New GSC executives to take office in May

Graduate Student Council seeks to advocate for, engage grad students

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The newly elected officers of the Graduate Student Council, from left to right, are Vice-President-elect Francesco Bellei, President-elect John Kendall Nowocin, Treasurer-elect Shabnam Raayai Ardakani, and Secretary-elect Chris Aakre.
Tami Forrester—The Tech

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: In a previous version of this article, Francesco Bellei G was incorrectly referred to as a reelected vice president of the GSC. In fact, all of the incoming GSC executive officers are newly elected to their positions.

The Graduate Student Council elected a new set of executive officers last Wednesday, including President-elect John Kendall Nowocin G. They will assume office in May.

In an interview, they emphasized the GSC’s role as an advocate for the interests of graduate students, such as the housing, childcare, and financial needs of graduate student families.

The current GSC recently announced that it had negotiated an average 4 percent increase in the graduate-student stipend, set to take effect in the Fall term. In the 2013-2014 academic year, doctoral students received stipends in a range centered at around $32,000.

Vice President Francesco Bellei G, Secretary-elect Chris D. Aakre G, and Treasurer-elect Shabnam R. Ardakani G also said they wanted to foster a stronger sense of community among graduate students through events, student groups, and participation in the GSC.

“We definitely know that there is desire from the graduate students to meet people from other departments,” Bellei said, citing survey responses. Part of what makes that difficult, he said, is the fact that less than 40 percent of graduate students live on campus.

The officers said they hoped to increase “engagement” by working to fund student groups, publicizing events, and increasing the visibility and online presence of the GSC.

Even when they do live on campus, Ardakani said, “it’s really hard to get everybody in the dorm to get engaged.”

Nowocin said that many graduate students wanted to live in on-campus dorms. He praised a “resonant” report of a provost-appointed Institute working group that recommended 500 to 600 additional beds in graduate housing at MIT.

“I think that families are particularly vulnerable,” Aakre said, “because if you have a spouse, for example, who isn’t working [and is] staying home with the kids, finding a two-bedroom apartment in Cambridge and affording it on the graduate stipend is incredibly difficult.”

To support graduate-student families, the officers said they wanted to continue programs like the backup childcare fund and “Families 101” panel at the graduate orientation, which is organized by the GSC.

In a statement, Nowocin also said he wanted to see graduate student input in decisions related to MIT 2030 (MIT’s campus development “framework”), MITx (an online education platform), student conduct policies, and the “new legal resource for student innovators” that President L. Rafael Reif promised in February.

The officers also said they hoped to continue the GSC’s collaborations with other groups at MIT, such as the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, the MIT Public Service Center, the MIT Work-Life Center, and the Undergraduate Association.

Nowocin, Aakre, Bellei, and Ardakani have all held various positions in the GSC before.

The Tech has reached out to current GSC president Caleb J. Waugh G for comment.