Jan. 21 2018

Welcome Back, Student Government

After a yearlong hiatus, the Graduate Student Association is back to foster discussion and forge connections between student groups

The federal government may have been stuck in gridlock, but the Mailman School student government is back to work. The newly-elected Graduate Student Association recently kicked-off their term with the aim of engaging more students and establishing themselves as a solid resource for the Mailman student body.

In session for the first time since 2016, the new GSA is larger than in past years with a five-member executive board and representatives from all six academic departments and a Doctoral Council.

Last year, the Office of Student Affairs developed an application comprised of a series of questions about a candidate’s leadership style, past experiences, vision for student government, and priorities they would pursue in office. In a blind selection process in November, student leaders reviewed applications to appoint GSA positions. Danting  Liu, an MPH candidate in Sociomedical Sciences, was named GSA president.

Danting Liu, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, student government

In a recent conversation, Liu made a case for the organization’s role as a connecting point between the student body and administration, and as a compliment, not a replacement, for the vital work done by the more than 20 student groups.

“The GSA is a liaison, a kind of bridge for other organizations that exist already,” she said. “For example, the Black and Latinx Student Caucus and the newer groups are really crucial in doing specialized work that shapes all of us as future public health professionals.”

To extend their reach, this year’s GSA is launching a series of community forums open to all degree candidates and free of faculty and staff with the next meeting scheduled for January 25 in Hess Commons. Meetings provide an opportunity for students to address their concerns, from who to invite for visiting lecturers to vending machine offerings. After the meetings, the GSA leadership meets with faculty and staff to find solutions.

A top priority for Liu is creating initiatives that reflect the needs of a diverse student body, such as more academic support, additional pre-professional workshops, and developing new opportunities to work with New York City residents, to name just a few preliminary ideas.

“We’re in the process of deciding what we want to do on that front,” Liu said. “If we’re going to make an impact, it has to be now.”

Christina Ferrari, assistant director of Student Life who oversees the GSA, was instrumental in getting the student government back up and running this year.

The Graduate Student Association is critical to our School community,” said Ferrari. I am honored to be working with this enthusiastic and passionate group of students, and it is so exciting to see the possibilities and goals they have for enhancing the student experience here at Mailman.”