CGPS Student Government fosters unity
The weather was perfect. It was a bright and breezy Charleston afternoon in late April. With the cloudless blue sky reflecting off the water and only a touch of humidity hanging in the air, it was the sort of day that made you realize there was no place better to be.
Such was the case for the 2006 graduates of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies (CGPS) attending the first ever Graduation Celebration. As they made their way up the steps to the McCormick Beach House overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from its plot on the Isle of Palms, students were greeted by the sound of music and the smell of shrimp and London broil. The scene was a first for The Citadel, which began offering graduate classes in 1968 under the name of the Evening College. More than 30 years later, CGPS offers six graduate degrees in 14 disciplines and two undergraduate degrees to its 2,000 students.
While the increasing enrollment has been good for the college, it diluted the social atmosphere among graduate students. There was no organization responsible for scheduling activities. There was also no one to address student body concerns. There was no spirit of unity. That is, until 2005 when Ryan Treat, a 2006 clinical counseling graduate, teamed up with Ashley McKenzie, a 2005 MBA graduate. The two had a vision to create a student government association (SGA) responsible for bringing CGPS students together.
As an undergraduate at the College of Charleston, Treat remembered students discussing upcoming events and activities specifically targeted at graduate students.
“There was always something happening, but when I came to The Citadel, not only were there no social events for graduate students, but there was no cohesiveness among students in different degree programs.”
Worse than the disconnect between fellow students was the gorge between the students and the administration. “From a student perspective, it seemed that office hours and business on a day-to-day basis catered only to the Corps of Cadets,” said Treat.
In short, communication within CGPS was a problem. Students felt isolated. Aside from the CGPS office, there was no one for graduate students to contact to voice an opinion or raise a concern. “When you came to CGPS, you were basically on your own and a greater sense of unity was never established,” said Treat.
And that is exactly what Treat and McKenzie set out to solve. Now, almost two years after its inception, SGA is an established and successful facet of CGPS. Every student is a member and is welcome to attend monthly meetings. If they choose not to attend a meeting, they can still provide feedback to their student government representatives.
“SGA provides an excellent avenue for information and communication for all students within CGPS,” said Allison Dean Love, a 1993 MBA CGPS graduate and member of The Citadel Board of Visitors. “SGA has gained considerable credibility by soliciting opinions from students through a variety of surveys, then taking action to make improvements based on feedback received from those surveys.”
The organization is headed by a four-member executive council, including a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. Elections for these positions are held annually at the end of the spring semester. All students are eligible to make nominations and vote, which can be done online. “The website is essentially the one-stop place to find out what is going on in CGPS,” said Treat.
Most communication is conveyed through the website. Information on events, such as cookouts at the boathouse, upcoming meetings and graduation commencement news, is posted. The website also features a forum where students can post questions, comments or complaints. Plans are under way to include campus tours and information for prospective students as well as to use the web as a tool to give new students a sense of camaraderie before they begin classes.
Since his graduation, Treat’s work has been taken over by Sean Waterman, the 2006-2007 SGA president. Waterman, a 2002 Citadel graduate from Golf Company who majored in political science, is currently pursuing his master of arts degree in social science.
Waterman’s first project is to raise scholarship funds. Currently, no CGPS scholarships exist. The idea behind this goal is to make the campus work for the students. In addition, Waterman believes that a tuition break for graduate assistants,
like that offered at other colleges and universities, would make CGPS more competitive.
Also going into effect this fall is an intramural sports program for CGPS students, including soccer, softball, volleyball and flag football. And, of course, after such a successful celebration at the McCormick Beach House, 2007 CGPS graduates can look forward to one held in their honor in the spring.
“The event was a success because we had support from graduate students, their friends and family, as well as The Citadel. This is an event that we look forward to having annually,” said Waterman.
Ray Jones, associate dean of CGPS, is pleased with the success of the association.
“SGA built a much-needed bridge between the students and the college. Communication is improving which is conducive to learning—and the social atmosphere is an added bonus. Students are getting their degrees and leaving with positive memories.”
Story written by Tara Woodside, Class of '08
Copyright The Citadel magazine 2006