MCS GSAC Meeting Minutes
April 11, 2002

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April 11, 2002

In Attendance:
Ed Horsey (Biological Sciences)
Ayse Celil (Biological Sciences)
Justin Douglas (Chemistry)
Pushan Chowdhury (Chemistry)
Abie Flaxman (Mathematical Sciences)
Marc Fasnacht (Physics)

Renee Starek (Career Center)
Gregg Franklin (MCS Dean's Office)
Katya Malkin (MCS Dean's Office)

2000 GSAC Minutes Archive
2001 GSAC Minutes Archive

This year's minutes:

January 17, 2002

February 7, 2002

February 28, 2002

March 21, 2002

Renee Starek joined the meeting to discuss the status of next fall's career event. She has met with Steve Rakas, her counterpart at Pitt, to begin planning the event. They have come up with 36 employers for the invite list so far and hope to have 50 altogether. The event can accommodate 20 employers.

There will be a panel discussion in the MI auditorium from 2:30 - 4:00 and a networking session in the conference and social rooms from 4:00 - 6:00. The name of the event has been changed to "Life Outside the Ivory Tower: Grad Student Networking in Math and Science". The name change will accommodate the larger percentage of masters students from Pitt who will also be invited to attend.

There is some concern about paying for the event as Pitt initially planned to match the Career Center's $1000 contribution, but has since cut that in half. The main costs of the event will be catering and FMS fees to set up tables and sign stands. In May, Renee will meet with Francine Pugsley (MCS Dean's Office in Mellon) and Steve Rakas to prepare a proposal for FMS and get a cost estimate. The only additional cost will be gifts for employers, which will consist of t-shirts from Carnegie Mellon and Pitt. Employers will cover their own parking costs.

Pitt has a job fair planned for the same day, but this may actually benefit us since the job fair is earlier in the day and employers and students might be likely to stick around for our event.

Renee and Steve are in the process of locating PhD alumni from Carnegie Mellon and Pitt who are currently employed at the invited companies and can attend. They have requested that the panel consist of PhD's, but will allow some HR representatives to attend the networking session.

Renee requested that GSA form a subcommittee that would be available to meet with her over the summer to touch base on plans for the event. Meeting about once a month should be sufficient.

Invitations to employers will be sent to employers on June 1, and a July 1 response date requested. Renee and Steve will follow up and communicate with respondents in July and complete planning for the event in August.

Pitt expects about 50 - 70 students to attend (Renee is checking on the total number of students) and Carnegie Mellon about 50, so the crowd should be pretty evenly distributed. The auditorium holds about 300 people, so there should plenty of room there. The Social Room holds 53 people and the Conference Room holds 80. Assuming not all of the students will attend, this should be plenty of room. Invitations will be sent on letter that features a design used for a previous Pitt/Carnegie Mellon event. It will be an informal event and the invitations to students and employers will indicate this.


The MCS Happy Hour is set for this Friday, April 12! We are expecting 60 - 70 people. Justin and Pushan will buy beer and food. They plan to get:

12 cases of beer (about 4 will be wine cooler type stuff) ~ $400
beer requests included:  
Sierra Nevada
Beck's Dark
Smirnoff Ice
Hard Cider
25 pizzas + wings, chips, nachos, etc. ~ $400
They will also get plates, napkins, and soft drinks.

Ed and Justin volunteered to be at Mellon to set up and wait for pizza delivery. Pizzas will be delivered in shifts (some at 4:45, some at 6:00, some at 7:00). Pushan and Justin volunteered to stay until end and help clean up.

Gregg and the security guard will check ID's as people enter.


The group discussed each topic from last meeting after getting Rick's input:

Health Insurance
This, in combination with stipends, was the most important topic. Gregg reported that graduate student health insurance will be increasing this year, but they do not know by how much yet. Various private companies bid for the position of providing health insurance to graduates students and the company that had held this position has left. Unfortunately, the university does not have a lot of control aver the cost. The provost is aware of the importance of this issue.

The issue of allowing health insurance costs to be deducted from graduate student pay on a pre-tax basis was raised. Gregg will check with Sharon McCarl about this, but thinks that it may not be possible due to tax complications.

The issue of stipends is related to the health insurance issue since higher insurance costs can offset an higher stipend. Gregg reported that stipends will be increased next year. He did not know the exact percentage of increase, but said that there is a good chance that it will be more than the standard 3% cost-of-living increase.

Space for Offices/Lounges
Rick and Jim Greenberg are working on the office space issue and there is a space audit currently underway.

Regarding the possibility of a shared Chemistry/Biology lounge, the group felt that it might be possible to get money from GSA and/or from their departments to help fund the lounge. Getting a room will be the biggest problem. Chemistry currently has a lounge, but it is very small and probably not suitable for both departments to share.

Gregg suggested that the committee to handle this issue not include him, but include Sharon McCarl instead. It was also suggested that the departmental ombudspeople be included (Rea Freeland from Chemistry and Amit Srivastava from Biology).

The Chemistry representatives felt that it would be a good idea to involve Terry Collins, but that they should have a plan in place before seeking his support.

Regarding the possibility of a shared Math/Physics lounge, Marc will check with the Physics Department about the possibility of sharing the current physics lounge with math. He said that the lounge is not typically used a lot and that it shouldn't be problem to share it. It was suggested that math contribute something to the lounge if they are going to share it.

Mellon Institute Issues
The lack of food vendors was not a big concern for GSAC. They felt that vending machines were adequate and that previous food vendors were too expensive anyway. The group plans to ask students the Happy Hour what their opinion is on this issue. The idea of including a food vendor in a graduate student lounge was not well received, since this could lead to the lounge becoming a faculty and staff lunch area as well.

Maintenance issues should be a major issue for the MCS Advisory Board and it seems that Rick was well aware of the problems that exist and is taking steps to correct them.

Outside Work
The group felt that this was not an important issue since there were no specific cases of students who missed opportunities due to the current policy. They did, however, feel that permission to undertake outside work should be granted by a student's advisor and on a case by case basis, rather than by a departmental or college policy.