GRADUATE STUDENT COMMUNITY AT
The Graduate Leadership Council Report to the Student Affairs Committee
of the Board of Trustees
February 25, 2005
Black Graduate Student Association
Raissa Douglas firstname.lastname@example.org
Lexyne McNealy email@example.com
Yolanda Rankin firstname.lastname@example.org
Chicago Graduate Student Association
Michael Chen email@example.com
Amanda Lowrey-Silva firstname.lastname@example.org
Chinese Students and Scholars Association
Bin Lin email@example.com
Graduate Student Association
Naveen Arulselvan firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine Dettmer email@example.com
Graduate Student Association for Latino and Spanish Activities
Alberto Lopez firstname.lastname@example.org
María C. Curet-Arana email@example.com
Lissette Ruberte firstname.lastname@example.org
Table of Contents
The Graduate Leadership Council Report to the Student Affairs Committee of the Board
of Trustees...................................................................................................................................... 1
Table of Contents .......................................................................................................................... 2
1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................... 4
Graduate Student Associations: A Brief Description ................................................................. 4
2. The Graduate Student Community......................................................................................... 5
Diverse Backgrounds and Needs ................................................................................................ 5
Interaction with the University Community ............................................................................... 6
3. Strengthening the Graduate Student Community ................................................................. 7
Commitments of the Graduate Leadership Council.................................................................... 7
Development of Partnerships among Graduate Student Associations ........................................ 8
Launch of Graduate Student Homepage ..................................................................................... 8
Expansion of Volunteer Service ................................................................................................. 8
Extension of Academic Initiatives .............................................................................................. 9
Attention to Acculturation and Assimilation .............................................................................. 9
4. Concerns of the Graduate Student Community .................................................................. 10
Rising Living Costs and the Need for Competitive Benefits .................................................... 10
Health Insurance Premium ........................................................................................................ 11
Heavy Dependence on Subsidy ................................................................................................ 11
Quality of Health Insurance ...................................................................................................... 12
Need of the Graduate Student Community for Diversity ......................................................... 14
Payroll Deduction for Unfunded Students ................................................................................ 18
Athletic Facility on the Chicago Campus ................................................................................. 19
Credit Union / Credit Card(s) for International Students.......................................................... 19
Chicago Transit Authority Student Pass (U-PASS).................................................................. 19
Need for Legal Services ............................................................................................................ 22
5. Conclusions .............................................................................................................................. 23
Acknowledgements ..................................................................................................................... 24
References .................................................................................................................................... 25
Appendix 1 – Graduate Student Association Descriptions ..................................................... 26
Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) .......................................................................... 26
Chicago Graduate Student Association .................................................................................... 28
Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) ................................................................ 29
Graduate Student Association (GSA) ....................................................................................... 31
Graduate Student Association for Latino and Spanish Activities (G-SALSA) ........................ 32
Appendix 2 – Overview of Student Finances............................................................................ 34
Appendix 3 – Health Insurance Premium Comparison .......................................................... 35
Appendix 4 – Comparison of Health Insurance Benefits ........................................................ 36
Appendix 5 – Changes to Northwestern University’s Hospitalization Plan .......................... 37
Appendix 6 – Graduate Student Stipend Comparison ............................................................ 38
Appendix 7 – Graphical Comparison of Graduate Student Stipends.................................... 39
Appendix 8 – Minority Tenured/Tenured-Track Faculty ...................................................... 40
Appendix 9 – Minority Graduate Student Statistics ............................................................... 41
Appendix 10 – Notes from BGSA Town Meeting on Diversity in Academia ........................ 42
Appendix 11 – Recommendations for Improving Graduate Student and Faculty Diversity
Plan of Action .............................................................................................................................. 43
Appendix 12 – Degrees Awarded to Minority Students .......................................................... 44
The subject of this report and our presentation is the graduate student community at
Northwestern University. The graduate student community includes 3,483 master’s and PhD
students enrolled in graduate programs administered by The Graduate School (TGS). This
number does not include students enrolled in professional school programs (law, management,
and medicine). The topics we will discuss are:
• A profile of the current graduate student community
• The interface between the graduate student community and the University community
• Graduate student initiatives to strengthen the graduate student community
• The concerns and priorities of the graduate student community, including rising living
costs, quality of health insurance, faculty and student diversity, and commuter issues.
This presentation is a cooperative effort among the student members of the Graduate Leadership
Council (GLC). The Council includes student representatives from the Black Graduate Student
Association (BGSA), the Chicago Graduate Student Association (CGSA), the Chinese Students
and Scholars Association (CSSA), the Graduate Student Association (GSA), and the Graduate
Student Association for Latino and Spanish Activities (G-SALSA), as well as advisers from TGS
and the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. The GLC is committed to improving
the quality of graduate student life at Northwestern University.
Graduate Student Associations: A Brief Description
The purpose of the Black Graduate Student Association is to support the academic, professional,
and social needs of graduate students of color from underrepresented groups in academia. In
addition, BGSA also contributes to the University community via student events,
tutoring/mentoring programs, and campus issue committees. Furthermore, the association helps
to recruit and retain minority students, faculty members and administrators.
The Chicago Graduate Student Association encompasses graduate students in science-related
programs on the Chicago campus. The CGSA provides a forum to address the academic, social,
and political needs of graduate students on the Chicago Campus and promotes interactions with
groups on the Evanston campus.
The Chinese Students and Scholars Association is the largest international student organization
in the graduate student community, serving as an important bridge between Chinese
students/scholars and Northwestern University. Besides promoting communication, friendship
and academic exchange among its members, CSSA also strives to promote friendship, mutual
understanding and cultural exchange within the entire Northwestern community.
The Graduate Student Association strives to support and enhance the experiences of graduate
students, inside and outside of the classroom. To accomplish these ends the GSA acts as an
advocate for graduate students, representing their interests on University committees, and
organizes social opportunities to combat isolation and maintain a sense of community.
The Graduate Student Association for Latino and Spanish Activities promotes academic and
social networking among graduate students of Latin-American extraction and Spanish-speaking
heritage and works to increase the awareness of their presence and value to Northwestern
University. For more information about each graduate student organization, please see Appendix
We are very excited to have this opportunity to make this presentation before the Student Affairs
Committee of the Board of Trustees. Thank you for this opportunity to share our experience,
concerns, and initiatives.
2. The Graduate Student Community
Although graduate students are here primarily (and most importantly) to pursue an education, we
also act in certain capacities as faculty and employees. As teaching assistants (TAs) and research
assistants (RAs), we teach courses, supervise discussion sections or laboratories, grade
assignments, perform research, and provide vital administrative services for the University. In
general, working as TAs or RAs provides the funding necessary for us to support ourselves
financially. The multiple roles attached to graduate student status, however, can make it difficult
to understand the ways we fit into the larger University community. In the following sections we
outline some of our efforts to do so.
Diverse Backgrounds and Needs
Northwestern University has a graduate student population that is diverse in terms of
demographic characteristics and experiences. Below we present some basic demographic
information about Northwestern University’s graduate students[1,2]:
• 2,243 of the 3,483 (64.4%) total graduate students enrolled in fall 2003 are PhD students
• 30-35% of fall 2003 enrollees were international students
• The median age of PhD students is between 26 and 34
• 36% of graduate students are married/have domestic partners; 9% have children
• 30% of graduate students live in Chicago and 49% live in Evanston
• 40% of graduate students worked immediately prior to enrolling
This diversity indicates that graduate students’ needs differ from those of our undergraduate
counterparts. In contrast to the majority of undergraduate students, graduate students are often
financially independent. We support ourselves through assistantships (teaching or research),
fellowships, loans, and savings.
