The University of Minnesota’s Professional Student Government is adding two congressional seats this year to expand representation for professional programs.
PSG, the student-led government body that represents all professional programs on the University’s Twin Cities campus, passed a resolution last legislative session to expand its congress. One seat will represent students who are enrolled in two professional programs, and the other will represent 20 programs that were previously not represented.
The process to find the two representatives has not yet been determined.
“My goal is to create more of a structural change that would be a little bit more responsive to students … We’re hoping to give every student a voice,” said PSG President Alanna Pawlowski.
PSG oversees 10 councils, which each represent various professional programs. Two students from each council sit on PSG’s congress. Professional programs not represented by a council don't have direct representation. The new at-large seat will represent all professional programs without a council.
“I think it’s important for an organization, in general, to have a better understanding of differences and diversity in the programs that they are representing,” said Lizbeth Finestack, director of the University's speech-language-hearing sciences graduate program, which is not directly represented in PSG.
The speech-language-hearing sciences master’s program consists of around 60 students, and Finestack said some in the program don't realize they have a government representing them.
“I had no idea we had a governing council or anything,” said audiology graduate ambassador Alana Lerman. “I didn’t realize there was one specifically for professional students … I just feel like people in our program don’t know anything about [PSG].”
After the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly split into professional and graduate governances in 2015, the University’s Provost Office determined the status of the graduate programs.
Programs that were more researched-focused were categorized as graduate, while programs with students seeking professional or practice-based employment were deemed professional programs.
Since GAPSA’s split, the definition of what constitutes a graduate or professional program has slightly altered, Pawlowski said.
As more programs are classified as professional, students are finding that their programs are not represented by one of PSG’s 10 councils.
The master's program in Human Resources and Industrial Relations program was classified as professional this academic year.
Because the HRIR program is a new professional program, it has not felt underrepresented — although with time it might have, said Director of the Master’s Program in HRIR Stacey Doepner-Hove.
Having one seat represent 20 programs may not be adequate, so Doepner-Hove said she hopes PSG will continue to evaluate its programs’ needs.
“I think [PSG] is really heading in a good path and they’re looking at how to be sustainable,” she said. “In the long run it’s really the most important thing.”