Senate seeks extra funds to aid professional development

Tim Sampson and Tim Sampson

The Graduate Student Senate will be seeking an extra $15,000 next year to fund an increasingly popular program aimed at advancing the careers of graduate students.

On Friday, the GSS presented its planned budget for the 2007-08 academic year proposing a 50 percent increase in funding for its professional development program.

The program awards funds to individual graduate students in order to help them cover the cost of attending academic meetings and conferences.

The $30,000 being sought would account for nearly 60 percent of the GSS’s total budget next year.

The program is in need of additional funding because of its increased popularity, said Luke Nichter, GSS vice president. The program has gone from receiving 50 applicants a semester two years ago to 131 this past semester.

‘The reason why the number has gone up, not down, is because of the success of the program,’ Nichter said.

With the increase in student applicants, GSS has been stretching current funds to their limit.

‘The maximum that a grad student can ask for is $250,’ Nichter said. ‘But now it’s hard to get more than $50 because it’s such a popular source of money.’

With academic conferences sometimes costing hundreds of dollars to attend, the senate hopes that increasing the amount of funding will allow more students to attend such events, according to Linh Nguyen, GSS treasurer.

‘We want to be able to give students more,’ Nguyen said. ‘It’s difficult to take part in some of these activities and conferences when you’re only given $50 and it’s going to cost you $600.’

Even though the budget request still has to be approved by the Student Budget Committee and the dean of students, Nguyen is confident the increase will go through.

‘We think we’ve made a sound argument for it,’ she said.

Although a 50 percent increase may seem like a lot, according to Nichter, the GSS has often had to ask for additional funds beyond the initial $15,000.

‘In the past we requested the smaller number of $15,000 and then asked for supplemental funding throughout the year,’ he said. ‘This time we’re just putting it all on there on one page, so it seems bigger than it really is.’

At the GSS meeting on Friday, Heinz Bulmahn, graduate college dean, addressed members about the importance of professional development as well as its financial challenges.

‘Finding support to cover educational cost used to be a problem for undergraduate students,’ Bulmahn said. ‘But now it’s a growing problem for grad students as well.’

According to Nguyen, it’s important for graduate students to be able to attend conferences to advance their careers.

‘Attending conferences and workshops is a big part of developing a career, and hopefully this increase will do more to help provide them with the necessary funding,’ she said.