GUPSA President’s Report: Annual General Meeting 14 March 2013
It has been a very busy year for GUPSA, in March 2012 GUPSA was still working without funding, office space or staff although a new office space was almost completed and it appeared that funding was likely to commence in Semester 2.
As I sit here writing this report in March 2013 it is very pleasing to be able to report that GUPSA now does have significant funding, a full time staff member and a well resourced office. What a difference a year makes!
The new Clubs and Associations office space was ready early in Semester 1, 2012 and provided a purpose designed space to house the SRC, GUPSA and Clubs in one area on Nathan campus, N28 is under the Enternet café where the Co-op bookshop once resided but has been fully refurbished with new offices, meeting rooms and common room space. The GUPSA office is located in room 0.07, providing a permanent office for our staff member and Exec committee to work from. Whilst this remains the only office allocated for GUPSA amongst our five campuses it is a great leap forward to the situation that had prevailed since 2010 when our office was occupied by other staff to accommodate all the rebuilding work on campus.
After negotiation with University management for funding and staff, we were pleased to receive approval to employ a full time staff member from the beginning of semester 2 and significant funding to undertake activities for postgraduate students. During 2012 we held networking functions at Nathan, Mt Gravatt, Southbank and Logan campuses for all postgraduate students. We also held several informal seminars on key interests for postgraduate students where senior members of Griffith faculty shared their knowledge and experience with postgraduate students. A seminar for those undertaking or considering Phd’s about how to survive the process was well received by those in attendance who felt that the key piece of advice was “Just finish it!” Some sound advice for all of us angst ridden Phd candidates!
Other activities undertaken by GUPSA in 2012 were the development of a website and Facebook page and development of a modern look and logo for GUPSA. As there had been no ongoing funding for GUPSA since 2006, we had become a rather tired and dated organisation and much work and discussion has been undertaken by the Executive Committee on the focus GUPSA should take into the future for PG students. We held a planning retreat in late 2012 which gave us time to really reflect on the sort of organisation postgrad students need and develop a program of work for GUPSA into 2013. Still to be finalised is a review and update of the GUPSA Constitution which had not been undertaken since 2003, this is necessary to take account of the changing nature of both the university with much work now being done online and the changing needs of postgraduate students. Quite a lot of work has been done on this and I hope that the new Exec Committee will finalise it in 2013.
One of the most significant achievements of my term as GUPSA President was to see the employment of Dr Michael Carden as full time support officer for GUPSA. It has been absolutely wonderful to see how much Michael has contributed to GUPSA so far, developing our Facebook and web presence with Treasurer and webmaster Neils Kraaier, developing and maintaining networks amongst postgraduate representatives and handling all the day to day student enquiries for GUPSA. He has also organised the development of promotional materials, tshirts and brought order to GUPSA office administration, which is a huge task and one that overwhelms volunteer committee members. Without the support of a staff member, organisations like GUPSA can only hope to reach a fraction of their potential.
In semester 2, GUPSA also formally reaffiliated with the Council of Postgraduate Student Associations (CAPA). Whilst we have remained connected to CAPA since 2005, lack of funding has meant that we could not afford to affiliate or participate in the operation of our peak national student body, many university student associations were in a similar situation and so CAPA had largely represented the views of the large G8 universities where student associations still had assets and operating capital. I felt strongly that middle tier universities like Griffith have a different perspective to the big sandstones and that without a voice in CAPA, our views would not be heard in submissions and meetings with the Federal government and departments who have such a significant impact on research and teaching policy and funding for postgraduate students. Our Vice President of Coursework, Jason McNeil has represented GUPSA well at CAPA in 2012, providing a voice for Griffith postgraduate students in our national peak body.
As I will not be continuing on as President I would particularly like to thank the 2012 Executive committee for their support and friendship. I am inspired by their enthusiasm and commitment to ensuring that postgraduate students at Griffith have opportunities to work together to make the postgraduate experience at Griffith better. There are still many challenges ahead, particularly in increasing the influence of postgraduate students over university policy making and to raise the voice of postgraduates on higher education policy. I wish the new committee all the best for 2013 and feel confident that GUPSA is in a secure position to take its place as the primary organisation for postgraduate students at Griffith University.