Grad SGA Leaders Ready to Work Hard, Take on Challenges

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Last fall, Aerospace Engineering Ph.D. student Andrew Cox was a new face on campus. Now, just one year later, he’s the face of the Graduate Student Government Association (Grad SGA). 

"It all happened pretty quickly," said Cox, the new Grad SGA president. "Renee, the vice president, and I wanted to dig in on some current issues for grad students and make a difference. We figured the best way to do that was to dive right in and try and get to the highest office."

While Cox earned his bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from NC State University, Shelby, a Ph.D. student in History and Sociology, came to Georgia Tech  after earning a bachelor's and master’s degree in sociology from Georgia State University. Although the two come from different backgrounds, they built a platform around the ideas of inclusivity and amplifying student voices.

“Coming from two separate colleges within Tech, I think we have a broader view of the issues affecting grad students on campus,” Shelby said. “We really want to leverage that and create solutions that can benefit everyone."

We recently spoke to the two about how they got involved with Grad SGA and their plans for this year. 

Andrew Cox

Why did you choose Tech?
It came down to the wire between Tech and the University of Michigan. They both have top five aerospace programs in the country. I think NC State is ranked between 25 and 30 for aerospace, so I decided to see if I could move up the food chain. When both schools needed a final commitment, I visited Tech's campus and loved it.

Why did you get involved with Grad SGA?
My roommate knew one of the previous presidents and heard it was fun to get involved with, so we both ran and were elected as senators for aerospace. We stuck with it and started to enjoy it. Participating allowed us to get out of the lab for a couple of hours a week and go interact with people from around campus I’d never otherwise see. 

What are some things you want to focus on during your time as president?
Some of the issues we’re looking at involve better career opportunities for students coming out of Tech, especially for populations that may not be served as well on campus such as those from liberal arts. I also feel like it's very easy for grad students to recognize themselves as part of their lab rather than as part of the university as a whole. There's a lot that Tech has to offer — especially to grad students — and we're trying to make them feel like they're just as entitled to that as anyone else on campus. We want to make grad students feel welcome and help them buy into the Tech experience. Things like Graduate Convocation and the Graduate Picnic really foster a community, so we hope to put on more events like this in the future.

Renee Shelby

Why did you choose Tech?
I study a niche area of sociology — science and technology studies — and there are very few campuses where this is a focus. For example, my dissertation looks at how law enforcement investigation technology shapes people’s experiences after they’ve been assaulted, and how the victims navigate the system. One of my previous mentors at Georgia State had come to Tech to give a talk, and I ended up connecting with some of the faculty. I chose this university because I felt that the faculty would support me, and when you go to grad school that's key to any student’s success. My advisor supports me on and off campus, thinks about the long term, pushes me in the right way, and connects me to other mentors and opportunities on campus. I’m really lucky.

Why did you get involved with Grad SGA?
As a grad student, you're here for so long. Some people are here for seven or eight years, which is a significant amount of time. So, if I'm going to be at an institution for that long, I really want to engage with the community and find ways that I can make it better for my fellow grad students. I want to make things a little bit easier for everyone, because grad school can be stressful. So, last year I ran for a position as a senator and was elected.

What are some things you want to focus on during your time in office?
One project that is really close to my heart is mental health on campus. After the death of Scout Schultz last year, Andrew and I were elected to serve on the committee that oversaw the distribution of funds for mental health services. So, we worked with organizations on campus like the Counseling Center and Health and Well-Being to help them develop programs to better support students. Last year, we also noticed that Grad SGA was a bit inefficient at communication, and we want to correct that. I don't feel confident that the average grad student knows what's happening with our organization and how it works to serve them.  


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