With a semester of reorganization behind them, the nine members of Student Government Board are revamping their previous goals to increase education and accessibility for Pitt students this semester.
From lecture series to expanded online resources to improved dorm access, the Board hopes this spring will welcome both new initiatives and new additions to past projects. Here are five SGB projects to look out for this semester as the current board finishes its third semester together.
1. Updated website to increase SGB transparency
SGB President Nasreen Harun plans to update the SGB website with a current list of SGB’s completed and ongoing projects or collaborations with students in order to increase SGB’s visibility on campus.
“One of the things I wanted to make sure happened with SGB as a whole is increase our visibility and make sure we’re seen as approachable and tie in with students,” Harun said. “We want to make sure people feel comfortable bringing initiatives to us, and I think people have seen progress with their initiatives they brought to us.”
2. Faster guest sign-in process for dorms
Executive vice president Everett Green spent last semester working with Panther Central to shorten the time it takes to sign a guest into a residence hall. His guest pass proposal, which he presented weekly updates on throughout the fall, suggests that the University use Blackboard, an education management system, to register students.
According to Green, Panther Central is still investigating the costs of implementing such a system. SGB is working on acquiring data from residence halls, such as how often people swipe in and where, which will help SGB when it speaks to administration on the initiative.
Green said he sent his proposal to Ian Snyder, Resident Student Association’s president, who will present it to the RSA board soon.
“We’re hoping they will vote in favor of our proposal and be partnered with us on the initiative,” Green said.
3. Increased mental health awareness
Following a semester of mental health awareness initiatives, including Pitt’s first Mental Health Awareness Week in Oct. 2015 and SGB’s partnership with the “Talk About It” campaign — an initiative to open discussion about mental health issues — Board members Matthew Sykes and Meghan Murphy plan to continue increasing mental health awareness on campus.
“We had a lot of students we didn’t even think we reached come up to us or their RAs and say this is is awesome that Pitt is doing this,” Sykes said. “I think we had a far-reaching impact, which is what we really wanted.”
This semester, Sykes said he wants to build on the success of the mental health art gallery and host a second gallery and conference in the Frick Fine Arts Building from Feb. 11, to March 4, and bring in speakers from Pittsburgh for future mental health programs.
Murphy hopes to solidify a four-year Pitt partnership with the Jed and Clinton Health Matters Campus Program, which helps colleges and universities improve emotional well-being on campus and negate the stigma of mental illness.
“The program looks at campus mental health through a holistic approach and encourages Pitt to look closely at our current mental health services to compare them with standards set by the program,” Murphy said.
4. New conferences and lecture opportunities
Using Pitt professors and outside experts, three board members will host conferences and lectures to discuss topics from human rights to research.
On March 26, SGB will host Pitt’s second annual TEDx Talk, a TED Talk-style presentation that is not related to the TED brand, featuring guest speakers. Board member Jacky Chen, who collaborated with the Graduate and Professional Student Government Board to organize the program, said the event is still in the planning stages and he is still searching for people to invite.
Last year’s TEDx event, which was organized by graduate students, featured local business leaders and Peter Salk, son of polio-vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk.
Robert Tessier, SGB’s newest member, also plans to host a human rights conference this spring.
Tessier is reaching out to different human rights organizations to arrange guest speakers and promote a campus-wide conversation about human rights and what types of jobs are available to students interested in human rights. As Tessier is still in the process of planning the event, he would not say which organizations he has contacted.
“The goal is to help students learn more about the issues that different human rights activists work on, and it’s meant to help them learn about the careers and ways they can get involved in human rights,” Tessier said.
Board member Lia Petrose also has plans to help first-years and other interested students learn about future career prospects with a lecture series focusing on different fields in the arts and sciences. The series is meant to educate students about potential careers based on their majors and minors. Petrose and the SGB first-year interns, Pranav Murthy and Rebecca Rohac, are collaborating to organize the lecture series, which she hopes will start this semester.
“It will be an ongoing lecture series where professors come to talk about their research to help students understand what the field they have chosen is about and garner interest in what they are looking to study,” Petrose said.
Petrose said she has not submitted a formal proposal yet for the programs because the schools would need to introduce a financial agreement first.
“The proposal would be submitted to the Dietrich council, but before we do that, we need solid financial agreement for the certificate,” Petrose said. “I see it as the biggest challenge we face, and I hope it can be overcome soon.”