Moreover, the graduate student experience is inherently different from that of undergraduates
because our education and research is a deliberate step in furthering our careers beyond both
undergraduate education and work experience. The statistic that most clearly separates graduate
and undergraduate students is the graduation rate.
• 92% of Northwestern undergraduate students graduate within 5 years
• 25% of entering PhD students leave within the first three years, half of these without a
• 40% of PhD students leave graduate school within six years without completing a PhD
This difference in graduation rates is attributable to many factors. Many graduate students
discover that the graduate school experience is not a good fit for them. Some transfer to other
programs, while others leave because of financial or family considerations; others may be asked
to leave their programs for not making satisfactory progress toward their degrees. We should
state that this attrition rate is comparable to national averages for doctoral students. However,
we believe that being attentive to the diverse needs of graduate students is a step in the direction
of improving our retention rates and thus improving the quality of graduate education at
Interaction with the University Community
As graduate students, our first identification is often with our advisors and research groups, then
our departments, and finally with the University. We often see ourselves primarily as members
of a particular field, such as electrical engineering, history, or chemistry, rather than as members
of the University community. Most of our social interactions tend to be centered within our
disciplines, and we are frequently unaware of other University resources. This self-identification
with our chosen fields, which is based not only on our experience at Northwestern, but also on
our experiences in undergraduate programs and in industry, contributes to the disconnect with
the broader University community.
Since our identity is often based on departmental affiliations, it can be difficult to describe our
roles in an interdisciplinary graduate student community and in the larger University community.
Outlined in the next section of this report are some of the efforts undertaken by the various
graduate student organizations both to help strengthen the graduate student community across
disciplines, and to interact with undergraduate students and other members of the University
community. Examples include:
• Serving as assistant masters in Northwestern’s residential colleges
• Serving as teaching assistants and instructors for undergraduate classes
• Working as tutors through academic departments and the Athletic Department
• Performing research with undergraduates in our laboratories and offices
• Joining groups such as Ballroom, Latin and Swing Thing (BLAST - an intercultural
social dancing group), the Outing Club, and other student organizations with both
graduate and undergraduate student members
• Mentoring undergraduate students through a variety of different organizations
• Serving on University committees
3. Strengthening the Graduate Student Community
Graduate student associations on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses strive to develop a
sense of graduate student community at Northwestern. We have initiated graduate student social
events, outreach to new and continuing students, and community service activities. In addition,
graduate students have taken seats on a variety of University committees that seek to improve the
Northwestern community and the lives of its members. Most importantly, we have built a sense
of cohesiveness and community through a variety of graduate student groups, brought together
under the umbrella of the Graduate Leadership Council to help improve graduate student life. In
this way, we have built connections between and among student communities and created the
sense of empowerment and engagement that characterizes a healthy community.
Commitments of the Graduate Leadership Council
The Graduate Leadership Council (GLC), which formed in April 2003, is composed of member
groups that are interdisciplinary and nonsectarian. The purpose of the Graduate Leadership
Council is to promote a successful graduate educational experience and to act as a platform for
voicing common graduate student concerns. Advised by staff members from various areas of the
University, such as the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and The Graduate
School, the Council facilitates communication and interaction among the graduate student
associations and between the students and the University administration. The Council also
assists The Graduate School and University administration in the planning and implementation
of policies, events, and other initiatives that concern and involve graduate students.
Some of the Council's activities in the past year have included:
• Monitoring the quality of health care provided to graduate students
• Surveying student interest in commonly debated issues such as U-Pass
• Collating compensation packages offered by peer schools
• Nominating students to University committees
• Addressing housing concerns for incoming graduate students
• Voicing financial concerns for international students with no credit history
• Publicizing activities of peer graduate student groups
• Mentoring undergraduate students
In the next section, we will discuss in detail our concerns regarding health care, housing,
commuting, and other quality of life matters. Immediately below please find a selection of
community-building efforts with which GLC and its component groups have been engaged to
support and encourage a healthy graduate student environment.
Development of Partnerships among Graduate Student Associations
One of the goals of The Graduate Leadership Council has been to bridge the social gap between
its component graduate student groups by encouraging member organizations to collaborate
during the planning and execution of events. From these initiatives, events have been planned
that not only promote interactions among the graduate student groups, but also involve
prospective graduate students and the wider University community. G-SALSA and BGSA, for
example, worked together to sponsor the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP – a
program for aspiring undergraduates from both inside and outside Northwestern) welcoming
picnic. CSSA, BGSA and other students groups, along with the Northwestern Alumni
Association, co-sponsored a Thanksgiving dinner open to the entire University community.
BGSA also worked with graduate student groups from the schools of law, management and
medicine to plan a welcoming barbecue for incoming graduate students during the fall quarter.
G-SALSA and the Hispanic Business Student Association co-sponsored a dominoes tournament
during Hispanic Heritage Month. In addition, the GLC’s component groups have worked
together to plan social events open to and attended by members of more than one group. For
instance, G-SALSA and CGSA, attended a boat cruise along the Chicago River, and CGSA and
GSA have visited Chicago Cubs games together.
Launch of Graduate Student Homepage
To further address graduate students’ needs for connections and community, a sub-committee of
the GSA has designed a full-fledged home page for graduate students, GradConnections (Web
site www.gradconnections.northwestern.edu). The page provides access to existing resources
and information about events and groups at the University and in the community.
Expansion of Volunteer Service
The GLC component groups are actively engaged in community-service initiatives. BGSA
members are actively involved in a variety of programs in the communities surrounding the
University, often benefiting children and families from diverse backgrounds. These activities
have included everything from tutoring and mentoring students at every grade level (including
the university level) to coaching local youth sports teams. These projects are building
connections between graduate students and the Evanston, Chicago, and Northwestern University
Every year, CSSA helps new Chinese students and other international students by providing
them free phone cards to contact their families upon arrival, organizing volunteers to provide
free transportation for shopping and other emergencies, and offering new students assistance in
finding temporary housing.
A sub-committee of GSA was formed to organize volunteer and service activities for graduate
students. Graduate students participated in the OASIS Community Action Day by sponsoring a
project in which a group of students cooked in a homeless shelter. Currently, projects with
Habitat for Humanity are in the planning stage.
Extension of Academic Initiatives
Each April, the BGSA holds the Graduate and Professional Student Research Conference. The
conference is a cross-disciplinary forum designed to provide graduate and professional students
of color the opportunity to present their original work to a community of peers, colleagues, and
faculty. The main goal of the conference is to enhance the academic, social, and professional
development of our communities, while spotlighting the contributions of Northwestern
University's minority graduate and professional students to their respective fields. Graduate and
professional students from Northwestern and several universities throughout Chicago and the
Midwest have successfully presented their research projects at our conference. BGSA also
provides a space for undergraduate students interested in graduate study to present their work
from summer research programs or honors theses. The conference also features professional
development workshops designed to promote successful movement through higher education,
thereby diversifying academia and the professional world at large. Other component groups of
GLC are currently exploring ways to model new conference activity on the success of this BGSA
Attention to Acculturation and Assimilation
One goal of graduate student groups is to introduce foreign cultures to the University and
promote exchange among different cultures. For example, international graduate students at
Northwestern have an opportunity each fall to discover more of American life and to build
friendships with American people through the Friendship Partner Program, organized by the
CSSA in cooperation with International Student Friendship. The program involves matching
international graduate students at Northwestern with American couples and singles for cultural
and linguistic exchange. Since CSSA started this program at Northwestern three years ago,
hundreds of graduate students and American families have participated. The program not only
helps first- and second-year international graduate students acclimate to graduate study and life
in a new environment, but also strengthens cultural exchange both inside the graduate student
community and between the students and American families in the local community.
