assists the vice chair for equity and access in overseeing election logistics.

Vice Chair for Professional Students, School of Arts and Sciences student Rachel Delgado

Professional students are all graduate students not pursuing a doctoral degree. The vice chair for professional students helps to distribute travel and research grants to these students. She leads the bi-weekly sessions of the General Assembly’s Professional Council meetings.

Vice Chair for Research, Nursing student Justine Sefcik

Research students are student pursuing doctorates. The vice chair for research is responsible for distributing travel grants, academic event funding and research grants to research students. She is the moderator for the GA’s Research Council meetings, and also sits on various University committees, such as the University Council Steering Committee.

Vice Chair for Social Activities, Wharton student Christopher Lam

The vice chair for social activities organizes large monthly social events for graduate students, including happy hours, galas and cruises. Sun said this job is “SPEC done by one man.”

Vice Chair for Student Life, School of Arts and Sciences student Charlotte Rose

The vice chair for student life is an advocate for the general welfare of graduate students, in terms of mental health, fitness, housing accommodations and more. She oversees GAPSA’s PennSHAPE physical fitness challenge and is currently developing a handbook for incoming graduate students. She sits on the University Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee and is GAPSA’s diplomat to Counseling and Psychological Services.

Vice Chair for Student Programs, Engineering student Shyam Sivakumar

The vice chair for student programs organizes weekly social activities, such as hiking trips, museum visits and trips to Philadelphia 76ers games. He also organizes activities that promote connections between graduate students and local Philadelphia schools. 

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