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GSA officers for next year represent three nations

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 27 - April 10, 1997

In the coming year, Virginia Tech's Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) will be led by individuals representing a mix of disciplines and three nations, but sharing the goal of increasing participation in the organization, which serves the university's more than 5,000 graduate students state-wide.

Elected president was Chris Bunin of Martinsville, a master's student in geography and education. The vice president is Rajiv Khosla of Allahabad, India, a doctoral student in crop and soil environmental sciences (CSES). Elected secretary was Ningling Wang of Beijing, China, a doctoral student in chemical engineering; and the newly elected treasurer is Lee West of Severna Park, Md., a master's student in biology.

Bunin praised the work of the outgoing officers in increasing the visibility of the GSA on campus and off. The new officers will continue that work, he said.

He would also like to see the GSA delegates take a greater role in setting the organization's goals, and would like to learn more about the issues that concern graduate students--although, as the graduate-student representative to Virginia Tech's Board of Visitors, Bunin is aware of many of the issues affecting graduate students. A survey is planned. "I welcome input from anyone," he said.

Bunin plans to work to actively involve other graduate-student organizations, such as the Black Graduate Student Association and the Council of International Students, in joint projects with the GSA. "There are issues that could be addressed more effectively if we worked together," he said.

He would like to maintain the role the GSA has established in programs such as the Travel Fund and Graduate Research Development Program, which help students advance academically.

Bunin earned his undergraduate degree in history from Virginia Tech. His goal is to work in public school administration.

Khosla became involved with the GSA four years ago as a delegate from CSES. Since then, he has participated on the Travel Fund committee, chairing it for the past two funding cycles, and has served on the Commission on Research and the Library Committee. He is co-chair of the Research Symposium this year.

Khosla estimates that approximately 400 graduate students are directly involved with the GSA this year through activities similar to his. However, this number represents less than 10 percent of Virginia Tech's graduate students, he said. He would like to increase participation through representation in the departments and hopes to have an opportunity to speak to students during department orientations and the Graduate School's graduate-teaching-assistant workshops.

In addition to his service on the GSA, Khosla served on the Graduate Honor System. He has been a graduate research assistant in CSES since 1993, presenting his research at national and local conferences, earning the P. Howard Massey Food and Nutrition Scholar Award from the College of Human Resources, and the Best Paper Award in the Grain Sorghum Conference's 1997 graduate-student competition. He also has taught CSES undergraduate courses since 1994, earning a graduate-teaching-excellence award honorable mention in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

His undergraduate degree is in agricultural sciences from the University of Allahabad, and his master's degree in soil physics is from Virginia Tech. During his academic career, Khosla has earned a number of scholarships and awards and is a member of the Gamma Sigma Delta honor society. He is also a member of the American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America, and Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Kohl's academic work is in soil fertility and management. When he graduates, he would like to work in international research and development.

He was an assistant field agronomist with Indo-Gulf Fertilizers and Chemical Corp. Ltd., a technical officer trainee with Pest Control Ltd., and a freelance journalist, writing a column in the "Campus Beat" section for the Northern India Patrika intermittently for five years and as the anchor of "Spectrum" science programs on All India Radio for nine years.

Wang became involved with the GSA this year as a member-at-large of the Council of International Students (CISO). She sees the GSA working in cooperation with the university to improve the quality of life for graduate students. She agrees with Bunin that there are many opportunities through cooperation of the two organizations. "We need to work together to make the GSA well known and to increase participation--to let students know that they can use this organization to communicate and to become knowledgeable of issues and policies."

Wang said many international students have a strong desire to serve the university and to be involved, but have had a hard time making connections. The cooperation of the two organizations and student participation on the GSA will address these interests, she said.

She earned her undergraduate degree from Beijing University of Chemical Technology. She worked part-time in China for an intellectual-property firm and was a research assistant in the Chinese scientific academy for one year. Wang came to Virginia Tech after hearing of faculty member Kimberly Forsten's research using biotechnology to fight cancer.

Wang plans to apply to law school to learn patent law after she earns her Ph.D.

West served as representative on the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies and chaired the Graduate Research Development Project for the past year.

"I want to see programs such as the GRDP and the Travel Fund, that help graduate students, continue to thrive," he said. Another goal is to "solidify access to health-care insurance. I'm interested in being involved and hope to see how university policies are made and implemented."

West's undergraduate degree is in biology and environmental sciences from Ferrum College. He is a member of the Ecology Society of America and the Virginia Academy of Science.