Prior to 2003, graduate students at ASU were part of a joint student government with undergraduates. Recognizing the limitations of such an arrangement, In 1999, Kenichi Maruyama, an international graduate student from Japan, was serving as the Vice President of Graduate Student Affairs (VPGSA) within the Associated Students of Arizona State University (ASASU), the student government branch at ASU Tempe. Realizing the need for a separate graduate student government, Kenichi recruited other students to join him to officially register the Graduate Students Council (GSC). In the Spring of 2000, the GSC was able to obtain a Senator position on the ASASU Senate. With this new representation of graduate students who were talking about graduate issues, other graduate students started paying attention and getting involved. Various student organizations devoted to graduate student affairs began springing up all over campus throughout 2001. This culminated in a University wide meeting in the summer of 2001 run by John Burke, a doctoral student in Mathematics. At that meeting the GSC unofficially died and the groundwork was laid for a new organization, one that would have an assembly of representatives elected from the different graduate programs at ASU. This organization was called the GSA (Graduate Student Association).
One of the first programs established by the GSA was the annual Graduate Student Teaching Awards. These awards continue to be chosen by graduate students and awarded to graduate students. Graduate students Brian Collier and Tim Lant led the effort to write a new ASASU constitution and the legal framework for an official graduate student organization. In the spring of 2003 the new ASASU Constitution was passed and the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) was effectively created as an equal branch of ASASU. The GPSA replaced the GSA and was open to all graduate students at ASU.
There have been several issues graduate student government has been involved with since its auspicious beginnings in 1999. Foremost is tuition and tuition reimbursements for RA’s and TA’s. Tuition at ASU has increased by leaps and bounds since 1999 for all students. One of the first, and lasting, successes of the GPSA has been to convince the administration to give 50% RA’s and TA’s full reimbursement of their tuition. These reimbursements gradually came into effect during the 2002 – 2003 and 2003 – 2004 academic years, thereby giving ASU RA’s and TA’s what their counterparts already received at many other public universities; free tuition. This victory might prove short-lived though, as in early 2005, ASU administration proposed a series of student fees for the various graduate programs. These initial fees were approved at the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) meeting in 2005 and additional program fees have been added over the years. This continues to be an area in which GPSA is actively involved in improving the system.
In 2006, the Tempe Graduate Student Center was officially established. The proposition for a graduate student center had begun at the end of the first year of GPSA with Brian Collier and Tim Lant. They wanted a place where graduate students could come and go for resources dedicated just for graduate students. . By the Spring of 2005 the commitment of a location and dedicated resources for renovation were given for the Center for Family Studies Building. This building was originally built in 1939 with funds from the WPA and college bonds for a grand total of less than $35,000. It had most recently been occupied by the Hispanic Research Center, which moved to a new location on campus. Delays in renovations of the building pushed the grand opening celebration back to October 2006. This successful opening included the first GPSA Juried Art Show.
GPSA started as a Tempe-campus based student organization at its inception. This was primarily by design, as graduate students did not exist at the other ASU locations. However, as ASU started to adopt the “One University, Many Places” initiative, which sought to unify all of ASU’s locations, graduate students were working and learning at each of ASU’s location. Yet they were not represented by a specific graduate student government, remaining constituents of their individual campus student governments. In the early part of 2008, GPSA officers started a conversation with students at all of ASU’s locations. Students were concerned with the fact that there was a lack of graduate student-centric support from their individual student governments. The conversations continued in both the GPSA Assembly and Executive Committee. Spearheaded by GPSA President Justin Boren, Assembly President Carrie Lyn Carnahan, and Assembly President Pro Tempore Ryan Polansky, GPSA worked to change the GPSA membership clause to allow all ASU graduate students membership in GPSA, without removing their rights in their existing student government.
During a special election on October 9, 2009, this initiative passed both GPSA and USG by a startling majority. It was this day that GPSA represented all ASU graduate students, regardless of location. The impact of this vote had a profound impact on individual graduate students, as they were all eligible for benefits provided by GPSA. As a result of this, the GPSA Assembly was modified to include seats for representatives at each college, including those at the other ASU locations. Furthermore, GPSA began to explore the idea of opening up Graduate Student Centers at each campus (an initiative that was realized in the spring and summer of 2010). GPSA also reorganized our own structure by creating the Executive Director of Communication and Campus Relations position, to deal with GPSA publicity to oversee the campus directors who work in the individual graduate student centers. Finally, as a result of these initiatives, the ASU graduate college began hosting meeting and advising sessions at each of the Graduate Student Centers, allow ASU graduate students more accessibility to services that were only available at the Tempe Campus, prior to this major vote. The history of GPSA is rich with historic votes leading to internal structural changes that truly benefit students. This one major institutional change made GPSA one of the Nation’s largest organizations for the advocacy, support, and unity of graduate students. Continue reading to see what GPSA did for graduate students in 2010-2011.