GSC Honors Graduate Students and Campus Partners

At the final meeting of the Graduate Student Congress on April 20, graduate students Ashley Whiting, Garrett Jeter, and Aaron Shew were among the recipients of the second annual U of A Graduate Student Congress Awards.

The Graduate Student Congress is a legislative branch of the Associated Student Government and represents the voice of all graduate and professional students. The primary mission of GSC is to promote programming that will directly benefit the lives of graduate and professional students at the University of Arkansas, on and off campus.

With that aim in mind, GSC created annual awards in order to further enhance the standing of the organization by recognizing the successes of individual members for service and outreach, innovation within the broader graduate student population, and the efforts of allies — faculty, staff, community, and civic — to create a vibrant, safe, and affordable environment for graduate students at the University of Arkansas and beyond.

The GSC recognized Ashley Whiting with the Graduate Student Congress Outreach Award. During this term of the Graduate Student Congress, Ms. Whiting became a leader closely associated with furthering the cause of Graduate Student autonomy. Her efforts inherently involved outreach to campus administrators, ASG advisers, graduate students, and undergraduates involved in student government. She spent countless hours emailing, organizing events, reaching out through social media, calling, and personally meeting with any willing parties. It is unquestionable that, through her efforts, Whiting has increased the visibility and reputation of the Graduate Student Congress across campus, and, most importantly, she has generated exponentially more interest in the organization among graduate and professional students. There is a direct correlation between Whiting's activism and the increased number of incoming Graduate Representatives.

It should come as no surprise that Garrett Jeter, widely known for his passion for service, is this year's winner of the Alex Marino Service Award. Since he began serving in Graduate Student Congress three years ago, Garrett Jeter has tirelessly worked on behalf of graduate student interests. There is no  challenge, or administrator, that Jeter will not seek out in his desire to serve his constituents. Notably, this year, Jeter has devoted his time to tackling the issue of food insecurity among students, graduate, professional, and undergraduate alike. Through this process, he has created alliances between the Graduate Student Congress and the Volunteer Action Center, Chartwells, and various branches of ASG.

The GSC honored Aaron Shew for his impressive record of research at the University of Arkansas and beyond. He is one of the top students to progress through the Environmental Dynamics (ENDY) Program. He was one of few students to enter the program with a bachelor's degree and was also awarded a Distinguished Doctoral Fellowship. While in the program he has obtained two Master's degrees (Geography and Ag Economics), was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, an American Institute of Indian Studies Junior Fellowship, Sturgis Foundation International Study Grant, awarded the Burton Award in Geosciences for the best Geography student in the department and has been instrumental in multiple grants working in Africa and Asia. He is presently working on dissertation research as a Visiting Scholar with faculty from Kansas State University under a USAID-Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab Grant and has set up monitoring equipment to collect data on the changing seasonal salinity in rural agricultural fields in Bangladesh enable to help small rural farmers increase productivity of their fields.

Administration, Faculty and Staff Allies of the Year include Kathryn Sloan, Tess Gibson, and Jim Gigantino. Sloan began her work at the University of Arkansas in the Department of History and specializes in Latin American, Mexican, and Gender History. She currently serves as the associate dean of fine arts and humanities for Fulbright College. In relation to the Graduate Student Congress, Sloan continues to support and encourage the development of our organization across campus. In addition to promoting the GSC in administrative circles, Sloan has also provided invaluable strategic advice to the GSC in matters related to recruitment, food insecurity, and the development of child care facilities on campus. Sloan's unwavering support of the GSC has also encouraged other administrators to be more receptive of GSC initiatives.

According to the recently published draft of the action plan for the Chancellor's Guiding Priorities, graduate students were responsible for 18,258 Interlibrary Loan requests in the previous academic year. That number translates to 51 percent of the total Interlibrary Loan requests made by students, faculty, staff, and other library users. In light of the tremendous resource that Interlibrary Loans are and its disproportionate assistance to graduate students, the GSC should honors and acknowledges the work of Gibson (and her entire team) in furthering graduate education.

Gigantino has been a tireless advocate for graduate students throughout the 2016-2017 academic year. As director of Graduate Studies and associate chair in the History Department, he has been instrumental in providing more funding and research opportunities for graduate students. During the year, he helped secure a $500 raise in GA stipends, created new GA funding opportunities during winter and summer breaks to assist faculty with research, and implemented a new system of paid semester leave for lecturers (advanced graduate students who are no longer on assistantships). In addition to his work in the history department, he also recently joined the Graduate Council and is instrumental in directing graduate education for the university on the whole.

For more information on the Graduate Student Congress, contact or visit


Arley Ward, speaker, Graduate Student Congress
Office of Student Activities

Scott Flanagin, executive director of communications
Division of Student Affairs

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