4. Concerns of the Graduate Student Community
In the previous section we summarized the initiatives taken by graduate students to interact with
each other as well as with the broader Northwestern community. There are many challenges,
however, that continue to confront graduate students. By extending our community-building
efforts, we can address the issues of isolation (departmental or personal) that we pointed to
above. Still, there are issues in which we are also actively engaged in addressing which stretch
beyond the social and academic. We present these larger quality-of-life concerns in the
following section and highlight our activity (beyond simply identifying the issue) to help the
situation, when applicable.
Rising Living Costs and the Need for Competitive Benefits
Perhaps the most significant topic of concern for graduate students is the rapid rise in the cost of
living in a major metropolitan area like Chicago. Simply stated, graduate student expenses are
increasing at a far faster rate than the stipend levels that Northwestern University currently
grants. Table 1 shows a five-year (2000/2001 Academic Year to present) comparison between
annual graduate student stipend levels and two key annual expenses for graduate students: health
insurance and housing.
Table 1 – A five-year comparison between graduate student stipend levels, health insurance, and
00/01 01/02 02/03 03/04 04/05 Total change
Annual stipend TGS
$17,124 $17,772 $18,156 $18,420 $18,876 $1,752
Percentage Increase 3.0% 3.8% 2.2% 1.45% 2.48% 10.23%
Health insurance Prem.
$812 $1,184 $1,378 $1,860 $2,178 $1,366
Percentage Increase 7.4% 45.8% 16.4% 34.98% 17.09% 168.20%
Health Insurance Prem.
$812 $1,037 $1,085 $1,182 $1,342 $530
Percentage Increase 7.4% 27.7% 4.6% 8.94% 13.53% 65.27%
Rent - Engelhart hall
$6,684 $6,972 $7,320 $7,560 $7,920 $1,236
Large twin studio
Percentage Increase 3.5% 4.3% 5.0% 3.27% 4.76% 18.49%
An overview of graduate student finances, presented to the Board of Trustees in 2001, can be
found in Appendix 2 of this report. We are currently working to provide you with more
current data. However, we feel this overview still illustrates the basic costs incurred by graduate
students as compared with monthly compensation.
To further illustrate the financial state of affairs for graduate students, we have provided you
with a survey detailing stipends and health insurance benefits offered by some peer institutions.
The results are summarized in Appendices 3-7. In summary, the funding and recruitment
package offered by most of Northwestern University’s peer institutions is more competitive than
that offered by Northwestern. Moreover, some of these institutions are located in places with a
much lower cost of living index.
This disparity has a direct impact on the University’s ability to recruit and retain the best
students. Because we are invested in having the best colleagues, both while in school and after
graduation, we look forward to working closely and collaboratively with the administration on
addressing the funding needs of graduate students. The GLC plans to conduct a more
comprehensive survey in the coming year to measure levels of graduate student support across
various disciplines and demographics. This survey should be a valuable tool for Northwestern in
assessing its own stance in relation to its peer institutions.
Health Insurance Premium
For the academic year 2004-05, the University moved from an in-house student hospitalization
plan to a third-party provider, Aetna. This was motivated largely by the depletion of the
financial reserves necessitated by unanticipated expenses incurred by the previous plan. The
Graduate Leadership Council collaborated with the Vice President for Student Affairs and the
Office of Risk Management to ensure that the new plan meets the needs of graduate students and
conforms to the highest criteria of coverage and service. A comparison of health insurance
premiums for Northwestern University graduate students and dependents with peer institutions’
plans can be found in Appendix 3. (One interesting finding discovered in this study shows that
Northwestern University has one of the most expensive premiums for dependents.)
Heavy Dependence on Subsidy
As Table 1 shows, the graduate stipend levels at Northwestern have increased 10.2% in five
years, but the health insurance premiums have increased 65.3% during that same time (a
staggering 168.5% without the university subsidy).
For instance, the student insurance premium was set at $2,178 for the academic year 2004/2005,
a 17% increase over the previous academic year. The premium for the 2005/2006 academic year
is estimated to increase by 22% to $26591 to meet increasing health care costs. As Figure 1
demonstrates, health insurance premiums have increased an average of 24% per year and the
subsidy has increased to maintain a 35% reduction in cost. Thus, one can see how the financial
concerns of graduate students are closely linked to the subsidy offered by the administration.
1 This value is for the estimate premium plan in the proposed two-tier plan. The premium plan provides benefits
comparable to those of the 2004-2005 plan, while the benefits of the basic plan are less similar.
5000 premium w/
2000- 2001- 2002- 2003- 2004- 2005-
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Figure 1. A comparison of health insurance premium costs and health insurance premium with subsidy.
While we applaud the existing significant subsidy in helping students meet their health coverage
needs, we believe that Northwestern should move firmly towards full health insurance
subsidization. Several academic institutions have already protected their students from such
fluctuations by fully subsidizing their health-care coverage. Some of the benefits offered by peer
schools can be found summarized in Appendix 4. We firmly believe that Northwestern needs to
follow the same path to remain competitive and provide satisfactory working conditions and
quality of life to its graduate students.
Quality of Health Insurance
Recently, a study conducted by Harvard University determined that half of all instances of
personal bankruptcy sited medical problems as the cause of the debt. Of these cases, 59% had
health insurance coverage at the onset of the illness. Often the health insurance package
provided poor coverage and resulted in substantial out-of-pocket expenses. Thus, the average
American is just one serious illness or accident away from bankruptcy.
With concern for its students’ health and financial well-being, Northwestern University requires
all students to have adequate health insurance. As the cost of health care skyrockets, many
students insist an emergency plan is all they require. Fortunately, graduate students may only
waive the University health insurance plan if they already have comparable health insurance
coverage. Such emergency plans may easily land students in debt if such a catastrophic event
were to occur.
The benefits and coverage of the in-house Northwestern University Student Hospitalization Plan
were excellent and guarded against such excessive out-of-pocket expenses. As mentioned above,
this school year Northwestern University switched from an in-house health insurance program to
Aetna provided through the Chickering Group. Late in the 2003-04 school year, members from
the Office of Risk Management met with the GLC to examine the proposed plan. The goal was
to maintain a high level of student benefits with the lowest increase in cost. After a few changes,
the approved plan was considered satisfactory for 95% of the graduate student population and
announced at the end of May 2004. A comparison of the benefits of Northwestern University’s
student hospitalization plan from 2003-04 with the projected benefits for 2005-06 can be found
in Appendix 5. The largest change to health plan in the switch to Aetna was the cap of $5000 for
prescription drugs. This change is significant; basic medication, such as Zyrtec for chronic
allergies, costs about $1800 a year. Although most students do not require large amounts of
medication, a fair number (approximately 10%) do have one or more chronic conditions treated
with medication. A small number of students (approximately 1%) have very serious chronic
conditions that require medications whose costs exceed the $5000 cap.
Despite the last change, the transition went smoothly. There were expected problems of students
having specialists not part of the Aetna network and customer service issues that the university is
working with Chickering to fix. Unfortunately, two larger problems evolved.
