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Meet the Students: GP President

There are around 350 members of the Graduate Parlour (GP), working towards MPhils, PhDs, fourth year qualifications, and so on.

Elected by the students to represent them, hear their concerns, and build a community in Pembroke is the Graduate Parlour Committee (GPC). Ben Jackson (2012), a PhD candidate in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMPT), is the recently-elected President, succeeding Sofia Ropek-Hewson.

The GPC introduce themselves to new

The GPC introduce themselves to new students, Oct. 2017

What made you want to be GP President?

I’ve been on the committee for a year and a half now. First I was then housing officer, and then for six months prior to becoming President I was the Vice-President, working with Sofia. I just very much enjoyed doing that sort of work, working with Sofia and with College officials, whether we were presenting concerns that graduates had, or organising events, or whatever it was. It didn’t feel like work, it felt fun.

What does the GP President do?

I chair our meetings, I create and compose the agenda for our meetings, and delegate the work we have to different members of the committee, whether it’s organising events, or welfare related issues, or anything really. I also act as ambassador to the graduate student body. I think a lot of the job, or success in doing the job, is delegating. There are eighteen of us, nineteen spaces – we have a fourth year representative role but we only fill that in October. It’s  a big committee but I think it’s a good number. There’s quite a lot of things to do but between all of us it allows GP work to be secondary to our PhDs, which is why we’re actually here!

What do you see the role of the GPC and the GP space to be?

The GP space is a social space that should be welcoming for everyone, hopefully! The GP has three rooms: the study room, the TV room, and a living room area. It’s a common area for graduates to relax, to eat, and to socialise. The primary role of the GPC  I think is to make the graduate community feel as welcome and as at home here as possible. And then there’s the side of things of representing graduate students’ opinions to both the College and the University. But I think more than anything the role of the committee is to bring graduates together and facilitate the meeting of graduates, and create a friendly atmosphere.

I get the impression, speaking to people from other Colleges, that socially we’re quite an active College. We get a lot of people coming to events or just into College, or meeting each other elsewhere. I like to think we do quite well. There’s definitely a camaraderie spirit. We’re all doing our own PhD work and that’s not easy. The GP is a nice kind of escape because you meet all these people doing different things and you can talk about anything you want to really!


Last year’s event team, Joana and Eric, running a quiz night for the GP

What are some of the successes from last year?

In the past year we’ve done a lot with events. Joana [last year’s events officer] is a force of nature in that respect. She was fantastic. One of the things we tried to do over the last year was to increase the variety of events, have more casual events and so on. I think we’ve done a very good job in making people feel at home. We’ve introduced two new roles now as well, we now have an external representation officer to represent Pembroke graduate views to CUSU and the GU, and we have a BME officer as well to represent people who self-identify as BME. Harum [the current BME officer] is doing a fantastic job.


Have you got big plans for this year?

At this stage all the attention is towards Freshers’ week and getting everything set up. The committee last year did a great job with Freshers’ week so we’re using that as a template. One of the things I would like to do is to do with clubs and societies. At the moment the undergraduates have a big framework in terms of clubs and societies, which graduates are always welcome to go to of course, but they are primarily undergraduate societies and clubs. One of the things we’d like to do is facilitate the meeting of graduate students for things like film nights, or for other hobbies or sports activities, just somehow facilitating graduates in engaging in those kinds of ways. I think part of the issue with the GP space, or with any space like this, is that it can be almost dominated by a few social groups, and it then becomes difficult for others to engage. Societies allow people to go somewhere with a specific purpose to do something, and make friends. What I’d like to do more than anything is to encourage more graduates to set up societies and clubs, in College or elsewhere.

What do you aim to do with fresher’s’ week?

Grads organise a welcome tea party for new Head Porter Gordon Murray

Grads organise a welcome tea party for new Head Porter Gordon Murray

Get people to meet each other! We have subject dinners, we have family nights. We get people into small groups with graduates who have been here a while. We have the matriculation events, the first BA dinner, and quieter events like a trip to Grantchester or film nights. More than anything the purpose of the Freshers’ week is to get people to feel at home. It’s not the first time they’re away from home but for a lot of them it’s the first time they’re coming to Cambridge, and starting out anywhere new can be intimidating.

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