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GAPSA President Kelly Diaz plans to prioritize supporting Black and international students. (Photo from Kelly Diaz)

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly plans to focus on uplifting both Black and international students next year, under the guidance of incoming GAPSA President and Annenberg School third-year Kelly Diaz.

After being elected on April 22, Diaz has already started working on developing workshops to teach graduate students how to better support and provide allyship to Black students on campus. One of her main goals for the year is to guide Black students through this period of civil unrest.

“There is going to be a large portion of our programming and initiatives this year that are dedicated to education programs for allies and also programs dedicated to healing and respecting the trauma Black students have endured,” Diaz said. 

Diaz said she will also prioritize international students, who are facing difficulties obtaining visas amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Part of her plan is to generate innovative fundraising ideas to donate to organizations that support these communities. 

Diaz added that she wants GAPSA to better utilize graduate student resources, such as the Graduate Student Center and Penn's cultural houses, and establish a greater sense of University pride across all graduate school communities.  

The incoming executive board has already reached out to a representative for the Wharton Graduate Association to create closer relationships with the 12 graduate schools, Diaz said.

Prior to becoming GAPSA president, Diaz was the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Leadership chair for the 2019-20 GAPSA executive board and an IDEAL representative for Lambda Grads, an LGBTQ graduate student organization, and one of the ten affinity groups under the IDEAL Council. 

Diaz worked to integrate Penn First Graduate Association, which represents first-generation, low-income graduate students, into the IDEAL Council during her previous years in GAPSA. She also helped implement IDEAL office hours for graduate students. 

“I feel like Kelly is one of the most deserving people up there to run for any of these positions,” rising Engineering third-year Ph.D. student and incoming IDEAL chair Aalok Thakkar said. “First off she’s a role model. She has been working closely with multiple student groups and I think she will make a great president.” 

Diaz will be joined by Executive Vice President and rising Engineering Ph.D. second-year Anastasia Neuman, and Vice President of Finance and Operations and rising Penn Dental and Graduate School of Education fourth year Kristen Leong, on GAPSA's executive board.

Rising School of Arts and Sciences third-year Christopher Johnny said he believes Diaz will make a great GAPSA president after working with her in his role as last year’s IDEAL representative of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

“She is extremely proactive, very kind-hearted, caring, and pays large attention to detail,” Johnny said. “She also has a major goal being that every student and student group is properly represented on campus.” 

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