1. A small number of students (1%) exceed the $5000 a year cap on prescription drugs.
2. Chicago campus students pay the full amount for their medications and then wait for long
periods of time to receive reimbursement. This creates a financial hardship for many
In meetings that we have held with the Office of Risk Management and the Office of Student
Affairs, we proposed solutions, one of which was issuing a prescription drug card to all students
enrolled in the plan. Earlier this year such a card could not be issued due to the cap and
compliance issues. We are happy to report that as we are writing this document, these two issues
have been resolved. For the remainder of the 2004-05, the University will cover the drug
expense for the students exceeding the $5000 cap. Also, Aetna will issue a prescription drug
Additionally, a large number of healthy students (75-80%) feel that the current plan is too
expensive and provides benefits they do not need. To resolve these issues, a two-tier plan has
been developed and will be offered for the 2005-06 academic year.
Based on estimations, the lower-tier plan will be 13.2% less expensive than our current plan,
while the increased subsidy will cover 50% of the plan. This plan will provide benefits similar to
the current plan but will have a $2000 deductible for care received outside of the Northwestern
Health Service facility. This new plan is designed for healthy students who rarely need to visit
their doctor but provides them with coverage, prescription, and mental health benefits if they
The second-tier plan maintains similar coverage to the current plan, but with no deductible for
care received outside the Northwestern Health Service facility.
Both tiers of the plan will provide unlimited prescription drug benefits. This unlimited
prescription benefit will also allow Aetna to issue a prescription drug card, thus reducing the
financial strain on the Chicago campus students.
The benefits of the current and projected Northwestern University student hospitalization plan
are excellent and do not result in out-of-pocket expenses that could lead to bankruptcy in the
event of a serious illness or injury. We applaud the University for working hard to maintain such
coverage during a period of excessive increases in health care costs. Additionally, the health
plan is comparable to our peer institutions as seen in Appendix 4. In general, Northwestern
University has one of the best prescription drug benefits, a slightly lower number of allowed
mental health visits, and a significantly lower out-of-pocket maximum. Next year’s health
insurance plan should make Northwestern University’s plan one of the best in the nation. We
appreciate the administration’s willingness to work closely with us to address these issues.
Need of the Graduate Student Community for Diversity
Consideration of the Northwestern University community necessarily involves recognition of the
needs of all of its citizens, including those of color. The importance of having a diverse ethnic,
socio-economic, geographic, gender, and sexual-orientation community has been thoroughly
recognized. Research has continuously shown that academic institutions benefit from diverse
groups within all levels of the institution—faculty, staff, administration and students.
However, having a diverse community is not sufficient; it is also imperative to have
communication structures in place to affirm, support, and encourage diversity.
To achieve a diverse community we must be actively and whole-heartedly committed to making
changes. In his State of the University Address, President Bienen said, “Achieving greater
diversity in the student body and faculty continues to be an important part of our mission, and it
helps guide us in the development of our curriculum.” Hence, it is encouraging to know that
the University recognizes that in order for meaningful and significant change to occur the change
should be initiated and supported by our top university officials.
Progression towards a diverse community has been made at Northwestern University. The active
involvement of minority graduate students, primarily through BGSA and G-SALSA, has helped
the University pursue its “highest order of excellence.” However, no one can claim that the goal
of diversity has been reached. As indicated by the low and inconsistent faculty and graduate
student recruitment numbers, the University is still struggling to determine the best methods to
recruit and retain faculty and graduate students of color from underrepresented groups (see
Appendices 8 and 9).
In the following sections, we will discuss how to create a diverse community as it relates to
racial and ethnic diversity—specifically for those who are traditionally underrepresented in
academia (i.e. African Americans, Latino/Hispanic Americans, and American Indians/Alaskan
The University Administration
In 2000, Provost Lawrence Dumas formed the Faculty Diversity Committee to assess the
University’s progress in increasing the number of women and members of the underrepresented
groups on the faculty. The Committee was also given the responsibility to suggest initiatives that
support the goal of increasing the number of minority and female faculty. The Committee is
composed of eleven members, two of which are students (one of the students is a BGSA
member). The report concluded that the University could “take little satisfaction in its record for
recruiting and retaining underrepresented minority faculty.” As a result, a fund of one million
dollars was established to support programs specifically designed to increase faculty diversity,
and departments were urged to “take every necessary step to ensure that women and
underrepresented minorities are fully and fairly considered for the position.” However,
departmental search committees received limited suggestions of how to design successful
diversity recruitment programs.
In the 2003 report to the Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees, graduate students
expressed concerns about generating feelings of increased pressure and negativity in the absence
of structural support. The students felt that these perceptions could “manifest in an unwelcoming
environment for those hired in the name of diversity instead of perceived merit.” The need for
structural support was also echoed at the Town Hall Meeting on Diversity that was hosted by
BGSA at its 7th Annual Graduate and Professional Student Research Conference in April of 2003
(see Appendices 10 and 11). This unprecedented meeting allowed representatives from different
sectors of the University community—students, faculty, department chairpersons, and deans—to
meet and exchange best practices on diversity issues at the University.
In May 2004, the Faculty Diversity Committee prepared a best practices document to “help
support the efforts of every academic unit” in hiring and retaining minority and female faculty.
The creation of this document was a step in the right direction; however, every department at the
University should augment that report with a recruitment and retention guide that is specific to
its program. Recruitment strategies should be customized to meet the needs of each school and
individual department. Moreover, the associate dean of each school and every departmental
search committee must be committed to using these guides.
The Graduate School
After six years of serving as dean and academic provost of The Graduate School, Dr. Richard
Morimoto announced that he would not return in that capacity to The Graduate School (TGS) for
the 2004-05 school year. The Office of Minority Affairs (OMA) was created under the
leadership of Dr. Morimoto, with Penny Warren assuming the title of Assistant Dean. Dean
Warren was responsible for leading diversity initiatives directed towards increasing the number
of minority graduate students. OMA employed two staff members, in addition to Dean Warren,
devoted to fulfilling the mission of the office.
OMA offered many services to the University community including:
• Enlisting alumni, faculty, and graduate students in recruiting activities
• Organizing mentoring and networking opportunities
• Directing the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP)
• Developing programs to support and retain students of color from underrepresented
• Coordinating fellowships to newly admitted students
• Informing current students of funding opportunities
The quality of service from OMA and the direct contact that students had with the office,
especially Dean Warren, played an influential role in the recruitment of students to
On September 1, 2004, Professor Andrew Wachtel began his tenure as Dean of The Graduate
School. One of his primary changes as dean was the reorganization of priorities and staff in TGS
and OMA. Under this reorganization, OMA has been changed to the Office of Student Life and
Multicultural Affairs (SLMA). The responsibilities of this new office have been expanded to
address the needs of a wider constituency. These changes were made with neither advance
notice nor solicitation of input from graduate students. Furthermore, the reorganization came at
a critical time due to the recent departure of the Minority Affairs Coordinator for TGS. Hence,
an office that typically consists of three people was reduced to two. This led many graduate
students to question the restructuring of OMA to SLMA and The Graduate School’s commitment
Graduate students have recognized that the new constituency of the SLMA includes “all our
students, paying particular attention to underserved student groups.” There is, however,
concern about the effect of increasing the responsibilities of the office without expanding its
resources. One of the reasons OMA was so successful in its mission to recruit, retain, and
support graduate students of color was due to the access that students had to OMA staff.
