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Board test drives travel grant program - The Pitt News

The Pitt News

Board test drives travel grant program

By Abbey Reighard / Senior Staff Writer

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After a false start, the wheels are now in motion for the Student Travel Grant program. 

The program is the brainchild of Student Government Board President, Mike Nites, and will create a fund for individual students conducting research to receive up to $250 to travel to conferences to present their work. At the beginning of each fiscal year, the Board will set aside $20,000 from the sum it allocates from the Student Activities Fund.  

Undergraduate, full-time and non-College of General Studies students contribute $160 in student activities fees to the fund annually. 

For this semester, the Board will only put aside $10,000, so Board members can evaluate the project. If the trial run goes well, Nites said, the Board will reserve the additional $10,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year. 

Nites pitched the program in February with an expected launch last semester. The launch took longer than expected, according to Nites, so the Board decided to move the trial run to this semester. 

Although Nites has previously said he wants to limit spending, specifically among club sports, he said the grant will allow students who aren’t involved in club sports or organizations to still take advantage of the Student Activities Fund. 

“For some students, [research] is their extracurricular activity,” Nites said. “We never really had a way for [individual] students to benefit from the fund.”

Nites said the amount given to each student will be determined by the amount of money spent by the student on travel, lodging and registration fees. 

To be eligible for the program, students must be presenting their research at a conference. The grant does not apply to students who are only attending, but not presenting, at research conferences. 

“We’re not evaluating their research,” Nites said. “If you meet the requirement, you’ll get the grant.”

Nites based the funding amounts on the travel grant program run by Georgia Tech’s Student Government Association that it introduced last fall. At Pitt, eight students have applied to the Student Travel Grant program so far this semester, according to Nites. Applications are available on the SGB website. 

SGB will award grants to individual students, whereas the Allocations Committee and the Board typically distribute Student Activities funds to student groups only. 

Also unlike supplemental funds that student groups request at weekly meetings, the Allocations Committee will not review travel grant requests nor will the Board vote on requests during public meetings. Instead, a committee of Student Government members will approve travel grants in private.

Nites selected SGB Manager and Board member Abby Zurschmit, Academic Affairs Chair Alyse Johnson, Allocations Chair Nasreen Harun and Board members Sara Klein and Nick Hufnagel to sit on the committee. 

The program only applies to undergraduate, non-College of General Studies students because graduate students and CGS students have their own separate activities funds. 

The Board will give tentative approval for the travel grants prior to the research conference and will then reimburse conference costs at a later date, so the Board can use receipts as evidence that the student attended the conference. Travel grants will not cover students’ food costs or overseas transportation, according to its Allocations Manual. 

Nites said SGB will publish the student recipients’ names on its website and announce them at public meetings. 

“It’s something that they can brag about, that they received a travel grant and that they were invited to present their research,” Nites said. 

In other action: 

Nites attended the ACC Student Body Presidents Conference at the University of Louisville and co-hosted by the University of Miami, which lasted Sunday and Monday. Nites said nine out of the 15 ACC Schools sent their student government presidents to the summit. Nites said the student leaders discussed their internal workings, talked about tuition increases and discussed sexual harassment on college campuses. 

Nites also invited students attending last night’s meeting to come watch the Board assemble a photo booth — purchased by the previous Board — Thursday at 3 p.m. in Nordy’s Place.

Board member Benjamin West said he worked on the Pitt events calendar this summer and projects it will be completed by the end of the semester. West ran on this project when he joined the Board in April. The calendar would list events hosted by students and non-students on campus and in Oakland. 

West said he’s also been working with Kannu Sahni and Dr. John Wilds from the University Community Relations Staff to organize housing information sessions. West said he, Sahni and Wilds haven’t established dates for the information sessions yet, but the sessions would happen sometime this semester.

West said the sessions would cover basic information that helps students seeking off-campus housing such as tenant rights, what to look for in a lease and how to pay utility bills. 

Allocations:

Student Dietetic Association requested $2,402.80 to attend the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Atlanta, Ga. The Board approved the request in full. 

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Board test drives travel grant program