Graduate Council builds community among advanced students

Council offers travel funds, social networking and informational forums

Mary Abowd
News Officer for Arts & HumanitiesUniversity Communications

After more than a decade working in city and state government in Fresno, Calif., Harris School of Public Policy master’s student Elliott Balch wasted no time taking on a leadership role at UChicago.

Balch is co-chair of the Graduate Council, the branch of Student Government that represents the needs and concerns of graduate students across every school and division. “I saw opportunities to build community,” said Balch, who leads the 17-member council with co-chair Casey Anthony, a master’s student in the School of Social Service Administration. “For me, it was natural to think about serving in this way.”

With a budget that has increased 52 percent since last year, Balch and Anthony, who were elected by the council in 2015, are on a mission to spread the word and get others involved. “We’re really encouraging people to come to us,” Balch said. “We have funding opportunities for them.”

The council’s finance committee oversees a budget of nearly $50,000 to support grad-focused events and initiatives such as conferences and speakers. Graduate students do not need to be part of a formal registered student organization to apply for funds, which are available on a rolling basis. An online application, along with funding guidelines, is available here.

Similarly, the council has expanded its Graduate Travel Fund, with $60,000 available to facilitate attendance at academic conferences and professional meetings. The fund covers registration fees and subsidizes transportation costs for both master’s and doctoral students. Those who wish to attend a conference or meeting can apply for a $300 “basic level” grant. Those presenting original research are eligible to apply for $500 “advanced level” grants. The deadline to apply for spring travel is March 19. More details can be found here.

The Graduate Council was established as a part of Student Government in the Constitution ratified by students in 2000. Representatives join from schools and divisions through a variety of means, including election and appointment. Anthony noted that the Graduate Council works in partnership with UChicagoGRAD and the Provost’s office, serving as a conduit for graduate student concerns. “We are a sounding board for the wants and desires of students from multiple divisions,” Anthony said. “We’re a place where students can voice their needs and inform how UChicagoGRAD can best provide support.”

Perhaps the Graduate Council’s biggest emphasis is its social programming and community-building initiatives. The council has organized food-truck and pub socials. Every November the group sponsors the Gargoyle Gala, a graduate student formal dance. On Feb. 26, it will hold its first off-campus winter event at Rock Bottom Brewery.

“An important part of what we do is connect people across divisions and schools who might not otherwise have an opportunity to meet,” Balch said. “We’re creating opportunities to get to know one another, network and enjoy each other’s company.”

The Graduate Council’s next event is a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 1 in Room C-25 of the Charles M. Harper Center. It will feature a panel that includes Provost Eric Isaacs, Vice Provost Sian Beilock and the deans of the Humanities, Social Sciences, Biological Sciences and Physical Sciences divisions and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. For more information, contact co-chairs Elliott Balch at balch@uchicago.edu or Casey Anthony at caseyanthony@uchicago.edu