Whether it is a graduate student with a child, a homosexual graduate student, a graduate student
with a spouse, a graduate student of color or an international graduate student, it is imperative
that TGS estimate how many students will be served under SLMA. Failing to define who the
underserved student groups are can lead to poor planning, an overburdened SLMA office, and
misallocation of the needs of its constituency. The end result would be poorer service to all
students and dilution of the effectiveness of SLMA.
To assist departments in their recruitment efforts, SLMA should have regular meetings (either
annually or biannually) with department chairpersons and graduate admissions officers to keep
departments informed of resources that are available through SLMA. To clarify the reasons why
graduate students drop out of school, we recommend conducting exit interviews with those who
choose to leave. Conducting these interviews would help TGS identify ways to improve its
The Graduate Departments and Schools
Graduate departments must work together with TGS and the University administration to achieve
their diversity goals. The Life Sciences Minority Graduate Committee (LSMGC) and The
McCormick School of Engineering Meeting of the Minds Group (M.O.M) are two committees
that collaborate with SLMA in their recruitment efforts. These committees have sent faculty,
administrators and students to visit academic institutions and conferences to recruit and network
with prospective students of color. As a result of these efforts, minority graduate student
representation in these disciplines has increased (see Appendix 12).
One of the major hurdles that a minority student faces during graduate school is the feeling of
isolation and loneliness. Departments should inform SLMA in advance when prospective
minority students are visiting to fully utilize the resources of LSMGC, M.O.M., and graduate
student associations (BGSA, G-SALSA). With advance notice, recruitment receptions can be
organized to give prospective students opportunities to meet with current graduate students of
color. Receptions such as these seem to have a significant effect on recruiting minority students
Departments should also involve graduate students during the faculty recruitment process. One
suggestion that was proposed at the Town Hall Meeting on Diversity was to include students of
color on faculty and administrative search committees. In its 2001-2002 report, the Faculty
Diversity Committee also urged departments to “consider including advanced minority graduate
students on your search committee, especially in cases where no minority faculty have been
included.” However, there appears to be no centralized effort from schools and departments to
enlist student participation on faculty search committees. One way that departments can include
minority graduate students on search committee is through developing relationships with
graduate student associations like BGSA and G-SALSA.
The Graduate Students
There are approximately 200 minority students out of a total 3,483 graduate students at
Northwestern. Graduate students—including members of the BGSA and G-SALSA—contribute
significantly to the University’s faculty and student diversity initiatives. In conjunction with
other student groups and The Graduate School’s Office of Student Life and Multicultural Affairs,
BGSA and G-SALSA offer programs that are aimed at recruiting, retaining, and graduating
students of color. Current graduate students are matched with first-year graduate students
through SLMA’s buddy program. This program has been influential in retaining graduate
students and keeping the office informed of the progress of the first-year graduate students. The
program’s mission to achieve higher retention rates is important for the university; but it is vital
to the quality of life and success of minority graduate students, in that it promotes a sense of
family for these students.
Since 1995, BGSA has diligently worked to foster a community of diversity and encourage
students of color to attend graduate school. (There are 133 African-American graduate students
currently enrolled at Northwestern.) Perhaps BGSA’s best efforts to do so are represented by the
graduate school informational panel that it hosts for undergraduate students each fall and its
Graduate and Professional Student Research Conference and Honors Banquet held annually in
Before G-SALSA was formed, several Latino/Hispanic graduate students were called to
collaborate on several recruitment trips across the country. Since the formation of G-SALSA,
the enrollment numbers of Latino students have steadily increased at the University. During
2001-2002, TGS received 89 applications from Latino students. Fourteen of applicants were
admitted and eight of those accepted. The following year, the recruitment effort resulted in a
total of 109 applicants, from which 20 were admitted and 14 accepted. During the 2003-2004
school year, the number of applications received decreased to 97, but 30 students were admitted.
While the graduate student associations ought to be commended for their work towards
furthering diversity, their commitment and passion should not be taken for granted. Recruitment
efforts should be partnerships among the graduate students, departments, TGS, and
administrators. The University should never solely rely on the efforts of graduate students to
achieve their diversity goals; rather, the services of graduate students should be utilized to
augment programs that already exist.
Northwestern University has shown significant improvements in its efforts to increase diversity
at the faculty and graduate student levels. One example is the inauguration of the
interdisciplinary Center for African American History and subsequent hiring of the center
director, Dr. Darlene Clark Hine. However, according to University history, we know that short-
term commitments to diversity do not result in the progression of diversity in the long-term. As
a result, partnerships among University administrators, SLMA, department chairpersons and
graduate students must be created and nurtured through concerted efforts.
Graduate students recognize that any move to bring greater diversity to Northwestern University
must be driven from the top. However, we feel that we can be strong advocates for change in
this matter, and look forward to continue to play an active role in the recruitment and retention of
minority students and faculty. We strongly agree with the Faculty Diversity Committee that
“much work remains to be achieved in this area before the University can feel satisfied that it has
done all it can or should do to ensure that the diversity of Northwestern faculty matches its
Payroll Deduction for Unfunded Students
Beginning in the fall of 2001, graduate students on university assistantships (TAs, RAs,
fellowships, etc.), can have their premiums automatically deducted from their paychecks on a
monthly basis. This automatic payroll deduction is something many non-students take for
granted. Nevertheless, this automatic deduction is not available for unfunded graduate students.
Unfunded graduate students who are often paying for their tuition and living expenses from a
variety of sources including savings, outside employment, and loans, are forced to bear the entire
cost of their health insurance at the start of the academic year. Furthermore, unfunded graduate
students are often the ones most in need of this additional support and flexibility. The Office of
Risk Management is exploring options for quarterly billing.
Athletic Facility on the Chicago Campus
Due to declining occupancy, Northwestern plans to close the Lake Shore Center, 850 N. Lake
Shore Drive, which provides housing for professional and graduate students on the Chicago
campus, by the end of summer. The Lake Shore Athletic Club (LSAC), housed in 850 N.
Lake Shore Drive, has been a wonderful resource for the students, faculty, and staff at
Northwestern University’s Chicago campus. The improvements made to the athletic club
provided members with brand new equipment (including treadmills, free-weights, and elliptical
machines), opportunities to consult with personal trainers free of charge, and other facilities such
as racquetball courts and a swimming pool. In essence, LSAC has improved the quality of life
for many of its members and is often showcased when recruiting new students to the University.
No other athletic club in downtown Chicago can compare with its low student membership fee
(less than $10 per month) and accessibility.
The Lake Shore Athletic Club will likely close once Northwestern closes the Lake Shore Center.
Removing the athletic club will impact the quality of life for many members of LSAC—
especially its student members—as they have adopted a healthier and well-balanced lifestyle. In
the event of its closing, to where will the LSAC be relocated? We propose contacting nearby
health facilities to determine if bulk-rate memberships can be provided to students, faculty, and
staff at comparable rates.
Credit Union / Credit Card(s) for International Students
Upon matriculation into the University, international students may have a difficult time adjusting
to everyday life. Many of these difficulties are related to financial issues that require a credit
card to process a transaction. However, international students may not be able to obtain a credit
card from lenders because they have not established credit history in the United States. A
solution would be to launch a credit union where these students can be issued a credit card.
Chicago Transit Authority Student Pass (U-PASS)
We understand that the issue of the U-PASS for graduate students is not new for the Board of
Trustees. In fact, it has been discussed for several years, long before the creation of the Graduate
Leadership Council. We raise it here again not to harp on the matter but to discuss the current
situation and some of our suggested steps toward a solution.
Recently, an informal survey among undergraduate students showed that they are not interested
in having the U-PASS. The graduate student community, however, does not share this opinion.
