By The Graduate Press Editorial Board
The spring 2023 Graduate Institute Student Association (GISA) Board election cycle is underway, with candidates running for the positions of President, VP of Master’s, Treasurer, Events Coordinator, and Professional Development Committee (PDC) President. The opportunity for students to nominate themselves for one of these roles extends until the end of the day on April 23rd.
GISA serves as the voice and principal events organizer for the student body at the Graduate Institute. Members of the GISA board are responsible for hearing student concerns regarding academic and student life, accommodations, and various other issues at the Institute. From April 28th to 30th, IHEID students will have the opportunity to vote online for the candidates they wish to represent them on the GISA Board for the subsequent year. The Graduate Press has reached out to all of the candidates running for the GISA Board this spring and through a series of articles, we will be sharing their platforms. It is crucial that IHEID students engage with the candidates and participate in this year’s election in order to ensure the GISA Board can meet all of the needs of present and future IHEID students.
We spoke to Alexandre El Meouchi, who is running for VP of Master’s. Here is what he had to say.
Why do you think you are the best candidate for the role of VP of Master’s?
Of course, for multiple reasons! To preface this, I always worked to help students and to advocate for student concerns with the help of other class representatives through my work as a MINT Class Representative for Conflict, Peace and Security, and also formerly for the Mobilities, Migrations and Boundaries Track. So I always did that since I arrived at the Institute in September 2022. In practice, I always try to help students and advocate for our interests and our concerns. We organized multiple meetings with the MINT Secretariat and other Class Reps on course reforms for next year, Extra Spaces in Research electives, an ARP information session, core courses, etc. I, alongside my fellow class reps, also advocated for a better MINT degree and for instance managed to modify the thesis supervisor requirements we had and propose reforms for the MINT Programme.
I also organized Students and Head of Track meetings for students to discuss their concerns and talk directly to their head of track about their concerns, their interests and what they wanted from their Master. I also advocated for the incorporation of electives requested by CPS students in next year’s CPS elective choices with the MINT Programme director and Head of CPS Track. If I am elected I want to push this to the next level and coordinate with all CRs to help them do similar actions and events tailored to their interests and advocacy needs.
So I think I am a good candidate for four reasons. Firstly, because as a Class Representative, I know how to work collaboratively and I always wanted to help students. Secondly, as a Class Representative I know the issues at hand, the topics that are discussed by GISA with the administration, and I also know the people who I would be talking to if I am elected as Vice President of Master’s.
Thirdly, I’m the only bilingual candidate for the Vice President of Master’s race. I think it’s important for the advocacy representative to speak French because the administration staff, the institute staff is mostly composed of French speakers. They would be more comfortable and it would be smoother to discuss and advocate for students in French. I’m also a good negotiator, but we’ll talk about it after when discussing work experiences. Lastly, I care about student life. I come from a previous university where student life mattered enormously and the administration did everything they could to enhance student life. So I think that makes me a good candidate because I want to further develop student life and make the IHEID Student community more vibrant.
How will your experiences as a student at the Institute shape your approach to the role of VP of Master’s?
First, as a MINT class representative, I’d say it shapes my approach to the role because the issues at hand and I know who I’m talking to. I know who the person is for a specific issue, and how to talk to the Institute staff and administration. For instance, I already negotiated issues with student services. I know how to navigate the Institute. As a student, I think I saw a lot of stuff that I want to address. First I saw a disengagement in student life from the student body. I saw that there was a big disengagement from student life at the Institute in terms of advocacy and student rights. There is little participation in terms of advocacy about a range of issues. I think as a GISA board member, I would push for more deliberation, more collaboration between students, initiatives and other people on the board. Let’s try to do something right.
I also noticed that the administration was sometimes inconsiderate or unaware of student concerns on specific points like accommodation policies, scholarships, security fees, etc.
There were a bunch of events that happened where students were not heard properly by the administration and academic departments, and I don’t think that’s fair. I want to do something to work towards solving it and have solutions present in my platform to do so. I would work towards solving it as VP of Masters, specifically on academic issues,and as GISA board member, where I could advance more easily some issues that I’m interested in.
Lastly, when we talked about not being heard correctly, as a MINT student, I know some people are afraid that I would be one-sided and like I noticed that some disciplinary students feel like they are not fully heard by the administration and academic departments. They feel like they are alone to fend off academic departments, and that professors in the academic departments don’t hear them.
It’s something that is important to me and that shaped my interest because I want to help disciplinary students and tailor specific advocacy policies for them, not just MINT students. The VP of Masters is the VP of all Masters students, the whole Masters student body and he/she/they need to be on all fronts helping and assisting students and Class Representatives with their advocacy efforts and their demands.
What other experience do you have that you believe qualifies you for the role of VP of Master’s?
During my experience in Paris, I was in a student association called Sorbonne ONU for three years. It’s an events association. It does a lot of events on human rights, on gender-related issues, on conflict, etc. I grew up in this association. I was an active member, then I became Head of the International Security and Defense department, and then I became the President of the association, where I had to coordinate teams and oversee 300 members and their projects, and also help in fundraising multiple thousands of Euros. So I think this experience would help me for the role because I know how to coordinate, I know how to push for projects and discuss with high-level administration, French university administration in that case. I think the Swiss university administration is not that dissimilar.
The second part is that I’m a returning student, I worked for four years. I worked in International Organizations like OHCHR, UNESCO, European Commission, etc in the international cooperation field. So I had to discuss and talk with high-level executives, administration officials and external partners. I think this helped me hone my skills in negotiations and managing to get what I want in a respectful manner while still pushing for it firmly and holding my ground. These skills would be extremely useful in advocating for student concerns firmly and holding my ground on student demands while keeping a line of communication with the administration.
If elected, what would be your primary goal is VP of Master’s?
That’s a difficult question because my platform is quite comprehensive, but I’d say what I want to achieve is being able to advocate for all students, regardless of track or master’s degree, advocate for all master students on academic and administrative issues, accompany Class Representatives in their work, and build firm advocacy structures for GISA that would last after my mandate.
On my platform, I have several measures such as comprehensive academic and administration policies for categories of students, scholarship reforms, deconstructing our curriculum, common correction guidelines, automatic feedback, professionalization of students, PhD entry policies, campaign to boost student life, better french integration in the curricula, etc. A number of important proposals that you can find in my platform.
I think to be able to push for these policies and changes we also need to strengthen our structures, like the student life structures. We need to be able to create something comprehensive. That is, a place where we can work together with class representatives, with initiatives, and with students to create something solid and create together these projects and policies I propose in my platform.
My main specific goal, I’d say, is to advocate for all students and push for much needed reforms as outlined in my platform. That would be my job if I am elected VP of Master’s.
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