I helped lead the Physics and Astronomy Graduate Student Council, our department’s graduate student self-advocacy organization.

The Northwestern Physics and Astronomy Graduate Student Council (PAGSC) is an amazing community of graduate students that helps make life better in the Northwestern Physics and Astronomy department. PAGSC is many things but at its core it’s a force for positive change in the department. PAGSC is split into 7 sub-committees: quality of life, international students, master’s students, outreach, equity & inclusion, TA, and curriculum headed by an executive committee of three: president, secretary, and treasurer.

I sat on the executive committee as 3 years (and was president most recently) and was chair of the outreach committee for the past 5 years. As an executive committee member and committee chair I met with the department chair quarterly to discuss systemic issues of concern to the department. For example, I advocated for and co-served as the first graduate student liaison(s) for the faculty search committee and defined the process by which graduate students interview and give feedback about faculty candidates. I also designed a peer mentorship program to match incoming first year students with more senior graduate students and organized extracurricular professional development workshops (and in some cases delivered them myself). I also helped write our department’s code of conduct, helped start (and proudly named) our E&I committee’s monthly “Stuff we don’t talk about (but really should) ft. bagels and coffee,” and successfully negotiated the conversion of surplus office space into a graduate study lounge. As the outreach committee chair, I helped design a set of recommendations for the protocol for the creation of new outreach programs centered on social justice and inclusion, organized outreach programs for a local middle school, and coordinated volunteers for one-off outreach activities.

The second annual boat cruise, a tradition I began as president of PAGSC. We had nearly 100 sailors on our last cruise, so proud of our grad student community!

PAGSC is also responsible for planning social events subsidized by the department like movie and game nights, ice skating, and tickets to Cubs games. As president of PAGSC, I formalized the procedure by which big ticket “special events” were planned and budgeted and started the tradition of chartering a boat cruise (partially subsidized by the department; tickets are usually ~$20/head) for graduate students to kick off the year and welcome incoming graduate students. These events are an important social glue that helps bind the department and cross group boundaries in order to build cohesion and help graduate students make friends in a new environment.

© Alex Gurvich, 2022. All rights reserved.

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