Student Life

VP of Master’s Candidate: Sanjna Girish Yechareddy

Check out our interview with GISA VP of Master's Candidate, Sanjna Girish Yechareddy.

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 Sanjna Girish Yechareddy, who is running for VP of Master’s. Here is what they had to say. 

Why do you think you are the best candidate for the role of VP of Master’s?

Having been at this institute for a semester, we need someone who can really listen to people and make space for different kinds of people with different problems and who have different issues, without necessarily a vested interest. We need someone who can invest emotional energy and commitment into building community which is something I really value because finding those communities have helped me thrive in this place and I did not have that in my undergraduate education. We need someone with empathy enough to understand people’s issues and enough tact to deal with administration. I believe I am  this person who can serve the student community.

How will your experiences as a student at the Institute shape your approach to the role of VP of Master’s?

I think my journey to reach here has not necessarily been a straightforward one. It has been kind of a long winded road and it took me almost 3 years to reach graduate school after my undergraduate education. Like a lot of us here at the institute, I have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources to be here and I completely understand how many of us share this experience. When I finally arrived here, I was ready to invest all my energy into being at this institute. As a first year ANSO student, we exist in our own separate bubbles l because of our different academic demands. In the first semester, I felt a bit alienated from the rest of the Institute because our program placed different demands on us. I am able to understand the concerns of the MINT programme because I am surrounded by my peers from various tracks and I’m listening to conversations about issues which are raised.  However, I do not think students and administration necessarily know what is going on in disciplinary programs and our concerns. I think it is imperative to have disciplinary representation in GISA if it is to truly speak for the entire student body.I think we need somebody who can represent our programs equally. I want to be able to do that.

What other experience do you have that you believe qualifies you for the role of VP of Master’s?

Previously, as an undergraduate student of the University of Edinburgh, I was a member of various student societies including the Edinburgh Political Union. Student societies in the UK have a bit more of a union flair to them, so it does require a lot of building community and sustaining those communities and I learned that from them. I had professional experience after my undergraduate studies where i worked with NGOs, archives and museums, and cultural centers. Those experiences taught me how to build bridges with people with different interests and concerns. Last semester, I worked with the welfare committee to help with communications. Collectively, these experiences will put me in a better position to take this VP of Masters role forward in a collaborative way. I think that is the key to what I value and what I hope to do.

If elected, what would be your primary goal is VP of Master’s?

I thought about this quite a lot. My campaign has a specific focus on academics and academic reform, along with student welfare. The reason I emphasise so much on academics is because this falls directly within the mandate of the Vice President. This is one of the areas the VP is solely responsible for and we need somebody who really understands coursework and academic policies. So, my primary goal is to represent our academic concerns and undertake the necessary changes that need to be implemented. For example, the three things I would really like to do are, first, undertake reform of compulsory courses for all programs, which is really needed.. It shapes our first year at the Institute and especially given the restructuring of the MINT programs this year, we really need somebody who is able to relay feedback on the structures and if they are working or not. This has to be undertaken not just for MINT programmes but also for disciplinary programmes as well. 

Secondly, I really want to organise open forums with student representatives, professors, and administrators. One thing that is obstructing communication is not having all of the actors in the same place when decisions are being made. While our student representatives are doing a great job of relaying our concerns, it will help their cause and our causes to have students present in these meetings. I want to have open forums for each department, where representatives, students, and professors are on the same page and there is transparency between all actors. 

Finally, with regards to student welfare, I want to strengthen the existing channels of communication we have with various entities – including support services and the academic office to ensure that any gap between these bodies and student committees like the welfare committee and the housing committees are bridged. This will allow us to relay academic and welfare concerns to people who can advocate for and along with students and work together to tackle them. Academic and welfare concerns should be the main focus for the Vice President of Master’s program and my platform further elaborates on the goals I’ve briefly described above.

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