Graduate Student Leader AJ Good Honored with Taylor Award
The Graduate Student Association (GSA) has recently been commended for its efforts to improve graduate student life as well as supporting the Harrisonburg community.
The GSA was established in 2010 and over the past year, its leadership has made great strides toward membership development, fundraising, graduate student professional development, and visibility on campus. A.J Good, Vice President of Communications, has played a particularly pivotal role in spearheading the growth and vibrancy of the GSA. This position has not only helped him apply principles he is learning in the Master of Public Administration program, but as the liaison between the Graduate School and the Graduate Student Association he has been able to build relationships with students in programs across campus, ultimately enriching the graduate student community at JMU.
On April 21, 2014, A.J received the Taylor Award at the JMU Dolley Awards Ceremony, recognizing his efforts as a student leader. The Taylor Award is a university distinction that recognizes one outstanding student for his or her contributions to a student organization. This is the first Dolly Award to be given to a leader of a student organization dedicated to graduate students at JMU. Dane Sosniecki nominated A.J and stated, “A.J serves as the backbone of the organization. Thanks to his dedicated involvement, the GSA has grown in its influence by leaps and bounds. A.J assumes a leadership role in cultivating and maintaining GSA connections by serving as the main point of contact for the entire graduate faculty and student body, program representatives, and prospective students.” Since this is the first time that a GSA member has been recognized for their involvement in the organization, A.J explains, “This award is not just a reflection of my contribution, but the overall support and involvement of GSA members.”
A.J’s involvement in the Graduate Student Association complements his current MPA studies he pursues a career path geared toward public service. A.J reflected on the significance the GSA and his service to the organization, “Public service is all about being a part of something that is meaningful and greater than one’s self. Higher education is one of those meaningful endeavors, one that goes beyond the classroom. The relationships you form with faculty and students across disciplines make your experience all the more worthwhile. The GSA can foster these relationships not just for individuals, but serve as a better model for our university.”
The GSA had various achievements over the course of this academic year. During the fall semester Dane Sosniecki, Vice President of Programming, initiated the restructuring of the GSA making it easier for graduate students to engage with the community and also hosting events for students to interact both professionally and socially. The GSA also held many successful community outreach events, such as Dukes Vote. The “Get the Vote Out Campaign” disseminated platform candidate information and showcased how graduate students understand the importance of political engagement and continuing to be active citizens within the community. In April graduate students formed a team for The Big Event as a community service initiative.
In addition to hosting events and participating in community service, the GSA has been instrumental in identifying and connecting graduate students with the resources on campus that they need. A.J explained, “The Graduate Student Association can serve as the vehicle to drive conversation and networking opportunities. We have focused on connecting graduate students with professional development opportunities on JMU’s campus.”
A.J’s role as VP of Communications has improved visibility as an organization through becoming more active on social media outlets. He has been and remains responsible for running the blog, Facebook page, Twitter, and JMU Graduate Student Association website.
A.J has a strong vision for next year. The goals he has for the GSA are greater involvement and representation of all graduate programs on campus, increase funding opportunities for graduate students, and increase awareness of the graduate student presence at JMU. A.J reflects, “The engaged learning model we have here at JMU is a student focused approach and it really is what makes the university, specifically Graduate education, so appealing. I have never been a part of a community that I’ve wanted to give back to this much and that is because of everyone I interact with on campus. There are challenges as a graduate student, but that is part of the opportunity to learn and grow. The GSA is in a great place and we hope to build upon it as we move forward.” A. J has one year left in his graduate MPA program, but is considering Ph. D programs at JMU to further his studies. His contributions to the GSA have had a huge impact on graduate student life and he has motivated his classmates to continue to improve graduate student culture at JMU.
Interested in following the Graduate Student Association on Social Media?
Kiara Mauro (’15)