March 12, 2021
The Graduate and Professional Student Federation held its annual elections on March 2, electing third-year pharmacy student Neel Swamy as 2021-22 president – the first pharmacy student to hold the position.
The Graduate and Professional Student Federation (GPSF) is the governing body of graduate and professional students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The GPSF empowers its constituents to exercise their agency over University and personal affairs. Their mission is to provide graduate and professional students with the support and resources they need to succeed academically; advocate with and for students to ensure current educational, occupational, and social conditions are conducive to achieving their professional and personal goals; and represent their interests before the University, the Board of Trustees, other governing bodies of the University System, and Local, State, and Federal Governments.
“Having served in the GPSF Cabinet for two years under two different presidents, I am acutely aware of the impact that the president’s leadership and kindness can have on others within the GPSF team. Simply put, I want to give back to future generations of student leaders in the same way that past presidents have done for me, while also strengthening GPSF’s visibility in our graduate and professional student community,” Swamy, a dual-degree student in pharmacy and public health, said.
Swamy campaigned for president on four key values: Belonging, Excellence, Wellness and Agency.
“I hope to make a positive difference—even a small positive difference—in how graduate and professional students across campus perceive the Graduate and Professional Student Government. I believe that we have an abundance of talent within our graduate and professional student body, and I want to do my part to champion this talent towards advocating around issues that affect our students’ agency, belonging, wellness and excellence,” he said.
To effectively lean into the value of belonging, Swamy said GPSF must advocate around topics that directly affect the value, including interpersonal violence and harassment prevention, racial equity, student organization involvement and campus facilities engagement.
To further excellence, he aims to strengthen the organization’s relationship with institutional partners such as the Faculty Governance Council, the Student Fee Audit Committee, the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations, and the Graduate School to promote equitable compensation and benefits for graduate workers and accessibility to educational and learning resources. He said GPSF must also advocate to increase graduate student participation and representation in institutional policy conversations that directly affect students’ work and learning.
In regard to wellness, the president-elect said he aims to work with leaders at Carolina to prioritize student mental wellness and ensure all students have equitable access to COVID-19 prevention and treatment resources.
And regarding the value of agency, Swamy said he hopes to strengthen GPSF’s partnerships with Undergraduate Student Government, the Carolina Women’s Center, the Graduate Student Center and the LGBTQ Center; intentionally create positions in the GPSF Cabinet focused on urgent activism needs; increase graduate and professional student involvement in local, state and national student advocacy efforts; and develop a comprehensive off-campus housing guide for undergraduate, graduate and professional students.
“The School is incredibly proud of Neel and his passion for stepping into this integral leadership role. Over the years, our students have been quite impactful through regional and national leadership positions across professional pharmacy organizations. I believe that having Neel serve as GPSF President is yet another example of our students’ commitment to servant leadership and an opportunity to showcase to the rest of campus what our community already knows – our students are quite amazing,” said Brad Wingo, Assistant Dean of Students at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
Wingo added that there are more than 10,000 graduate and professional students that make up more than a third of UNC’s total enrollment, so Swamy will have the opportunity to apply leadership lessons gained at the School of Pharmacy when leading this segment of the student body.
“As a pharmacy student, I am continually in awe of the positive impact that pharmacists can have on the lives of their patients and communities. However, I am equally inspired by the notion that students can use their voice and passions to make a difference, even while pursuing their education… I hope students understand that becoming involved in campus will look different for everyone, but that this diversity of thought and experience should be celebrated!” Swamy said.
Swamy will be sworn into the presidency on April 20, 2021.
During this year’s election, graduate and professional students also voted favorably to change the GPSF’s name to the Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG), which will go into effect on April 7.
For more information about the organization, visit their website.