Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association (ChEGSA)
The Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association (ChEGSA) is the primary organization for representing the graduate students and postdocs within the department. We also serve as the liaison between the students, staff, and faculty. ChEGSA has five main functions within our community:
- Promote professional development
- Organize graduate student events
- Promote fellowship within the department
- Promote participation in community events and outreach
- Provide a forum for graduate student concerns
Over the past year, ChEGSA has made great strides in each of these areas to provide a more enjoyable graduate student experience in CBE.
The main event in ChEGSA’s professional development portfolio is the CBE Graduate Student Symposium. We expanded upon last year’s program and had 15 speakers, including the 1st annual “best paper of the year” award, and 28 poster presentations. We augmented the presentation evaluation method by including peer reviewed oral presentations and faculty reviewed poster presentations. We also highlighted this year’s Smith Initiatives during the evening programming, giving the department a look into these student led initiatives. We have planned to expand our professional development efforts next year by including two new workshops such as storytelling, scientific graphic design, or grant writing.
ChEGSA has always excelled at student events, and this year was no exception. Our group helped organize several traditional events including the Halloween costume mixer, Thanksgiving potluck, wine tasting mixer, and trivia mixer. However, we also tried out two new events, a chili bakeoff and a BBQ & beer tasting mixer, which had favourable feedback. Perhaps the most successful social events that began this year were the board game club and visit weekend board game mixer. The board game club meets bi-weekly and has an attendance of 20-30 people on average, garnering much interest. Additionally, the visit weekend board game mixer had approximately 75 attendees and was quite successful in aiding the recruiting efforts of the department.
The greatest strides were made in the area of promoting fellowship within the department. Under this umbrella, three main initiatives were pursued. The first was the added responsibility for recruiting. During visit weekend, ChEGSA not only paired prospective students with graduate student mentors, but we also helped organize the Saturday dinner to help the prospective students experience Ithaca. As mentioned before, the visit weekend was capped off with a successful board game mixer. To further add to this, after the acceptance deadline for the incoming students, they were immediately paired with new graduate students mentors to aid the incoming students with the transition to Cornell. The second main initiative was promoting a healthy lifestyle through expanding our intramural sport program. This year our department took part in seven different sports, which we hope to maintain through next year. The last, and perhaps most impactful initiative was beginning a mental wellness program that looks to improve the support system within our department to better manage stress, anxiety, and depression. Currently, this is in its infancy, but we have constructed a survey for the department that we hope to use to better understand where we need to place our focus.
For our outreach we recently held an event with Habitat for Humanity where 15 volunteers helped with the construction of a house in Ithaca. The volunteers seemed to enjoy the work and we hope to continue these events once a semester going forward. As always, we helped raise significant donations during the Thanksgiving food drive and also took part in a spring product drive where we collected day-to-day products that low-income families cannot buy with food stamps.
Going forward, we have a good sense of the direction we would like to take as an organization. We recently posted an anonymous feedback form online for students to voice their concerns and comments about ChEGSA. We have a planned budget for our GPSA funds for next year and we are preparing to draft another budget for our departmental funds. Lastly, I plan to look at promoting the ethnical diversity in our department with new programming inclusive to international students such as an ‘international potluck.’
Overall, ChEGSA had a progressive year and we hope to continue with this momentum going forward.