The SFU Graduate Student Society (GSS) is marking 10 years since it became independent from the Simon Fraser Student Society and began to offer services geared towards master’s and PhD students at the university.
“During those 10 years, we grew a lot as a society and were able to implement very successful programs, and innovative approaches in how we deal with graduate students,” said Camila Miranda, GSS director of student life.
“It really shows where we started to where we are now, all the progress that we made with the programs that we have and the services that we offer.”
The GSS currently represents around 4,500 students in 38 different academic programs on the three campuses.
The society was formed following a student-wide referendum in 2007 that ushered in a vote resoundingly in favour of the creation of an independent society to represent graduate students.
At the time, The Peak reported that campaigners felt that graduate student interests were being overlooked by the student society, which was dominated by a much higher number of undergraduate students.
Miranda emphasised that graduate students require their own student society because their interests differ from those of undergraduate students, particularly in terms of family and work commitments.
“The needs of graduate students, they are somewhat different from undergraduate students,” said Miranda. “Most of the graduate students, they have families to support or they work full time. The amount of time they spend in university is different than undergrad students. Just for that reason, they need a different type of support.”
The GSS currently offers some unique services such as funds for students who have financial emergencies, a family subsidy grant for students with children, and professional development grants for students who present at conferences, according to Miranda.
“Many graduate students work at the university as sessional instructors, or TAs, or TMs so they have a different type of relationship — which is a professional relationship — with undergraduate students,” she added. “We think it is really important for some services to be specific for graduate students so we can maintain this professional relationship.”
Some of the services that the GSS provides are similar to that of the SFSS, such as a health and dental plan. However, while the purpose of some of the services are the same, the focus is a bit different, Miranda clarified.
The GSS is looking ahead to what the coming years have in store for the students and the society. According to Miranda, the society is intending to focus on engaging with members, expanding its services, collaborating with alumni, and implementing sustainability initiatives.
In the works is a graduate orientation in the fall to get more students involved in their caucuses, she said.
The GSS is also trying to identify where there are gaps in services at the university and how to address them.
In addition, there are upcoming initiatives organized between the society and the SFU Alumni Association, Miranda explained.
The society held a sold-out event earlier this month to mark its 10-year anniversary.