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.
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 Puru Rohilla, who is running for GISA President. Here is what he had to say.
Why do you think you are the best candidate for the role of GISA President?
I’ve been in GISA and worked with administration in the GISA board, and I feel there’s a lot to be done and a lot has been done by the existing board. I would like to thank them as well, because of the awesome work and I want to keep the legacy forward with more additional work that I can do with the experience. I will ensure that there is a smooth transition, and there is no hindrance in the understanding of the work that GISA does, and what’s on the plate already. And there are some tasks that have been half-done by the Institute administration and there are a lot of upcoming meetings with them. I want to empower GISA’s work, using the experience I come with, and have them on the table in a complete sense. And also there are a lot of other things that are upcoming and need focus like the ADA-TA negotiations and different working groups.
Apart from that, working for the students with the students gives a lot of motivation to me and I personally learn a lot by interacting with other students and what problems that they encounter, and student advocacy resonates with me a lot.
How will your experiences as a student at the Institute shape your approach to the role of GISA President?
The most significant part has been my tenure as the Administrative Director, that I’m currently part of the GISA and I know how things have been going. It had been hard to get students on board in the meetings. Because of various reasons such as their unavailability or uninterest, students don’t attend the regular meetings, so I’ll be focusing on that as well. And before this, I was also the Deputy Secretary at the Students Union in my undergraduate college, and also the head boy in the High school. So since high school, I’ve been into the Student Association, and working for students’ advocacy at different positions.
What other experience do you have that you believe qualifies you for the role of GISA President?
Apart from that, at the Institute, I’m also the Outreach and Partnership head at the Migration Initiative. I have also helped the Students Initiative on Asia in its various events, informally, not at a formal position. In my undergraduate studies, as well, I was a part of various initiatives, including being the head of the debating society. So these things give me a lot of experience about how to indulge with the students and come up with solutions. The best thing I’ve learned is that you have to listen before you act or just talk at the first place and then proceed with the authorities, you have to take in the consideration of all the stakeholders. And that’s what I always say, any time, anything, anywhere, if students want their voice to be heard, I’ll be there.
If elected, what would be your primary goal as GISA President?
As the GISA President, my first priority will be increasing the student participation, I know that it will be hard, and it might need a lot of personal effort. People get intimidated by the regular emails they receive. On a daily basis, I receive one or two emails that they want to unsubscribe from the mailing list, but that’s not in the hands of GISA because the list is centralised. And the information should be released to anyone, everyone, like each and every student so that no one misses on the information. So unfortunately, they can’t opt out of the student list. But yes, if needed, I will even try to go to the students personally before the meeting or a day before, and ask them to attend the meetings and other GISA events., I’ll be glad to take input from you, other students and even the second-years and ADA that how can I increase the student participation.
Another thing is that students sometimes feel lonely. They come from various countries, and everyone has their own unique thinking and they might encounter different problems, which don’t have a common solution. So I will try to make it sure that every student is heard. And I’ll be making sure that from my part, the official information will be sent during the official working hours because in the recent experience, in the last six months at GISA, initially, I used to send emails late at night. Some students appreciated it, that they are not having the pileup of their mails in the daytime. But many students said that they want to receive the mail only during official hours. So I shifted to the official hour only method. But on the students’ part, even if they want to communicate with me outside of the official hours, even if they are calling me late at night, like at two or three, I’ll be happy to pick up the call and listen to them and try to help them at the same time. I’m available for them. I’m available 24/7 and I will try to ensure it as much as possible.
I also request the student body to please participate in the activities of GISA because we are here for you only and if you won’t speak up, we won’t be able to take the case to the authorities. In the last few years where I’ve been in student associations, authorities might forget–sometimes intentionally or unintentionally their demands. But if you are vigilant and active, we are there to support you.
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