Graduate Student Assembly holds 5k to raise money for professional development

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Chemistry graduate student and member of the Texas Running Club Mark Amann crosses the finish line first at the Graduate Student Assembly 5K Sunday morning with a time of 17 minutes and 16 seconds. The race raised approximately $2,800 towards providing funds for graduate students to travel to conferences where they can develop their skills professionally and network. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Wang)

Running up and down the hills of the 40 Acres proved to be a challenging homecoming for UT alumna Cristina Bilder, who ran in the Graduate Student Assembly 5K to help raise money for professional development.

“It is horrible, this 5K had the most hills of any 5K I have ever run — I felt like it is all uphill the entire time,” Bilder said, who won first place in the women’s division. “But it is fun, I’m glad I did it.”

The GSA 5K, which followed a route across UT’s hilly campus, was held Sunday morning. Close to 200 students, faculty, alumni and Austinites gathered at Gregory Plaza, and afterwards GSA treated participants to food and massages as well as music provided by KVRX. GSA President Manuel Gonzalez said the funds from the event will go towards providing money for graduate students to travel to conferences, which helps them develop their
skills professionally.

“Ultimately there are limited funds in the department that graduate students can tap into, so this provides us an additional pool of money that graduate students can compete for in order to fully enhance their graduate student experience,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said having money for traveling is important because while UT is leader in research, graduate students need to get off of the campus to better prepare for the professional world.

“That research only goes so far when its limited to the 40 Acres,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why it’s important for us as an institution to interact with colleagues, not from just across the nation but from across the world.”

Armando Salinas, financial director of GSA, said the event brought in about $2,800 and will help graduate students travel to conferences, which is an important part of finding a job after graduating. Salinas said the average costs for a graduate student to attend a conference in the field of basic sciences is between $800-$1,200 depending on the location.

“Participating in these kind of things is essential career-wise,” Salinas said.

However, Gonzalez said funds for graduate students to attend conferences and gain experience are growing short.

“Funds are becoming more and more competitive at the departmental level because they have less access to funds by virtue of budget issues that we’re currently facing,” Gonzalez said. “This is one way the GSA is filling the void that is being left by depleted professional develop budgets.”

Salinas said the funds gained from the GSA 5K this year are going into a currently unnamed GSA travel award.

Beyond providing for funding, Gonzalez said the event also is a way to help isolated graduate students socialize.

“The graduate climate survey from last year indicated that one of the big concerns that graduate students often have is too often they feel isolated in their classroom environments or in their lab environments,” Gonzalez said.

“This event and additional social events is something we do to help break that.”

Printed on Monday, April 2, 2012 as: Alumni, students run for funding