Finding Your Community through the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GAPSA)October 16, 2019
By Sofiyat Aderonke Ibrahim
For many of you reading this, you identify with one of the following: You are a current or former Mason graduate or professional student, you are interested in connecting and building relationships with the people around you, and/or you are committed to getting the best out of your time here at George Mason University. If any of these statements is true, then you should definitely continue reading this post because this information would help make your experience at Mason as a graduate or professional student even better.
To begin, I would like to introduce myself and tell you why becoming a graduate student at George Mason University was the best decision I ever made and share why finding my community with GAPSA was a huge turning point in my Mason graduate life. First, you should know that as a Mason graduate student, you have joined a diverse group of people committed to innovation and research that is very unique to our Mason population. As a result of this large and dynamic community, it can be somewhat challenging to connect with others. You may wonder how to find connections and build relationships with those around you. I was one of those people, lost in the hustle and bustle of grad life. When I first started at Mason, and now as a second-year master’s student who is knee-deep in her own community and has made several connections, I can assure you that your answer to finding your community lies in knowing and understanding what GAPSA is and how GAPSA can assist you!
I was elected GAPSA’s Vice President for the Arlington campus in late Spring of 2019. During my previous year, I attended several GAPSA events like Gradstravaganza, Grad Write-Ins, tabled events and more that allowed me to network with other graduate students as well as professional staff members. As an international student (born and raised in Nigeria) who had no affiliation to George Mason University whatsoever, I really wanted to find a community of people who would make my new home feel more like home; attending GAPSA events allowed me to meet people outside my academic department and form connections that I truly believe will last a lifetime. So I think I have said enough about the need to find your community, now let me tell you all about what GAPSA is and how you can get involved.
What is GAPSA?
The Graduate and Professional Student Association (GAPSA) is the premier all-graduate/professional student group at George Mason University, established in 2009, whose goal is to unite graduate and professional students and establish a forum through which graduate and professional students are able to address issues, advocate for the greater good, grow professionally, and socialize with one another. By creating a stronger graduate community that promotes personal, professional, and academic success, GAPSA recognizes that enriching graduate student life at George Mason University improves the prestige of the University as well as school/life balance for all graduate and professional students.
How to get involved?
All graduate degree seeking students at George Mason University are represented by GAPSA and are eligible to vote in GAPSA elections. There are, however, two types of graduate and professional students in GAPSA.
The first type of member is the graduate/professional student who volunteers their time to help with GAPSA events or committees, and they are considered active members. The primary benefit of active membership, besides helping your community, is the opportunity to receive an extra $50 when you apply for the Graduate Student Travel Fund, which supports travel to conferences for presentations.
The other type of member is the graduate student who is represented by GAPSA but does not participate in events or committees and thereby ineligible for the extra $50 in travel funding.
Why is it important to be involved in GAPSA?
There are several reasons and some ideas on why it is important to be involved and find your community in graduate school across all disciplines. For one, it helps you connect with more people who are then able to provide you with the necessary support; and two, you are included in a healthy and supportive life that allows you to enjoy your graduate student experience. All graduate students know about the busy schedule that comes with higher education. When we find time to get involved, however, we can make a difference for our colleagues and for future students.
How do I get to know the Executive Board?
I think I have sold GAPSA to you as well as anyone can! Now here are a few people you need to know about who help put on these events and represent you on the executive board:
President: Natalie Gelbvaks <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Vice President of Fairfax Campus: Atis Degro <email@example.com>
Vice President of Arlington Campus: Sofiyat Aderonke Ibrahim firstname.lastname@example.org (ME!)
Vice President of Science and Technology Campus: Octavia Olivia Sumailah <email@example.com>
Director of Communications: Wai Ling Fong <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Austin A. Deray (email@example.com) and Dr. Julie Choe Kim are advisors to GAPSA.
The students listed above are your GAPSA 2019-2020 Executive Board members. They represent the different regional campuses and assist Graduate Student Life with events throughout the academic year. In graduate school, it can be easy to spend almost every moment in your department, but being stuck within your silo prevents you from exploring the community around you. These students work hard to ensure community across all campuses and would love to hear from you to assist you whenever you need it. By getting involved in GAPSA, you are creating new opportunities for you and your colleagues to connect and essentially allowing yourself to have exciting and fulfilling experience here at Mason.