The Graduate Students Association (GSA) has a bright year ahead under the new President Brithany Thomson. The 24-year-old sociology graduate student plans on making many changes to the association in her year-long tenure, including improvements to current programs and ambitious undertakings of new projects.
As an undergraduate sociology student at the University, Thomson was unsure of her future plans. The Renoite wanted to pursue a higher degree in sociology but was not ready to leave her hometown and family behind.
“I love this area and I love being close to the mountains and the lake,” Thomson said. “I just didn’t feel that I was ready to move away from that.”
Persuaded by past experience with the University’s sociology department and her desire to stay in Reno, Thomson began her master’s degree study at the University in 2007.
“That’s sort of how I fell into graduate school,” Thomson said. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in school and that last semester my senior year, it felt right.”
Thomson’s easygoing ambition also guided her to becoming a GSA member. She attended the graduate student orientation and found an interest in the GSA. Hoping to make the most of her two years as a graduate student, she joined in the fall of her first year.
“As a grad student, I kind of felt like I wanted to be more connected to what’s going on on campus,” Thomson said. “GSA seemed like an organization that would allow me to be a part of campus life and know what’s going on.
Making a difference, whether it be speaking out for my college or helping get the word out that GSA’s having a social or awards program.”
Thomson was the only member to run for GSA president when it became vacant. She was unanimously elected and rightly so, said Graduate Student Services director and GSA advisor, Greg Nuttle.
“I’ve seen that she has a lot of strong qualities in her work with some programs last year,” Nuttle said. “She’s very inquisitive and is always trying to find resolutions to problems and always moving forward.”
The Graduate Student Association assists graduate students in many areas. Some programs offer to supplement educational costs such as the Travel Program, the Spring Awards Program and other scholarships, grants and loans. Others help graduate students with daily needs including the Household Items program and a food pantry.
Thomson hopes to better manage these programs. She is focusing her energies on improving the food pantry program and the graduate student survey. The student survey is taken every four years and assesses students’ needs.
“We are hoping to do that again this coming year to keep up-to-date on what graduate students’ needs are,” Thomson said. “We can focus in on what exactly they need and see if we’re missing anything.”
Thomson also hopes to undertake a major project on building graduate student housing on campus. Though the venture may take years, Thomson wanted to start it as soon as possible.
“It’ll take a while but at the same time, I’d like to get the ball rolling,” Thomson said.
Thomson serves on several GSA committees including the judicial committee and the communications committee. As president, Thomson is the voice for graduate students at Board of Regents meetings. She is also a member of the Nevada Student Alliance, a group made of undergraduate and graduate presidents from Nevada System of Higher Education institutions.
“When I first met Brithany, she struck me as having a quiet competence,” Nuttle said. “So when she speaks out, you know she has something intelligent to say.”
Despite Thomson’s busy schedule as GSA president, she still makes time for other hobbies and school. She is starting work on her masters’ project, which ties her love of snowboarding with her passion for studying people.
“I’m just in the very beginning stages of this but I’m looking into snowboarding as a sport and frequent participants: how their self image is contingent on their participation on the sport … how they perceive outside members,” Thomson said. “That’s one of the things that I enjoy about sociology is that you can study different diverse populations and topics … it really makes for an interesting field of study.”
Thomson’s future is simultaneously clear and unknown.
“I would like to become a professor,” Thomson said. “But really I’m taking this one year at a time. I just never know if I’m ready for what comes next until it comes.”
The next major event for GSA is the graduate student orientation and welcome back social on Aug. 21 in the Joe Crowley Student Union’s Great Room from 4 to 6 p.m.