Doctoral student Kelly Diaz has been elected President of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA) at the University of Pennsylvania for the 2020-21 school year.
“Different parts of Penn often feel quite separate from one another, and as GAPSA President, I hope that I can help to bridge the gaps between the 12 graduate schools, the various resource centers, and the administration,” says Diaz. “We need to do a better job guiding students toward the help they need, and I believe GAPSA plays an important role in this endeavor.”
Since 1979, GAPSA has striven to enhance the Penn graduate student experience through a diversified array of initiatives with an emphasis on promoting interdisciplinary research and bringing students from different disciplines together. As President, Diaz will oversee the 14 member executive board and 60 representatives, manage an annual budget of $2.5 million, and meet regularly with the President’s and Provost’s offices.
During her term, Diaz plans to focus on helping graduate students manage the economic and emotional hardships of the COVID-19 crisis. She will work with Penn’s administration to establish leave policies and emergency funds, implement extensions to funding and degree timelines, and determine how to create leniency in student workload. Diaz also intends to address licensure issues for professional students, like dental students who weren’t able to get certified, law students unable to take the Bar exam, or social work students whose canceled spring rotations means they don’t have the practicum hours they need to graduate on time.
“I'm excited to create university-wide initiatives that will positively impact the Penn graduate and professional student body, with special attention to the needs of marginalized students,” Diaz says. “This is especially important as we face the prospect of continued social distancing and economic and emotional hardship. Navigating this unprecedented crisis will be difficult, but I have confidence that GAPSA and the administration will take the steps needed to make students feel heard and supported.”
Diaz previously served on the GAPSA executive board as the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Leadership (IDEAL) Council Chair and as a General Assembly representative on behalf of Lambda Grads. She has also served as the Lambda Grads President and as a member of the Graduate Council of Faculties.