The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA) has been an important initiator of change at the University of Pennsylvania. Since its founding over 30 years ago, the organization has striven to enhance the Penn graduate student experience through a diversified array of initiatives with an emphasis on promoting interdisciplinary research and bringing students of different disciplines together. GAPSA accomplishments are featured in the Daily Pennsylvanian and Penn Almanac and further discussions can be found in Board of Trustee Minutes.
GradFest is our annual Fall kick-off program featuring a week of festive events, including large parties and happy hours, a student activities fair, a student-led research presentation, and, for the time this year, a surprise “celebrity” guest speaker.
GAPSA was a powerful contributor towards the creation of a central home for all graduate students on Locust Walk, the heart of Penn’s campus. After years of rallying for the Center, in 2001, with Penn President Judith Rodin presiding over ceremonies, the Graduate Student Center was officially unveiled. Please visit their homepage to see everything the Center has to offer.
GAPSA works closely with the Graduate Student Center on a variety of initiatives, including the Family Resource Center and the Emergency Backup Care Program for Students and Post-Docs. These initiatives are designed to support student parents by providing a forum to connect, gather relevant information, and make use of subsidized child-care services.
While the Ivy Summit had existed for years, GAPSA was a primary partner in reviving the annual gathering and hosted the refounded summit for the first time in 2003. Since then, each fall, student leaders at the Ivy League – Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale – convene to share ideas and discuss methods for enhancing student welfare, a tradition that has come to include participation from MIT’s student leadership.
In partnership with the Undergraduate Assembly and Graduate Student Center, GAPSA helped found the Penn Mentoring Program. In connection with this program, Penn undergraduates are paired with Penn graduate students and encouraged to develop a rapport focused on an academic topic of interest to both students. Please see our Mentoring page for further details.
GAPSA plans both large social events – attended by hundreds and sometimes thousands of students – as well as smaller cultural events attended by a few dozen students. Examples of large social events are the annual Halloween Party, Black-and-White Formal, Moshulu Party, and Boat Cruise. Popular smaller events in the past have included kayaking trips, baseball games, apple picking, theater outings, and subsidized restaurant events. Please see our Event page for further information.
In 2010-11, GAPSA collaborated with the Administration and conducted a campus-wide survey in its effort to bring attention to the cost of gym memberships at Pottruck. GAPSA’s efforts paid off with a blanket fee reduction for all Penn graduate students. Please see
Today, all 12 of Penn’s graduate schools feature individual student governments led by members of their respective schools. Less than ten years ago, however, the University lacked a uniform representative structure for graduate students. GAPSA campaigned to remedy the situation and successfully sparked the formation of student government bodies at the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education in the second half of this past decade.
To support student initiatives, GAPSA annually reserves over $200,000 in its budget for travel grants and research grants, student group funding, and the General Assembly Discretionary Fund. This latter source of funding, enshrined in the GAPSA Constitution vis-à-vis a Fall 2010 amendment, invites applicants to seek funding by presenting in front of the General Assembly. To learn more, please see our Funding page.
GAPSA passed a resolution on March 27, 2013, urging the Penn administration to minimize the effect of the budget cuts — mandated by sequestration on Penn graduate students. The resolution is an effort in support of research funding and an appeal to protect the benefits of graduate and professional students. Please see
Jan 2013 - May 2013
The Penn SHAPE Challenge was initiated as a way to:
1) Promote holistic graduate student wellness in a fun, informational/educational and competitive fashion
2) Promote on campus resources to do
3) Engage local communities and businesses in this process
4) Increase student health insurance knowledge
This pilot initiative proved to be highly successful with more than 150 participants from all 12 schools taking part in what was originally slated for 120 participants. More than 10 Penn and non-Penn entities partnered with Penn SHAPE to provide helpful and information tips and conduct workshops on topics ranging from healthy eating to basics of weight traning. Full list can be found here: http://gapsa.upenn.edu/shape
Winners were selected on formula incorporated to take both physical changes and educational/workshop participation. Penn SHAPE 2013 had an overall increase in relative fitness on average for participants! Please see DP Article December 6, 2012, January 21, 2013
Under the auspices of the Office of the President and Office of the Provost, GAPSA has been delegated the responsibility of soliciting, reviewing, and dispensing over $65,000 annually to awardees of the prestigious GAPSA-Provost Interdisciplinary Award and President Gutmann Leadership Award. Both awards provide recipients with over $1,000 of funding to support interdisciplinary projects. Please see our Funding page for further details.
GAPSA is also making continuous progress in our internal management and daily operation. Below are some highlights.
In the 2012-2013 school year, the GAPSA general assembly transitioned to taking attendance via cards that each assembly member filled out at the beginning of the meetings. This allowed each individual to take responsibility for themselves, provide their information, and to designate whether or not they were acting as a proxy for another GA member. The collection of cards allowed for a more concrete record of attendance and also opened up the meetings, as the Vice Chair for Operations did not have to take time out of the beginning of meetings to take attendance. This update was part of the continuing effort through the operations side of GAPSA to ensure continuity, good record keeping, and responsibility with the GA and through meetings.
The 2012-2013 school year also saw an extension of the dinners between GAPSA Executive Board members and members of the GA. Traditionally, these gatherings of several GA members with one member of the Executive Board took place during the fall, but during this school year a few were held in the spring to allow representatives to better connect with the executive branch of the body. A concerted effort was also made this year to host these dinners at a variety of different locations around the city that offered many choices of both cuisine and location in order to be convenient for all. In this way, representatives could feel connected to the body without feeling any inconvenience to themselves.
Access our General Assembly Minutes Archive for more detailed information.
Access our GAPSA’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget for more information about revenue and expenditure.
Please contact GAPSA Chair James Wiley at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.