Medical PhD candidate Helena Zakrzewski’s campaign promises enhancing improving mental health resources, creating professional development opportunities, re-engaging PGSS members, and improving student life for international graduate students.
During her first term as Secretary-General, Zakrzewski conducted an audit of the PGSS governance structure. She has since made headway on a number of her other campaign promises, most significantly by helping to secure a Local Wellness Advisor for graduate students and collaborating on the creation of a joint SSMU-PGSS committee to improve remote mental health services. Zakrzewski has been less successful in fostering a positive environment among other PGSS executives and recent PGSS councils appear to have been marked by unproductive conflicts among the membership.
Nonetheless, her decision to focus on facilitating a comprehensive governance audit of PGSS and her efforts to improve mental health resources will have lasting positive effects on PGSS and graduate student life. Though some of her campaign promises remain unfulfilled, Zakrzewski’s flexible approach to addressing PGSS’s systemic difficulties have yielded a number of important successes.
Beginning his term with a $50 thousand surplus, Sibat Anam successfully completed his mandate as the Financial Affairs Officer by reallocating the unused funds to new grant programs. Anam completed three primary campaign goals: Improving the PGSS Grants Program, creating a Travel Awards Program, and re-examining PGSS’s investment strategy.
Anam began the academic year by increasing the PGSS Grants Program’s funding cap by 50 per cent, which led to a doubling of the amount of funding awarded to graduate students. After consulting members, Anam created the Travel Awards Program to help subsidize travel costs for academic activities. The program was successful, receiving over 120 applications and awarding over $10 thousand since its launch. Anam also worked with investors to increase the liquidity of PGSS’s investments, allowing for easier access to the society’s funds.
One goal that Anam failed to accomplish was generating external revenue; PGSS will begin the 2019-20 academic year with a smaller surplus than in previous years. Anam has been accessible to students throughout the past year and intends to work with the incoming Financial Affairs Officer to hire a sponsorship commissioner.
As Internal Affairs Officer, Konstantina Chalastara worked to foster a sense of community among PGSS members, hosting a variety of events throughout her term. Chalastara ensured that events were eco-friendly, leading to PGSS receiving a gold certification from the McGill Office of Sustainability in Fall 2018. Since then, she has further expanded her environmental accomplishments by reducing waste at events like Eco Paint Night. In addition to succeeding in collaborating with other on-campus student groups like McGill Women in Leadership, she also liaised with the Redpath Museum to implement a Discovery Workshop event for students with families. Chalastara also assisted in the creation of a podcast titled “Post-Grad Scientists and Where to Find Them,” which highlights on-campus student research, and has increased the Society’s visibility on social media platforms, using Instagram to promote events and engage with the graduate student community.
Maria Tippler has proven herself highly effective in her role as Academic Affairs Officer and in her continued engagement with PGSS. Tippler ran on a platform of creating events to address issues specific to graduate students, like supervisory relationships, and accessibility and transparency within the organization.
During her term, Tippler has successfully delivered on all of her campaign promises and effectively solved other graduate academic items as they emerged. Despite having to handle missing documentation, she created the first formal report on the Library Improvement Fund (LIF) since 2009 with the help of the LIF Coordinator, along with a service level agreement to ensure stronger accountability and communication mechanisms for both parties, which she hopes to present to Council in Apr. 2019.
Tippler has worked diligently to strengthen institutional memory across the organization. She encouraged Commissioners to deliver monthly reports instead of semesterly accounts and created the Information Architect position to improve the organization of PGSS documentation. Tippler has also used her mandate to develop professional opportunities for graduate students, including a networking trip to Ottawa and funding of professional development classes organized by the Secretary-General.
Goh ran on a platform of increased visibility and accessibility of services, external collaboration, and consultation with students. Generally, he fulfilled campaign promises, but was unable to adequately engage with PGSS members to receive their feedback. One of his most significant accomplishments was the renewal of the Student Services fee in a referendum for post-doctoral students, allowing them to access resources like Career Planning Services (CaPS) and the McGill Student Health Service Clinic.
In accordance with his campaign promises to make external mental health resources more accessible, Goh also introduced a Health and Dental Insurance Plan fee increase, which will help PGSS continue to provide coverage while also expanding the policy to include services like flu shots and mental health treatment. Goh helped secure a full-time Local Wellness Advisor for graduate students at the new Rossy Wellness Hub.
Additionally, Goh increased the capacity the Study Sundays for Parents and Kids Program (SSPKP) by hiring paid babysitters.
The McGill Tribune Editorial Board reviewed the 2018-2019 Post-Graduate Student Society (PGSS) executives on their performance in their positions. The Editorial Board gave each executive a score from 1-10 based on how we felt the executives performed. The grades were converted from a percentage into a letter grade based on the McGill grading system. Under this grading scale a “C” is a passing grade that meets expectations, a “B” exceeds expectations, and an “A” refers to an outstanding performance.