After changing the focus of graduate student events, Graduate Student Government finished the year with a budget surplus of approximately $100,000, according to organization officials.
GSG, which lobbies administrators on behalf of graduate students and brings the graduate student community together through programming events, begins each year with a budget of $1.5 million. The events are hosted by the more than 60 umbrella organizations within GSG, which represent various schools and departments at the university. Student enrollment numbers in each organization determine the amount of funding.
GSG President Yael Adef said finishing without debt as been rare in recent history. Adef said one of her objectives for this year’s administration was to focus more on stabilizing the budget.
“This is one of the first years we did not have to end the school year with debt from other bodies or our endowment,” Adef said.
Rohan Handa, the director of finance for GSG, said the finance committee is essential to the programming of events. Annually, about 40 percent of the budget goes toward GSG’s umbrella organizations.
“Groups like the Viterbi Graduate Student Association and the Mathematics Graduate Student Association fall under this category,” Handa said. “These umbrella organizations submit a budget forecast at the beginning of each school year, giving us an idea of how to best allocate the funds that are available.”
Handa said that this year, the GSG finance committee focused on providing different programs to the graduate student body.
“In past years, many of the programs were held within departments and focused on parties and more social events,” Handa said. “This year we emphasized the importance of collaboration among departments and schools.”
Handa said the organization was able to collaborate more and improve the quality of events by stepping outside of normal scheduling patterns for graduate students.
“Graduate students overall like to stay more confined to their own schools and departments. We made great strides this year to change that,” Handa said.
Among the 19 graduate schools and programs at the university, GSG scheduled fewer events with more student participants. For example, the Graduate Research Symposium held this year was coordinated between different departments and schools.
“We focused on having as many events that broaden a lot of meaning to the graduate life,” Handa said. “In the previous years a lot of funds were held individually and utilized by student leaders in their own specific fields.”
In addition, the finance committee designated its money toward a wider range of activities, such as lectures by distinguished speakers, job fairs and cultural events.
Some groups use funding for tailgate parties during football season. Others host brunches for professors or alumni. Once approved by GSG, the distribution of monies is at the discretion of each individual umbrella organization.
Approximately half of GSG’s yearly budget is put toward administrative costs and salaries, as well as the funding of independent graduate student organizations that are not connected to a school or department.
Adef stressed that the money that the organization is finishing off with this year will impact students directly.
“This money will go toward the students and their programs,” Adef said. “I’m happy to say that it will greatly benefit graduate students.”
With the budget in the black, GSG leaders said they want to improve their technology infrastructure to allow the organization to run more efficiently and increase GSG’s presence on campus.
“The technology side of our organization is lagging a bit,” Handa said. “There is a plan to establish a better financial website with the money [in the budget.] It is so closely related to everything that goes on on-campus, so we want to make that process smoother and user-friendly.”
Handa said graduate students will be able to submit funding proposals and requests on a database on the website, which will facilitate better communication with the finance committee. Students will also be able to check their application statuses and budget accounts.
Adef compared the state of GSG’s budget in terms of a lesson she learned during her days in Girl Scouts.
“I was always taught to leave the world off a better state than when you found it,” Adef said. “That’s what we did with GSG and its budget this year.”
Austin Reagan contributed to this report.