Conceptualizing My Role as a Student in Higher Education Governance

Overview of UCRGSA

GSA has at least three components to consider:

  1. The executive board
  2. The organization
  3. The Graduate Student Council

The Executive Board

The executive board includes elected and appointed officers. When I’m organizing and planning, I usually divide them into Executive, External, Internal, and Academic Officers. The Executive Officers all answer to me, and the rest answer to their corresponding Vice President.

The GSA has this handy organizational chart showing how all the executive officers are related.

The Organization

The organization, UCRGSA, lets graduate students operate as a collective entity within the UCR and UC structures, and externally. It also has its own identity, which can let students talk to people who might not have time or inclination to just meet with students otherwise, and connect one’s voice to the power of a trusted collective rather than one’s personal identity.

The Graduate Student Council

The Graduate Student Council (which I suspect is somewhat commonly mistaken for the GSA) includes the elected officers and the elected representative from each academic department’s departmental GSA.

Overview of Presidency

The particular details of the job description can be found in the GSA’s Governing Documents. I’ll conceptualize the role here as involving leadership and representation.


Leadership, then, trifurcates into organization, direction, and resolve.

Organization: I spend several hours a day reading and responding to emails, setting up appointments, delegating, and generally just figuring out who needs to be talking to who to make things happen.

Direction: While the direction of the organization comes from the student body as a whole, I articulate it, most commonly in the form of setting agendas.

Resolve: Graduate students are very busy, and getting them to do more, especially when I have limited access to funds, is a major challenge of keeping the organization running. When we try to do hard things, leading often means also having enough of the big picture in mind to know what’s possible in the medium and long terms.


The process of representation involves a lot of learning, promoting, and waiting.

Learning: “Listen, Learn, Lead” is a motto I follow.

Promote: There’s only one President-voice, but it’s quite loud, and can build others, so I need to use it to promote once I’ve listened and learned.

Waiting: I spend a lot of time in meetings. Most of the time I’m listening and gathering information. Most of what I say is just questions, trying to get the clearest information for students or understand what and why things are the way they are. When I hear the right moments come up, which can often be projected well in advance, I use the information to make key events go the way we want.

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