As opposed to undergraduate students, who usually live on-campus, most graduate students live
farther away from campus (where housing is more affordable) and rely heavily on public
transportation and/or NU shuttles.
During the Fall Quarter of 2004, a survey sent to graduate students (and completed by 634
students) showed an interest in the U-PASS. Various questions were asked to quantify the
interest of graduate students with respect to the need of the U-PASS. The results of the survey
are shown in the following figures. Figure 2 shows that the majority of graduate students who
responded to the survey, 88% in this case, live near the Evanston Campus.
Figure 2: Campus where students live.
The students were asked to indicate their primary mode of transportation. Results in Figure 3
show a strong dependence on public transportation, the most important service provided by the
CTA (38%). The second most popular category of transportation was that of NU shuttles,
walking and/or bicycling, at 32%. But these modes can vary, as is the case for shuttles, which
stop at specific locations (no stop between Loyola and the Evanston Campus), rendering them
useless for people living in between stations. Walking and/or biking to school may also be
seriously affected by weather, especially during the winter quarter. Of students driving to school
(21% of the total), most (18% of the total) have a parking permit. The yearly rise in the parking
permits may be due to an increased number of students driving to school. With the
implementation of the U-PASS, this percentage my decrease and create more parking spaces
available for those who really need it (students living far away, as opposed to those who live
closer). This may also alleviate traffic and environmental concerns by having fewer cars on the
Figure 3: Primary mode of transportation for graduate students.
When students were asked if they were willing to pay for the U-PASS, 63% were willing to
purchase it (Figure 4). This is a considerably different answer from the survey addressed to
undergraduate students last year.
Figure 4: Percentage of graduate students interested in having the U-PASS
During the GLC meetings, it was suggested that the cost of the U-PASS ($75) be included in the
each student’s tuition. When we asked if this would be a feasible idea, 85% of all the students
surveyed were in favor (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Interest of students of having the U-PASS included into the tuition.
We think we are coming close to solving this long-enduring issue for graduate students. We
understand that although the CTA requires that every Northwestern student must have the pass,
some professional schools on the Chicago campus already offer it to their students. Our main
interest is to obtain the pass strictly for students within The Graduate School. We see that some
precedent already exists for such an arrangement and would like to work with the administration
on a solution, even one that includes charging a fee back to the student.
Need for Legal Services
There is a need to provide graduate students with quality legal consultation to address their legal
concerns. Legal disputes related to landlord-tenant issues arise frequently as a result of an
increased number of graduate students living off-campus. In the graduate student survey, 17% of
the 634 graduate students who responded encountered legal hassles during their time at
Northwestern. Seventy-two percent of the students expressed interest in availing themselves of
regular legal services. Some common issues that graduate students confront are:
• Lease and sublease review
• Moving violations
• Municipal ordinance violations
• Criminal issues
• Employment contract review
• Parking violations
• Landlord/tenant disputes
• Litigation matters
• Personal injury
• Insurance concerns
• Business formation
• Intellectual property
• Contract drafting/review
• Consumer rights issues
Engaging the services of an attorney for the aforementioned services requires additional funding
which seems beyond the scope of The Graduate School. Although considerable interest is
present, we are unsure of the avenues we can explore to make this resource available for
As detailed in the introduction, the graduate student population is demographically and
experientially diverse. In addition, the boundary between student life and academic life is less
clear for graduate students as compared with undergraduate students. Issues affecting graduate
student life inevitably include concerns about their status as advisees, department members, and
as University employees. Because each graduate student’s experience is defined by the
interaction between individual characteristics and a broad range of contextual factors, it can often
be difficult to ascertain the collective needs of the graduate student community.
As this report demonstrates, the issues affecting the graduate student community speak to
Northwestern’s core identity, both as an educational institution and as an employer. We are
asking the administration and the Board of Trustees to engage in specific discussions about
health insurance, student benefits, and diversity. In so doing, we are also asking for a broader
conversation about the role of the graduate student in the University community and the
University's responsibility to graduate students as community members.
In order for graduate students to take a more active and involved role in the University
community, we must perceive that the administration, as a whole, is both interested in our
welfare and committed to respecting our unique needs and experiences. This perception can
only be created by a concerted effort to improve the efficacy of graduate student-administrative
Change is happening on many fronts, with the Graduate Leadership Council being the foremost
example, but there is much room for improvement. Throughout this report, we have referred to a
range of formal and informal structures that currently promote graduate student inclusion in the
community. These include participation in University committees, presentations to the Board of
Trustees, regular meetings between graduate student associations, and increased social
programming. These activities aid in developing a culture that respects and values graduate
The graduate student associations that crafted this report have been working hard to assess and
communicate to you the collective graduate student experience. We bring to the endeavor of
representing the community the skills and techniques we have acquired in our time at
Northwestern. We stand prepared to put our technical expertise to use in order to help the
administration address the pressing needs of the graduate student community. As evidenced by
the “Strengthening the Graduate Student Community” section of this report, the GLC, with the
support of University administrators who serve as advisors and advocates, have been working to
address graduate student needs as they arise. When we have been meaningfully engaged in
identifying needs and adequately supported in creating solutions, we have made substantive
contributions to the quality of life, both for graduate students and for the larger University
We seek a culture that proactively addresses the needs of graduate students, and we want to work
closely with administrators to ensure that our concerns and opinions are heard and considered on
a regular basis. We want it to be the norm for administration members to seek our input on
issues that affect us, and we ask that the Board of Trustees do everything within its power to help
us gain increased opportunities for communication and empowerment.
The student members of The Graduate Leadership Council would like to extend our sincere
thanks and appreciation to the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, including Vice
President William Banis, Asra Kamal, and Cate Whitcomb. We would also like to thank Bill
Jones, Pat Mann, Penny Warren, Maggie Wildman, and Lisa Yondorf from The Graduate
School, for their continued support in our endeavors to improve the graduate student community.
 2001 Graduate Student Association report to the Student Affairs Committee of the Board of
Trustees, which can be downloaded from: http://groups.northwestern.edu/gsa
 Jeffrey Fine and Kiersten Elliot, “It's about Graduate and Professional students Period”,
NASPA, Denver, March 30 2004.
 Graduate school survey, Stipends and Health Insurance Benefits.
 David U. Himmelstein, Elizabeth Warren, Deborah Thoren and Steffie Woolhandler, “Illness
and Injury as Contributors to Bankruptcy,” Health Affairs Online, Feb 2, 2005.
 Viernes Turner, C.C. and Myers, Jr., S.L. Faculty of Color in Academe: Bittersweet
 Bienen, Henry S. State of the University Address, Northwestern University, 2004.
 Faculty Diversity Committee Report to the Community.
 Consolidated report form the GSA, CGSA, BGSA to the Student Affairs Committee Board of
Trustees Report 2003
 Email correspondence from Dean Wachtel (12-15-2004)
 Green, Anna L. and LeKita V. Scott, Eds. Journey to the Ph.D.: How to Navigate the
Process as African-Americans, 2002.
 “Lake Shore Center to Close.” Observer Online. February 3, 2005.
 Fall 2004 survey conducted by the Office of Administration and Planning.
Appendix 1 – Graduate Student Association Descriptions
Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA)
The Northwestern University Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) was formed during
the Fall Quarter of 1995 by seven minority graduate students. The purpose of BGSA is to
support the academic, professional, and social growth of graduate students of color from
underrepresented groups in academia.
