June 2011 Archives

President's end of year message.

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Below is 2010-11 COGS President Devin Driscoll's end of year message...

In my inaugural GradLetter President's Message last fall, I noted that we were coming together a time of transition -- both for the U and the State of Minnesota, and that I hoped to leverage change as an opportunity to "build...positive steps toward engagement" with faculty and administration.

I believe we have accomplished this goal. I, and a number of graduate students from across the whole institution, had the opportunity to meet with President-designate Kaler and discuss the state of graduate education at the U. We discussed issues of teaching loads, research opportunities, the effect of state disinvestment and concomitant increases in tuition and fees, and the curricular and pedagogical structure of graduate programs. As a result, Dr. Kaler will be more engaged and better prepared to address grad education than just about any president in our school's history.

We also successfully engaged in grassroots policy change this year. A graduate student leave of absence policy and explicit inclusion of subsidized health insurance benefits as part of graduate assistantships will be the "law of the land" this fall, thanks to the diligent efforts of COGS this year -- particularly Vice President for University Relations Mandy Stahre.

In my GradLetter message, I also said, "We will initiate structural changes in the General Assembly to better foster active participation in COGS by department reps." The creation of the College Delegations and College Delegation Leads (CDLs) are the result of this policy -- and I could not be happier with the result. COGS reps are more in touch with the college colleagues than ever, the Assembly more aware of issues (good and bad) in their sister colleges, and the COGS executive team better able to respond to concerns of constituents because of this change. I want to especially thank Vice President for Internal Relations Jeremy Wang for his spectacular work on this program, and those outstanding grad students who served as CDLs this year.

We began this year a large-scale project of updating our communications apparatus and social media presence: making use of Facebook and Twitter, improving our website by making it more user friendly and easily navigated and the development of the COGS blog. None of this would have been possible without the tireless work of Vice President for Communications -- and President-elect -- Emily Combs.

Finally, we had the opportunity to acknowledge outstanding achievements in teaching, research and outreach through our outstanding faculty, travel grant and leadership awards. We also demonstrated our deep gratitude to Assistant Vice Provost for Graduate Education Belinda Cheung, who has done yeoman's work this year -- especially in facilitating the Financing Graduate Education Task Force, along with Graduate School Dean Henning Schroeder -- supporting graduate students.

I would be remiss if I did not also thank Louise Hamer for her invaluable assistance as COGS administrator. I literally would have been lost without her.

It has been a pleasure serving my fellow graduate students during my time with COGS as a senator, as vice president for university relations and, for the past year, as president. I hope I have been of service and, in some small way, helped to make your University of Minnesota graduate education experience a good one.

I will leave you with a quote from the legendary Jacopo Peterman of Seinfeld fame. Or, rather, from John O'Hurley, the actor who played Peterman, who, as a graduate of my undergraduate alma mater, Providence College, gave it as the closing of a recent commencement speech -- I have done some minor editing for regional accuracy:

As I write this, I am standing knee-deep in the amber waters of the Mississippi River, elbow-to-elbow with the fish-wives of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, learning the gentle art of river laundering, and putting a last-minute spit-shine on a pair of maroon and gold boxer shorts.

As I watch the slow parade of boats pass before me at sunset on this never-ending river, I am reminded of how lucky I was to have docked at your port-of-call for as long as I did, how sad I am to set sail again, but grateful that, for me, the horizon is still out of reach.

I wish each and every one of you the best on your journeys down river.

Devin T. Driscoll, MPP
President, Council of Graduate Students
University of Minnesota

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