Grad SGA Leaders Reflect on Time in Office

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When an unexpected tax increase threatened the academic careers of many Georgia Tech students, the leaders of the Graduate Student Government Association (SGA) took action.

“If graduate students from across the nation hadn’t campaigned, the bill could have doubled the tax burden on many students,” said Skanda Prasad, a fourth-year Electrical Engineering Ph.D. student and outgoing president of Grad SGA. “SGA provided the platform for graduate students to tell Congress how the bill would have impacted them. We’re here to speak up when outside forces threaten the needs of graduate students.”

Elected in spring 2017, Prasad and Vice President Vineet Tiruvadi, a fifth-year Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. student, are finishing up their time leading Tech’s graduate student community. Over the year, their responsibilities have included chairing the Grad SGA Senate, organizing the allocation of the budget, and organizing events such as the Career Research, and Innovation Development Conference (CRIDC).

Recently, we had a chance to get to know more about the two leaders and their plans for life after office.

Meet Skanda

When Prasad became president, he knew he was taking on a massive responsibility. He wanted to help new grad students the way SGA had helped him.

“The threat of the tax bill reminded me of the fight SGA undertook to lower the Special Institution Fee in 2014,” Prasad said. “Joining Grad SGA was a chance to help others the way my predecessors helped me, and I’m proud to have been able to accomplish what they did.”

Besides the success of the tax bill protest, Prasad has prioritized empowering the senate to function without the need for executive oversight. He hopes that the reforms he’s made and the legacy he leaves behind will allow his successors to accomplish more with SGA.

What made you decide to get involved in SGA?
When I first came to Tech, I heard about how much SGA had done to make it easier for me as a grad student. Seeing what they did to help us inspired me to join the senate. I decided I wanted to help support the long-term projects my predecessors began and ran for president last year.

What are some accomplishments you’re proud of?
Aside from our efforts to stop the tax bill, we’ve been working to coordinate efforts between the Tech administration and our senate. They’ve worked together to improve security in Home Park, and our partnership with the Office of Government and Community Relations  here at Tech was essential to our success with the tax bill. Also, I’m proud of how this year’s CRIDC event turned out — especially the accompanying Graduate Career Fair.

What would you like to accomplish during your remaining time in office?
After reviewing the data from the Graduate Student Survey, responses showed that the timing of placement exams and lack of financial security are causing excessive stress. After bringing those results to the administration, we’ve set up action teams to find ways to reduce stress for our student researchers.

What do you plan to do once you finish your term?
I’m going to continue to work with the Grad SGA and have accepted the positon of vice president of academic affairs. I still have a few years left before I graduate, and thankfully, having a degree from Tech opens a lot of doors. There’re not as many opportunities for self-directed research in the corporate world, so I’m leaning toward a career in academia.

Meet Vineet

Tiruvadi got involved in Grad SGA after realizing that his ability to perform research depended on the representation of grad students. Instead of leaving responsibility to others, he decided to run for office.

What is an accomplishment you’re proud of?
I’m very proud of having the opportunity to chair the Graduate Senate for Grad SGA, since it gave me the opportunity to change how the senators interacted with the Tech administration. Before, every discussion between the two went through the executives of SGA. But we’ve opened some lines of communication, so the senate can speak directly to the administration, if necessary.

Do you have any advice for incoming SGA leaders?
I think good leadership isn’t so much commanding people as it is uplifting them, giving them the skills and resources they need to handle situations. Leaders should try to foster teamwork among those they lead; building a team with the autonomy to handle problems on their own is much more rewarding than building one that only follows orders.

What do you plan to do once you finish your term?
I’m actually planning to graduate in May and have plans to continue my education with post-doc studies in France. However, I’m heavily invested in the research we’re doing here at Tech. I actually plan to come back to resume my work here in 2019.


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