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The GAPSA GradFest kickoff event was held at Louie Louie on Sept. 13, 2022. Credit: Jesse Zhang

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly hosted an event for graduate students to meet Penn President Liz Magill and Penn administrators on Tuesday to kick off this year's GradFest.

From Sept. 13-24, GAPSA and the Graduate Student Center are hosting GradFest, a 12-day-long event series open to professional and graduate students. This year’s opening is the 'Chill with Magill’ mixer at Louie Louie, allowing student leaders from GAPSA, affinity groups, and G12+ constituent partners to meet with Magill and other administrators.

The kickoff event was invitation-only and allowed student leaders across all 12 professional and graduate schools to meet each other and talk with administration, including Magill, Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein, and Interim Vice Provost for Student Life Tamara Greenfield King.

The event was “part of a broader effort to really focus on connecting graduate students, and specifically graduate student leaders, to the university administration,” according to Robert Watson, the GAPSA president and a third-year Penn Law School and Graduate School of Education student.

Magill spoke briefly at the mixer and applauded the student leaders for their academic work and leadership in various graduate student organizations.

“You're elevating the voices of yourselves and your peers as a result of the leadership and I commend you for that,” Magill told the crowd. “The contributions you're making to students at Penn are going to make us a better place.”

Aalok Thakkar, a fifth-year computer science Ph.D. student and GAPSA vice president of finance, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that he is optimistic about Magill’s relationship with the graduate student body.

“We are excited to work with new President Magill,” he said. “She has been very involved with the grad students from her very start.”

Jay Ortiz, a fourth-year immunology Ph.D. student and IDEAL Council Chair at GAPSA, echoed Thakkar, saying that GAPSA was looking forward to working with Magill. Ortiz told the DP that he was impressed with Magill’s communication thus far.

GAPSA plans to advocate for combating food insecurity among graduate students and expanding the cultural resource centers' programming in the newly renovated ARCH building to include graduate students. Thakkar said that GAPSA plans to advocate for the Cultural Resource Centers to hire more staff to support graduate students.

This is the fifteenth year of GradFest, which includes programming across Penn’s campus and Philadelphia. Planned events include restaurant nights, apple picking, and a boat cruise. This year, GAPSA aims to offer a more diverse set of events tailored toward a variety of student groups, such as a brunch at the Family Resource Center.

“GradFest, overall, is really just a way to drive out students to introduce them to graduate student life on campus,” Watson said.

Magill said GradFest “is a great reminder that Penn has committed itself not just to educating graduate and professional students, but also to try and to support them on their journey as they go through Penn.”