Student Life

GISA President Candidate: Sam Pennifold

Check out our interview with GISA Presidential Candidate, Sam Pennifold.

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 Sam Pennifold, 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 believe that I am the only genuine candidate who is ready to not only be a voice for students but also be able to create a space for everyone around the table. I feel that it is of the utmost importance for us as a campus to become a community and start to work together. My campaign promises, such as supporting TAs in their pursuit of fair pay conditions, formalising the housing committee, and setting up a process to have a permanent francophone vice president on the GISA board, are all designed to meet these needs. The direction has repeatedly ignored the needs and demands of students, and I feel that as a combined community, we can better stand up for ourselves. I think I am the best person to lead us in doing that.

How will your experiences as a student at the Institute shape your approach to the role of GISA President?

As a student so far at the Institute, I feel that I have had quite a positive experience. I have enjoyed my modules, but I have also seen the struggles that other students have had, and I’ve had my own struggles as well. It was difficult getting support as a dyslexic student here, and I have faced issues regarding the payment of fees. So I have seen some of the best and some of the worst of our Institute. I feel that I am someone who can be open to everyone’s wants and needs and take them forward. I will establish formalised processes that will transform our campus into a community.

What other experience do you have that you believe qualifies you for the role of GISA President?

I have been largely involved in student organisations before, especially at my undergraduate university, Kings College London. I was involved in the student media and was also a student media ambassador, which involved working with high level academics producing blogs, video, audio output media. I also worked as a student representative, where as a dyslexic person I found a passion in establishing processes in the War Studies department at Kings to better integrate dyslexic students. I feel very passionate about this issue: making academic spaces more accessible to dyslexic students, makes academic spaces better for all students. As president I will build upon that next year and create a academic space here that can be a community for everyone. 

If elected, what would be your primary goal as GISA President?

Transform our campus into a community. I feel that we can and need to come together to build a community identity and an Institute identity. There is something we can take with us beyond our plan at the Institute and something that can attract new students. It is important to me that this Institute remains as powerful and well-known as it is. I feel that a large part of that can be powerful and transformative GISA that can work with direction supporting students’ needs. 

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