EAS’ Cultural Facelift: Introducing the Graduate Student Advisory Board

As a hub of innovation and discovery, the Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) at Caltech is continually evolving. Caltech offers an array of resources to support its students, however, a challenge often lies in the awareness and accessibility of these resources. The structure of EAS Division fosters independence, which often leads to an unintentional disconnect between departments, restricting the exchange of resources and information. This is why I am excited to introduce the EAS Graduate Student Advisory Board (GSAB), a proactive initiative aimed at bridging these gaps and cultivating a unified EAS community culture which will enhance the educational experience for all its members.

The GSAB consists of at least one Representative from each of EAS’s departments, with Representatives actively involved in other major student organizations on campus.* This diversity ensures that our initiatives do not risk “reinventing the wheel” by duplicating initiatives or events from these organizations or from the individual departments themselves. Each Representative acts as a liaison for the students in their respective department and reports back to GSAB with student feedback, and departmental concerns and goals.

GSAB is not just another committee; it is a strategic alliance designed to integrate student perspectives into the fabric of EAS programs and policies. Unlike most other student organizations, GSAB operates independently from the Office of Student Experience. GSAB cannot request funds from Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology (ASCIT) or the Graduate Student Council (GSC). Instead, we are directly supported by the EAS Division, which ensures that we can focus on long-term strategic goals without the constraints of traditional funding structures.

Having said this, a delicate balance arises by working in such close structural proximity with EAS administration. By allowing the chair of GSAB (who is the chief intermediary between the Director of EAS Programs for Student Success [DPSS] and GSAB) to serve as a non-voting member of the board, conflicts of interest from administrative standpoints are effectively minimized. The chair of GSAB may express a firmly held opinion, but ultimately, it is the GSAB Representatives, acting on behalf of their constituents, that vote on suggestions to the division. This unique structure helps us to navigate and bridge administrative and student perspectives, fostering a collaborative environment that respects and integrates student voices in divisional decision-making. Our goals are further strengthened by working in close cooperation with the individual option representatives and option managers of each EAS department to address issues as they arise.

In addition to GSAB’s culture-centric goals, we also aim to address potential gaps in student advocacy and communication that might arise during the time it will take to finalize the union contract with administration. It is likely that the GSC will undergo significant restructuring during this time. While it is the hope of GSAB that student needs will be attended by the appropriate channels during this time of transition, it is essential that we provide a robust support framework for students in EAS during the interregnum that focuses on compiling and streamlining the resources that Caltech already offers. Our goal is to then communicate with Caltech’s union and GSC representatives to incorporate any resources and/or benefits they establish.

Over the next few months, our inaugural board will be planning several events, including a student-faculty mixer which plans to bring faculty members from all EAS departments together with students to get to know one another and simply have a drink and unwind. More frequent events of this type serve to create a more collaborative, interdisciplinary environment within EAS and hopefully beyond. As we spearhead this renaissance within EAS, aimed at enriching not only our academic pursuits but our communal bonds, your engagement is key to our collective success. Your insights, your participation, and your voice are crucial to realizing the vision of an interconnected, supportive community that mirrors our academic excellence. Please visit our webpage at https://www.eas.caltech.edu/resources/eas-programs-for-student-success/gsab or use the QR code to learn more about GSAB, offer feedback, or voice a concern.

We are committed to transforming how EAS connects, collaborates, and innovates, ensuring Caltech remains a leader in both scientific achievement and student satisfaction. Thank you for your support, and I look forward to making a lasting impact together!

*Note: While we aim to have a representative from each department, currently, we do not have a representative from Environmental Engineering. Due to its interdisciplinary nature and smaller size, this option is housed within the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, which presents additional layers for representation. We are actively working to ensure that Environmental Engineering will have representation in the near future.