The Graduate and Professional Student Senate passed an initiative this week to subsidize the travel of graduate students to and from conferences for up to $500 per academic year.
GPSS President Jenny Novak said the Conference Travel Fund was the biggest item on the budget this month. The fund has approximately $160,000 available for graduate students who will present or attend conferences. Too often the funds are left unused, which is why GPSS is hoping this new initiative will encourage greater participation, Novak said.
“This is the first year we’re trying to open it up to students who just want to attend conferences,” she said. “In the past, it was only for students who were presenting original research.”
Yet, according to the approved initiative, presenters will receive priority funding, and remaining funds will be split among students who wish to attend the conference.
Kathleen Ritterbush, a GPSS senator and finance committee member, said this initiative will help graduate students develop their careers.
“It has a huge impact on our careers. Conference travel is particularly important for the earth sciences; without it, no one would see the work we do,” said Ritterbush, a graduate student studying geological sciences. “We need resources to help fund traveling to, and paying for, the conferences. Traveling is a lot on a pocketbook of a graduate student.”
In addition to funding from GPSS, graduate students can also receive money to help subsidize the cost of travel to and from conferences from various departments, cultural and ethnic organizations, and certain deans.
Emad Bahrami Samani, a graduate student studying computational biology and bioinformatics, said he is looking forward to utilizing funds from the initiative.
“You don’t always have a paper to present and the university might not pay for it. This is a way to have an opportunity to go to a conference so that’s a great idea,” Samani said. “Conferences are a really great opportunity to meet people in your area of research.”
Though the initiative might mean more work for members on the GPSS funding committee, Ritterbush said it is worth it.
“As a finance member, it’s going to be a lot of work,” Ritterbush said. “But we would be thrilled if every drop of that money at the end of the year had gone to USC graduate and professional students who have presented or attended a major conference in their field because it will make a huge impact on their career.”