Executive Committee Info
Bridgette Drummond is a second year graduate student in biology studying development and regeneration in the zebrafish kidney. Bridgette is a Chicago native who studied at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where she received her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology with Honors in December 2013. She conducted research in several areas of marine biology as an undergraduate including sea turtle physiology and environmental chemistry at UNCW, and spent a summer working in chemical oceanography as an NSF-REU fellow at the Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes, WA. Before coming to graduate school, Bridgette worked at the SANCCOB facility in Cape Town, South Africa where she worked to rescue and rehabilitate African Penguins and other seabirds. She has also worked at the Shedd Aquarium and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail, NC. As a graduate student at Notre Dame, Bridgette has earned the NSF-GRFP and is presently working to publish her first primary literature article. She participated in Notre Dame's Common Good Initiative in Spring 2016 and traveled to Cuba. In her free time, she enjoys running, traveling and watching the Chicago Blackhawks. She is committed to helping graduate students feel a connection to Notre Dame that will allow them to better enjoy their time here.
Olivia Choudhury is a EIGH fellow and a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Computer Science and Engineering. My research areas include bioinformatics and cloud computing. I was born and brought up in Calcutta, India. I received my bachelor degree in computer science and engineering from India in 2011 and joined Notre Dame in fall 2012. I interned at IBM Watson in summer 2015 and will be working at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in summer 2016. As an undergraduate, I have served as the department representative and cultural secretary of my University. Currently, I am a member of the graduate student board in the computer science department, where I am responsible for working as a liaison between graduate students and faculty as well as organizing social events. I am also the committee chair of graduate society of women engineers (SWE), an organization that provides a platform for women engineers, from various disciplines and backgrounds, to network and be successful in their respective fields. In my spare time, I like reading, singing, swimming, and dancing.
Josh Mason, a third year graduate student in Biology, is studying cancer cell metabolism and survival during matrix detachment. Josh received his Bachelor of Science with Honors in Biochemistry from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, MO, in 2013. Prior to graduate school, Josh performed research at Louisiana State University and the Institut Pasteur de Lille in Lille, France. During his graduate career, Josh has been quite active on campus as he has co-Founded and serves as the co-President of the Science Policy Initiative at Notre Dame, serves as the co-Chair of Professional Development for the GSU, is a Social Responsibilities of Researchers Fellow, is actively engaged with community outreach, amongst others. During his free time, Josh enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons. Josh knows that there will need to be a substantial time commitment to improving many facets of life for graduate students on campus, and he is particularly committed to helping ensure that graduate students are prepared for their next career step and that everyone feels welcome and respected on campus.
Bridgette, Olivia, and Josh are committed to serving the graduate student body in an effort to promote a positive experience now and in the future. While our platform is not all encompassing on issues for graduate students, we will employ a multi-faceted approach in an effort to maximize the number of concerns that can be alleviated as the 2016-2017 GSU Executive Board.
Promote engagement and involvement by better understanding the needs of the entire graduate student body
One of the most common threads between all graduate students is their innate desire to finish their graduate studies prepared for whatever their next step in life may be. Yet, even with this desire, many people are not in this situation whenever they defend their thesis. While this can be attributed to many different reasons, one reason that has been noticed from the GSU is the lack of active involvement from many graduate students in GSU-sponsored events. Thus, it is our desire to reverse this lack of involvement and create a GSU that accurately supports and provides activities/offerings that meet the demands of our entire graduate student body.
In order to facilitate this, we will rely heavily upon the GSU department representatives since they represent every department on campus. During the first month, we will ask each representative to their respective departments and gather information on what the graduate students are looking for that is not currently available. Each representative will bring these needs to the GSU, where it will be incorporated into the most like-themed Committee (Executive Board, Social, Professional Development, Health Care, Quality of Life, and Academic Affairs). By using this model, we will be able to better incorporate the needs of all graduate students on campus with the end goal of providing activities/offerings that fit the demands and needs of the entire graduate student body.
Foster transparent and open communication between graduate students and administration
A core tenant of the GSU is to act as a liaison between graduate students and the administration of Notre Dame. While this has increased substantially over the past couple of years, as there has been a focus on promoting open and transparent communication. However, we still have quite a bit of work to do on this front. One way to do this is to continue and work closely with our advisor and SAO Director Peggy Hnatusko and Student Affairs Associate Vice President Brian Coughlin. By continuing to work closely with Peggy and Brian, we can continue to increase efficiency and transparency for approving and planning GSU activities.
Furthermore, by fostering a more engaging/involved graduate student body as described above, we will be able to more accurately communicate with administration about the specific needs of the graduate student body. This increase in involvement will also hopefully lead to a greater attendance of the graduate student body to the GSU meetings; thus continuing to increase the communication about the needs on campus. In line with continuing to promote communication, we will work more fervently to design an interactive, and all-inclusive, web site that will be kept up-to-date with offerings and information from the GSU and around campus.
Improving the quality of life, housing options, and health care education for graduate students
Improving the representation of graduate students from all departments on campus does not only include career-preparing events; we also need to celebrate the diversity of graduate students on campus. Our goal is for all people to feel welcome, respected, and that their voices are important and should be heard on matters that affect graduate students. In order to promote diversity on campus, we will work closely with on-campus groups and organizations to set up events that are aimed specifically towards promoting and highlighting the diversity of graduate students. Further, these events will provide avenues of communication for graduate students to representatives of the GSU.
Quality of life also includes many types of real-life experiences that are incurred outside of the academy, such as housing and health care. Of utmost concern to many graduate students, and of the GSU, is the current housing situation for graduate students. With the looming closing of University Village, Cripe Street Apartments, and O’Hara-Grace Townhouses, many graduate students – particularly those with families, those without vehicles, and international students – will be adversely affected. Furthering this concern is that the newly built housing options for graduate students are highly unaffordable as they can cost upwards of 2/3 to an entire month worth of pay for a graduate student. Continuing communication with Karen Kennedy of the Housing Office, as well as voicing our concerns to various committees, will be a top priority of this Executive Board. This will ensure that the University is actively pursuing affordable, and adequate, housing for graduate students.
Another cause of concern, particularly financially, for graduate students is the many changes that have taken place with Health Care and graduate student insurance. These changes have left many unanswered questions and have adversely affected many graduate students. In order to try and mitigate the gap in graduate students understanding of the health care plan, we will create a course to educate graduate students about how our plan differs from that of faculty, how in- and out-of network functions within our plan, what funds are available to offset medical expenses, and how the University is working to establish financial, health-based, well-being for graduate students. Further, we will maintain communication with Connie Morrow from University Health Services to ensure that graduate students needs, and concerns, are being addressed.
Further supporting conference presentations by increasing Conference Presentation Grants funding
Graduate students oftentimes participate in conferences as a means of professional development, networking, and experience within their respective fields. However, many people are unable to attend these crucial events because of a lack of funding. While the GSU does have the Conference Presentation Grant (CPG) fund in place, it is oftentimes not sufficient to withstand the demand of the applications that are received. As an Executive Board, we look to increase the amount of funding allocated to CPG by increasing the permanent budget allotted (much of this will come from the activity fee), as well as advertising and trying to promote better participation in Notre Dame Day. We also will look at the demand for funds during each of the months so that we can allocate funds accordingly to support the greatest amount of students. By increasing these funds and being cognizant of the money allocated per month, we will be able to better support the demands of the graduate student body.