Grad students get a little support from GSA.

Brithany Thomson

Photo By Kat Kerlin

Not all UNR-newbies are undergrads. Graduate students would do well to get to know the Graduate Student Association. Brithany Thomson is its president.

What is the Graduate Student Association?

We are basically the governing body for graduate students. We advocate for the causes of grad students. We support academic and professional goals of grad students. I would say one of the roles the GSA does is we provide opportunities for graduate students to meet with the faculty and staff and other undergraduates outside or inside the classroom. We also provide several services. We have a travel program set up where people can apply for money to present their research, whether it be their thesis or if they’re presenting their paper or poster. And we have our spring awards program, where the GSA gives out over $45,000 and any graduate student can apply for those. That comes from our operating budget through the GSA. We get our funding from … the bookstore and that sort of thing.

And we also have three need-based scholarships—those include the Childcare and Medical Hardships scholarship, and we also do a financial crisis grant. And then we do a computer loan program, where if students need money to buy a computer, if they meet the requirements, they can do a computer loan through us.

And you are the president of the GSA. How did you get involved with it?

I started out as a council member for the GSA for the College of Liberal Arts. Last spring, I ran for the president position. The existing council votes as to who will be president.

And what are you studying?

I am studying sociology, getting my master’s. Particularly, I’m hopefully going to be doing some research on snowboarding—that’s something I’m also involved in, so research in an area that I love. I’m still in the early stages, but I’m particularly looking at how riders view themselves as a snowboarder and how they look at others and how others look at them. So I’m looking at attitudes and perceptions and how that ties into their social circles.

What are some of the differences between undergraduate and graduate school life?

Harder coursework, obviously. And it’s really a transition, as far as professional-wise goes, because a lot of our graduate students are TA’s [teaching assistants] or graduate research assistants, and that requires them being in contact with undergraduates and essentially playing the role of teacher. So it’s kind of the next step up, professional-wise. I guess it’s more interesting in the aspect that you’re just studying the field you’re interested in. You don’t really have to go through that whole core curriculum thing. I find that rewarding. It’s my area of study, and that’s what I’m interested in, and those are the classes.

Does your social life change in grad school?

Yeah, I’d definitely say that with that transition comes professional life, and you start kind of growing out of the party thing. You just don’t have time for that. I always joke around and tell new students at orientation to call their family and get a good chat with them because they’re not going to hear from them for the next four months. You’re constantly busy. There’s not a lot of down time. It makes the 15 weeks go by faster, but there’s not as much slack time, I guess.

Is there a standard demographic for a grad student at UNR?

You know, I have that here. It’s from 2004 but, as far as age goes, over 50 percent of the graduate students are between the ages of 25 and 34. And as far as—we’re actually going to redo this survey next semester.

What are some of the popular graduate programs there?

You know, UNR is pretty diverse. They have over 70 graduate programs. There’re so many different ones. Engineering is very popular. But really, it’s—they’re able to offer so many different programs, and the tuition and that sort of thing, I think, draws a lot of people to UNR.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I forgot to mention we have a Household Items committee. It’s really unique to our program. It basically collects and distributes furniture for graduate students—necessary items like beds and couches. We pick up and deliver the items as needed. We want to make sure that the grad students here are sleeping on a bed. Anyone can come—it’s a first come-first served basis. People who want to donate items, we go and pick those up. That’s one of the really cool things about GSA. I haven’t found that at too many other universities. They can email us at <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript"> </script> [for donations or pick-ups], and they can find us on our website []—there’s information there.