Rajat Chakravarty, president of the GSA.

GSA president proud to pave new roads for organization

When Rajat Chakravarty took over as president of the U of S Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), the organization was in the tail end of a crisis.

Last year, with a police investigation underway and legal fees piling up due to the alleged misuse of funds, things were looking grim. Today, only a year later, he is proud to say the organization is not only back on its feet with those issues behind it—it is thriving.

"The GSA now is a force to be reckoned with on campus," said Chakravarty, a PhD student in mechanical engineering. "Whenever there are university consultations, the GSA is always being represented there—whether that's on sexual assault policies or mental health strategy or on any big initiative that the university's taking."

Chakravarty has been involved with the GSA for three years now, serving two terms as vice-president student affairs before being voted in as president last April. This spring marks the end of his time with the executive, which he will be leaving behind to dive headfirst into his studies and finish his PhD.

When elected, Chakravarty's first task as president was to tackle transparency in governance in hopes of addressing concerns from GSA council members.

"Anything that happens in the GSA is now getting reported so members have a way to know. We're putting up everything on the website; we are very open about inviting people to come forward to council and participate," Chakravarty said, adding that governance documents have also been improved as a part of this overall push.

"We even plan events strategically so that people can stick around and continue into these council meetings."

There are many accomplishments that Chakravarty is proud to have helped bring to the GSA during his time as president— bringing about new initiatives such as health clubs, which guide graduate students in both their mental and physical well- being, campus rec teams in curling, basketball, volleyball and even dodgeball, striving for greater co-operation with the U of S Students' Council, Aboriginal and Indigenous Graduate Student Council (AIGSC) and other organizations—but the connecting thread between many of them is one of external and internal collaboration.

"This year the GSA has not been working in isolation. It has deliberately been going out everywhere to look for these connections that we can make," he said.

Part of making this goal a reality meant forging stronger connections with other campus groups, which Chakravarty said involved steps as simple as planning functions to take place at the AIGSC directly or mixing international selections into the music playlist at socials.

"We're getting more and more people who might otherwise choose to be disengaged and remain with their own communities to come out to general GSA events. I think the big thing we've done is make GSA events more friendly towards all communities," he said.

Though he reflects positively on the year behind him, Chakravarty said the GSA's recent successes are not as much his doing as they are the result of the diligent, supportive work from the organization's council and executive members.

"All executives have put in their effort and have worked hard to function together as a team and pitch in for each other. Everybody was helping everybody else. We had a very good working relationship," Chakravarty said.

"We were working at 200 per cent."


Celebrating grad students

On March 5, the GSA celebrated the esteemed work being done among its members and their advisors as part of the fourth annual GSA Awards Gala. The following individuals were chosen as recipients of honour in their respective categories.

Advising excellence award: Louise Humbert (College of Kinesiology)

Humbert is a community-based researcher with over 20 years of experience working in community settings.

Excellence in community service award: Kayla Madder (MSc candidate in animal science)

Madder's family, and specifically her grandmothers, set an example early in her childhood that has led to a passion for community service, including getting involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Saskatoon, volunteering for the Student Wellness Initiative Toward Community Health and sitting on the planning committee for the inaugural AIDS Saskatoon Gala in 2015.

Excellence in aboriginal research award: Ranjan Datta (PhD candidate in the School of Environment and Sustainability)

Datta is widely known as an international graduate student expert on Indigenous research and making positive impacts on the community. He has received numerous accolades for research excellence.

Interdisciplinary research excellence award: Farhad Fathieh (PhD student in mechanical engineering)

Farhad has been conducting comprehensive research on an energy recovery technology, which substantially reduces the energy consumption in ventilation systems.
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