Our membership consists of all graduate students who personally identify with and support the
expressed purposes of our organization. Throughout all of our events we promote diversity in
the University community and support programs that continue to encourage the matriculation of
underrepresented students of color. Our annual barbecues, fireside chats, First Friday dinners,
and community service all exemplify our commitment to foster a sense of community among
graduate students of color and support our constituents through the graduate school process.
Many of these events involve collaborations with other minority and non-minority student
associations in order to foster networking between all students at Northwestern.
Connecting with Members
At the beginning of every school year BGSA meets and recruits new members during the New
Graduate Student Orientation. We also hold the annual Fall Bar-B-Que to provide new graduate
students of color the opportunity to meet and greet current members. The Fall Bar-B-Que was
co-sponsored by the following professional organizations: the Black Law Students Association
(BLSA), the Black Management Association (BMA), and the Student National Medical
To cultivate connections between the student members, BGSA sponsors monthly First Friday
Dinners, fireside chats, and actively participates in intramural sports via “Team BGSA”. The
First Friday Dinners provide a platform for members to network and fellowship over a meal. In
the first fireside chats of the school year, we discussed the 2004 Presidential Debates. In the
second fireside chat, a panel of minority faculty members discussed their lives and experiences
in academia with BGSA members. BGSA members are also involved in the intramural co-ed
flag football and basketball leagues. Most recently, during the Fall Quarter of 2004, Team
BGSA was ranked Number 1 in the flag football league prior to entering the playoffs. Team
BGSA is currently ranked Number 3 (out of 10) in the co-ed basketball league.
Connecting with Undergraduate Students
To encourage a connection between the minority graduate and undergraduate students, BGSA
holds undergraduate programs that encourage mentoring and interaction. We also hold an annual
graduate school informational panel to provide information about the graduate school process.
Panel members from the latter event included BGSA members as well as members of BLSA,
BMA, and SNMA. Some of our members also tutor undergraduates in various disciplines
through departmental programs and African-American Student Affairs.
Connecting with the Academic and Local Communities
To foster a connection with the academic community, BGSA sponsors the annual BGSA
Graduate & Professional Student Research Conference. The conference is a cross-disciplinary
forum designed to provide graduate and professional students of color the opportunity to present
their original work to a community of peers, colleagues, and faculty. Keeping with tradition, the
main goal of the conference is to enhance the academic, personal, and professional development
of our communities. Since the first conference in 1996, BGSA has worked hard to expand the
conference in attendance and reputation. It has grown from an event featuring the work of
several NU graduate students to a conference featuring the work of graduate students from across
the Midwest. This year we hope to expand even further by attracting conference attendees and
presenters from across the nation.
To encourage connections within the Evanston and Chicago communities, BGSA members have
participated in tutoring and mentoring elementary, middle, and high school students as well as
coaching local youth sports teams. During the summer of 2004, BGSA members volunteered at
the annual Evanston Arts Festival and also contributed to a women’s shelter in Evanston.
Continuing the Connections
BGSA has continuously tried to provide forums for minority graduates students to express their
concerns. We have also recognized that for any organization to reach its fullest potential, the
members of the organization must first come together, and then work together. We are very
proud of the bonds within academia, the community, and between members that have been
strengthened through BGSA. And we hope that these ties will continue in the future as we strive
to enhance the community of graduate students of color at Northwestern University.
Chicago Graduate Student Association
The Chicago Graduate Student Association (CGSA) is a student organization encompassing
graduate students on the Chicago campus from the Integrated Graduate Program (IGP), Medical
Scientist Training Program (MSTP), the Northwestern University Institute for Neuroscience
(NUIN), Genetic Counseling, Clinical Psychology, Journalism, and Physical Therapy. The
CGSA uses its funds to address social, academic, and political needs of graduate students on the
Each year the CGSA organizes a series of academic and social events for graduate students on
the Chicago Campus. The association also promotes interactions with graduate students, faculty,
and administrators located on the Evanston campus. Our academic events include:
• Student-sponsored research seminar series
• Qualifying exam preparation workshop
• Career workshops
• Student Poster Sessions
We also promote various social events including:
• Student / post-doc / faculty happy hours
• Organizing trips to the Chicago Cubs baseball games
• The annual Halloween party
Additional information about our initiatives and annual events can be found on the following
Web site: http://groups.northwestern.edu/cgsa.
Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA)
The Chinese Students and Scholars Association is the biggest international student organization
at Northwestern University, it represents a significant part of student body in The Graduate
School. CSSA seeks to promote the exchange between Chinese culture and other cultures.
CSSA is also an effective medium to help express Chinese students’ needs and concerns to the
university and to assist the university in improving their administrative policies toward students.
CSSA’s major functions are:
• To provide help and services to its members, to help them learn about American culture
and society as well as get accommodated to life in America;
• To promote communication, friendship and academic exchange among its members;
• To promote friendship, mutual understanding and culture exchange between its members
and other members of the Northwestern community.
Community Service: New Students Transition
Over the past 10 years, we have been playing a key role in assisting The Graduate School in
managing the Chinese graduate students and scholars. Over 80% of the incoming Chinese
students set up a connection with CSSA before their arrival in the US and most of them are
greeted and picked up at the airport by our community volunteers. This year, we sent out 40 free
phone cards for Chinese students and 35 for other international students for them to contact their
families upon arrival. We also provided free riding services for shopping and other emergencies
to new students by establishing a volunteer list. We offered temporarily housing service to help
new students. In addition, we collaborate with the International Student Friendship Program to
partner American families with Chinese students in order to facilitate cultural exchange and
smooth adaptation to the new environment.
Since most CSSA members are relatively new to this country, they need knowledge about
practical issues in their daily life here, such as insurance, tax, health care. CSSA arranges a series
of seminars to address this need. Topics of these seminars include: Insurances in USA, Tax in
USA, Career Pathway and Immigration Law.
Cultural Events: the Moon Festival, Chinese National day, and Spring Festival
The Moon Festival is on August 15th of the lunar calendar. The full moon on this day marks the
traditional celebration of the fall harvest. The circle, symbolized by the full moon, means reunion
in Chinese. Therefore the Moon Festival is a holiday for family members to reunite and gather in
celebration. Every year CSSA hosts a Moon Festival cruise party where people can admire the
full moon over Lake Michigan and enjoy traditional Chinese food and music. In 2004, more than
300 people from the Chicago area joined the cruise party, including staff from the Chinese
Consulates General in Chicago.
Chinese Day parade is another joyful holiday event for people at Northwestern. Each year,
people from different countries get together in Chinatown to celebrate the birthday of our
motherland. In the year 2004, over 2000 people joined the parade. Students and scholars from
Northwestern were the biggest and most active group during the parade.
The most important holiday, by far, in China is the Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New
Year. It is an occasion on par with the celebration of Christmas in Western society. The dates for
this annual celebration are determined by the lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar,
so the timing of the holiday varies from late January to early February. Every year, CSSA
organizes a huge festive event and invites people to join our celebration. This event rapidly
became the favorite Chinese festival for Americans at Northwestern University.
Cultural Exchange: CSSA Friendship Partner Program
Each fall, International graduate students at Northwestern have a great opportunity to discover
more of American life and to build friendships with American people through a program called
the "Friendship Partner Program". This program is organized by the CSSA in cooperation with
International Student Friendship. The program involves matching international graduate students
at Northwestern with American couples and singles for cultural and linguistic exchange. Since
CSSA started this program on Northwestern campus 3 years ago, hundreds of graduate students
and American families have participated. This program not only helps 1st and 2nd year
international graduate students acclimatize to the study and life in the new environment, but also
strengthen the cultural exchange inside the graduate student community and also between the
student community and American people.
