One of the major factors that influenced my choice of Yale for graduate school is the cross-program interaction among graduate school students.

When I arrived on campus, my expectations were exceeded; a lot of that had to do with the Graduate and Professional School Senate (GPSS), which has an underlying mission is to unite students from different schools.

Examples of GPSS projects include organizing social events open to all schools, serving as advocates to the administration, providing funding to campus groups, performing community service and creating the GPSS Leadership Forum, which is a gathering of multiple student government representatives.

Without such an organization, students may not have as many opportunities to interact with others outside their department. But it is this ideal of unity that keeps GPSS thriving.

Interdepartmental relationships are important both academically and non-academically.

Students may discover that, although they are in different departments, their research or academic interests may overlap. Valuable collaborations could result from such interactions. In addition to interacting with others who have common academic interests, I believe that an important part of graduate education involves learning about other academic areas in an informal setting. GPSS social activities provide the solution, creating an ideal atmosphere for the exchange of ideas.

For students enrolled in programs with as few as three students per incoming class, it is necessary to build friendships outside their department. Even students in larger programs may find that they have trouble finding students in their program with similar hobbies and interests. GPSS activities unite students from different schools with similar interests, such as skiing, the Canadian sport broomball and community service.

Orientation weekend marked the first GPSS event of the year.

The weekend started with a barbeque at GPSCY on Friday evening. Over 1500 people attended, making it the highest attended event at GPSCY in two years and one of the top five in history. On Saturday, many students volunteered for Community Service Day. The successful weekend ended with a tent party sponsored by the McDougal Center and an after-party at GPSCY sponsored by GPSS.

During my graduate student career, I meet many people at GPSS social events that I would not have meet otherwise. The social committee will continue the traditions of the ski trip, mega-mixers at GPSCY, and random dinners. For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a senator has been venturing outside Yale to help the greater New Haven community. This month, the community service committee is collecting food and cash donations for the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen.

Although invaluable to the community at large, GPSS also improves student life by facilitating students’ ability to voice their concerns.

This year, there is a new online message board which will provide graduate students a forum to voice concerns or receive updates on sexual health issues, security, housing concerns, and ideas for improving sustainability on campus.

In order to diversify the activities that are available to students, GPSS funds other student groups. All GPSS-funded events include students from multiple graduate and professional programs. The GPSS Funding Committee awards thousands of dollars to large and small student club activities. Furthermore, the Professional Development Travel Fund (PDTF) awards hundreds of dollars to individuals.

Because applications far exceed available funds, GPSS is working with each school’s dean to persuade individual schools to support their students’ professional development travel.

With so many programs, GPSS is a necessary and capable organization. It benefits the entire community.

Kathleen Wilson is a doctoral candidate studying genetics. She is one of six GPSS senators representing Life Sciences in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.