Each Spring, the Bentley graduate community comes together to elect two dedicated and capable students to lead the GSA. The Graduate Student Association, affectionately referred to as the GSA, is an organization dedicated to unifying the Bentley graduate population in order to establish a valuable network, shape school policies, and nurture the personal and professional growth of each GSA member. Any student enrolled in a graduate level course at the university is automatically recognized as a member of the GSA.
I recently had the opportunity to interview running mates Shailja Dedakia, and Victor Velayos, two candidates in pursuit of earning the privilege to lead the GSA as President, and Sr. Vice President for the 2014-2015 Academic Year.
Presidential Candidate: Shailja Dedakia, ELMBA
Sr. Vice Presidential Candidate: Victor Velayos, MSMA
MR:Why did you decide to run for GSA elections?
Shailja: I really acknowledge the current leaders of GSA and I have learnt a lot from them. I realized the need for a Leader and a Changemaker and my ideas merged with Victor’s ideas motivated me to run for GSA.
Victor: I always like to challenge myself and to push me to new limits. And running for GSA fitted both requirements. Shailja commented me the option to partner and I just thought the answer for 30 minutes. It was easy to say yes to Shailja seeing the strong desire that she had to start building a better GSA.
MR:What experience or credentials do you have that qualify you to lead the GSA?
Shailja: I am currently on the executive board of GSA as VP of Communications for GSA. This position has given me a good insight on the role of GSA in the Bentley community and its overall functionality. In simple words, what can vs cant be done. She served as the VP of student sector for the world’s largest youth-run organization, AIESEC, in the year 2011. This position gave me the platform to explore my soft skills and find out how youth can drive the change and innovation in an organization. Along with this, I have always maintained my grades academically. Undergrad- Engineering- Distinction and MBA- 3.67
Victor: It is difficult to show credentials when we are less than 25 years old. GSA is big, really huge. However, I learnt leading skills when I coached a women soccer team for 4 years, making them won the regional championship. Also, I was president of the students association during my undergrad in Barcelona.
MR: What differentiates you from the other candidates in this election?
Shailja & Victor: Our campaign idea of #LeadwithUs. We are not postulating ourself as a leaders who will decide no matter what. We believe that two students can’t run alone the GSA, that is why we want to build a big team, opened to everyone and every suggestion. What students want GSA to be is the same as we want.
MR: Why did you chose the tagline LeadWithUs?
Victor: As I mentioned, we believe that we will need the leading skills of more students to improve a big organization as GSA is. We want to change things, we have great ideas and we know what should be improved. But new ideas are more than welcomed. That is why we did something never done before during an election in Bentley: to set up an event where people suggest us what kind of GSA they want. We posted the results of that event-survey in our facebook page and we will bring that results to GA’s office.
MR: What were you trying to communicate with your Introductory video?
Shailja & Victor: We wanted to be different and innovative. We were helped by friends and the results are not as satisfactory we wanted. We know that, we had technical problems. But I think the idea we wanted to convey is straightforward. Bentley University is a school where Bentley employees help,work with, and teach Bentley Students. We all are in the same boat. Same must happen with GSA; it has to be the GSA of every single student. We are proud of being a Falcon and to have 18 sister organizations. We wanted to show our passion.
MR: What are the factors on which you would base your decisions as leaders of the GSA?
Shailja & Victor: Our decisions will be based on the suggestions we receive from the students, in the best interest of the graduate community and on the consensus of GSA executive board.
MR:What are the outputs of the GSA that are most important to you?
Shailja & Victor: To bring diversity in all the events, Inter-collegiate competitions, on campus fun events, Creative graduate blog and Incentive active members for 18 Sister organization at Bentley. And what probably is the most important: meet the students needs.
MR:What are the biggest challenges currently facing GSA? How will you overcome them?
Shailja & Victor: Some of the major challenges we face are: the mode of communication used to promote events, changing the services offered by Sodexo and Shuttle services and the making optimum use of the resources available.
Our Action plan of action includes effective use of social media and marketing campaigns with incentives like the recently seen Hashtag campaigns by major brands, TV shows and universities. Collaborate events with Career Services, Graduate Administration, Bentley center for women and ethics and in house competitions on regular basis. Faculty will be more than happy to volunteer for such competitions as Judges. Using technology to brainstorm and create ideas for example online platforms like Stormboard. We believe participation can increase if we give recognition in return.
MR: What do you perceive as the biggest opportunities for GSA? How do you plan to realize these opportunities?
Shailja & Victor: Biggest opportunity will be to HOST inter college event on campus. We plan to do this by getting in touch with organizations like BGLO (Boston Graduate Leadership Organization) and right people and professors for interesting ideas and ways to implement it in collaboration with Graduate Administration office.
MR:What is your top priority for the stipend of the GSA funds? Where will most of the funding be spent?
Shailja & Victor: We have good funds available for graduate students. GSA is a student organization, for the students, to leverage what GSA has to offer. We plan to focus our Funding on Inter-college Events, on campus Fun events and professional panels organized by 18 different sister organizations at GSA. We want to add more and better service during the events, for example, free transportation. We plan to make an optimum use of the resources available at Bentley for example students, professors, administration and careers services.
MR: How will you build consensus and support within the Bentley Graduate community?
Shailja: Suggestion Boxes- is a good way to have anonymous tips and feedback from the students. If we know what the problems are, we can find solutions and ways to rectify them and eventually build consensus and support. We will have our IT team working on what is the best way to connect with students.
MR: How will you ensure that you are serving the best interest of the graduate students you represent?
Victor: Monthly evaluation survey forms. Students who give the feedback gets incentives. This can be done via social media campaign or if the administration agrees we can do it via emails. And also, we are on campus everyday. We are open to talk with people and to suggestions at anytime.
MR:What tactical plans will you implement to engage new or under represented members of the GSA?
Shailja: For new members- we start by arranging pick ups for incoming students or at least booking cabs (Like Uber, comparatively cheaper) in prior to save costs for them. During orientation, we can have can more interactive games and activities planned prior to break the ice for conversations to boom in. We know, for Part-Time students, that they are willing to plan activities during weekend and they would rather be able to invite their family or couple.
The election period begins on March 24 and extends to March 27. Students will be sent an online ballad via Bentley email through which they may select the candidates of their choice. The results will be announced on March 31st.
Good Luck to all candidates!