Cooperation with other groups
Throughout the year, we cooperate with other organizations to provide opportunities for students
to have access to various cultures and resources. Below are some of our past events in 2004, in
which CSSA cooperated tightly with other organizations to provide diversity to our community.
The Second Annual NU PIAA Summer by CSSA & NU Public Interest Alumni
Get Together Association
Mid-West Chinese Student Volleyball hosted in NU by CSSA, teams from NU,
Tournament UIUC, UC, Purdue and Indiana
by CSSA & Engelhart Graduate
June 26 CSSA Cherry Picking Tour
by CSSA & Kaplan Test Prep &
Oct. 12 CSSA & Kaplan Admissions Seminar
by CSSA, Chinese Consulates General,
Sep. 26 Chinese National Day Parade UC, IIT, UIC, DePaul Univ., Loyola Univ.
Oct. 3 Moon Festival Cruise Party by CSSA and UC
Graduate Student Association (GSA)
The Graduate Student Association (GSA) has been the primary forum to discuss and address
policies that affect graduate students in Evanston. Graduate student input is highly important in
decision-making processes. For instance, graduate student budgets are extremely sensitive
towards any change in compensation and benefits. But the administration could be oblivious of
student sentiments while implementing a key fiscal policy. The GSA provides timely input that
is representative of the graduate student majority. The GSA also strives hard to improve
awareness among students in the choices that exist during their stay at Northwestern.
Graduate students form a diverse demographic in terms of culture, nationality, etc. Not
surprisingly, they need more time to integrate into the larger Northwestern community. The GSA
attempts to facilitate thus transition as well as enhance quality of life thereafter. We actively
organize volunteering drives and social events such as bar nights and barbecues, which bring
together graduate students from different disciplines and backgrounds.
In the future, the GSA is planning to move from a flat organizational structure to a hierarchical
one. This is intended to increase participation from every academic department. The mechanism
for this transition is already in place and we anticipate to proceed smoothly.
Graduate Student Association for Latino and Spanish Activities (G-SALSA)
The Graduate Student Association for Latino and Spanish Activities (G-SALSA) was formed
during the winter quarter of the year 2003. The group of friends that initiated the student
organization was approached by Penny Warren, The Graduate School Assistant Dean of
Multicultural Affairs, to create a group of graduate students of Latino/Hispanic heritage
analogous to the African-American Minority graduate student organization, Black Graduate
Student Association (BGSA). Last summer, G-SALSA successfully celebrated one year from its
formation. Today, G-SALSA is still going strong and has helped in recruiting efforts to continue
expanding the graduate Hispanic community, have accomplished many activities and will
continue working to become an indispensable graduate organization at NU.
The creation of G-SALSA is a good example of a successful effort by graduate students to
organize. Given the scarce number of Hispanic minority students in the university before the
formation of G-SALSA, many attempts to create such a group catering to the graduate Hispanic
minority population failed considerably. Basically, a lack of communication between the
individuals and the profound lack of identity have been the major culprits in establishing a sense
of community. With the considerable thrust put forth by former Dean of Graduate School, Rick
Morimoto, and Penny Warren, the Office of Minority Affairs was able to set an important
standard for Minority students, especially on the rising importance of the Latino/Hispanic
An important feature of G-SALSA is the supplementary relation between Hispanic minority and
Latin-American graduate students, thus looking for a way to interlace the two groups. The
Latin-American aspect contributes with a large number of participants, given that many Latin-
American international students also want to become part of the community and share their own
cultures and traditions that are bound by language. The merging of both groups makes it very
interesting since both groups eventually learn from each other during the different activities
programmed during the academic year.
There are several goals G-SALSA would like to reach as a graduate student organization. We
want to serve as an important recruitment group and resource, where the university can feel
comfortable sending its members to different recruitment missions to other universities as we
have done in the past and have proved very successful. Based on the numbers obtained from The
Graduate School Office of Minority Affairs, the amount of Latino/Hispanic students have
increased from 14 students in 2002 to 30 students in 2004. We understand that this increase has
been a consequence of our organization helping in the recruitment efforts, and we would like to
see these numbers continue rising. In order to increase the pool of Hispanic/Latino students in
The Graduate School we need to also help locally by serving the community.
In addition, equally important to bringing students is keeping them and helping them to complete
successfully a graduate degree. Retention rates are necessary for the university, but are very
important to us, since we have created a sense of family within our group. G-SALSA is heavily
committed to organize activities that bring and bind our members into a big family.
We have successfully completed a year of bringing together all of our members through social
and academic activities. Cultural activities in Spain and Latin America vary from country to
country, and we have taken this differences and variations and have exposed them in different
social activities. These events have proven a very interesting given that everybody learns from
the different cultural aspects of the countries that are represented within the group. In addition,
involvement of the US-born Hispanic minorities with these events helps them relate to their
country of origin and roots.
Similarly, we have visited museums with ethnic exhibits from Latin America and brought
speakers to campus to discuss the issues of Latinos in the US. In addition, during the warm days
of the year we have planned picnic and games days, always very popular with all of members
and others who just want to be part of G-SALSA. We are very pleased to have The Graduate
School and University Residential Life fund the organization, because we know all of these
activities are essential to have a healthy graduate student life.
G-SALSA envisions a strengthening of recruitment efforts. It does not end at the graduate fair,
but at the time when a prospective student finally accepts to come to NU. It has to be a
combination of attractive options, and G-SALSA wants to help offering that. Along with the
enormous efforts of the Evanston Graduate Student Association, who deals with the interest of
the graduate students in general for better living and benefits, and the Black Graduate Student
Association, whose interests we share for minority students and professors increments, G-
SALSA wants take part to create a better living environment for all graduate students. We want
to be a primary resource for prospective students and we want to help them make the decision for
We want the best for our organization, and we hope that this year and the following years will be
similar or better than the one we have had. The satisfaction of welcoming and helping the newly
arrived Latino/Hispanic and Latin American International graduate students to NU, and helping
the members of the organization to maintain a happy spirit while the completion of the graduate
studies is very rewarding. Therefore, we will keep working towards the increase of the
underrepresented minority graduate students on campus, and will help on the retention rate by
making them feel at home and letting them know that G-SALSA as a community of graduate
students has been formed to help, serve and have a good time during the most interesting and fun
years of a student’s life.
Appendix 2 – Overview of Student Finances
Typical Graduate Student Budget* for households in which a fellowship or RA/TA stipend are the
Sources of variation (factors affecting
Median Minimum Maximum
Housing 600 437 875 (Married/Partners/Children), Location
(walking, perception of safety), Parking
Utilities 100 45 150
Travel 50 25 150
Research field or topic
Department, stage in program, library
Books 50 25 100
Health Insurance & Family, travel for research, dental,
100 88 400
Health Care vision, well care
CTA, car insurance, parking,
Transportation 75 40 200
maintenance, gas, taxi
After-tax stipend Department, tuition, taxes, method of
(unfounded students 1200 1100 1950 support, 9-month vs. 12-month stipend,
not represented here) international (different taxes)
* The budget information in this table was collected from GSA students who represent a wide variety of
departments and lifestyles, November 2001.
This budget does not include expenses such as:
• Clothes (including winter clothes)
• Child-care, diapers, or other child-related expenses
• Security deposit
• Emergency dental or vision care
• Computer or other research equipment
• Weddings, births or other major life events
• Debt service (i.e. interest payments)