MCS GSAC Meeting Minutes
November 30, 2001

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November 30, 2001

In Attendance:
Ed Horsey (Biological Sciences)
Ayse Celil (Biological Sciences)
Pushan Chowdhury (Chemistry)
Kathryn Trapp (Mathematical Sciences)
Abraham Flaxman (Mathematical Sciences)
Abhijit Brahme (Physics)
Marc Fasnacht (Physics)
Gregg Franklin (incoming Associate Dean)
Rea Freeland (Chemistry)
Renee Starek (Career Center)
David Owen (MCS Dean's Office)
Katya Malkin (MCS Dean's Office)

2000 GSAC Minutes Archive

This year's minutes:

January 23, 2001

February 13, 2001

April 17, 2001

October 12, 2001

November 2, 2001

David introduced Gregg Franklin, who will take his place as Associate Dean for Faculty and Graduate Affairs in the spring 2002 semester. Dr. Franklin is a professor in the Physics Department. Also joining the meeting were Rea Freeland, Associate Head and Ombudsperson of the Chemistry Department, and Renee Starek, MCS Career Consultant.

The 1999 report to the Advisory Board Committee regarding GSAC's role in the college and a follow up report to Dean Susan Henry from the following year were distributed. GSAC is still concerned with many of the issues and components discussed in these reports, but now is a good time to consider whether there are new issues that should also be considered. For example, the condition of facilities in Mellon Institute has become a concern for students in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry.

Although Dean Rick McCullough was unable to attend this meeting, he will be invited to attend a meeting next semester.


The draft policy on ombudspersons that GSAC has been working on will be distributed for approval at the next College Council meeting, to be held on Thursday, December 7.

Rea Freeland, who acts as ombudsperson for the Chemistry Department, gave a brief overview of her role in that position. Since her primary role as Associate Head is oversight of the graduate program, she has been able to get to know many of the students personally through acting as an initial advisor and helping students to choose an advisor. Rea also assists with annual committee meetings to monitor students' progress toward degrees and acts as an ombudsperson when points of tension arise between advisors and students by helping students negotiate this process and find support when needed. Both preventive and intermediary duties are involved. Preventive action is the primary focus though, and is accomplished through availability to the students, confidentiality, and awareness of what is wanted/needed by both students and their advisors.

Suggestions were made for some changes to the draft policy based on Rea's account of her duties as ombudsperson. The preventive/supportive role of the ombudsperson should be emphasized more in the language of the policy. The ombudsperson should be presented more as a facilitator than as one who simply handles complaints. The policy should also indicate that this person should be proactive in seeing problems with students who might not otherwise come forward.

While each department will have the option of choosing an ombudsperson or not, and also of choosing who the ombudsperson should be, the following suggestions were made. The person should not be a faculty member with that would make it difficult to find the time to get to know many of the students personally and to take a proactive approach. Also, an ombudsperson should not be advising any graduate students.

David will revise and redistribute the draft policy on Monday, December 3. GSAC members should respond as soon as possible with any comments or suggestions for change.


Renee Starek gave a brief description of the services provided by the Career Center. A monthly newsletter is distributed to MCS students who request to be added to the d-list. Career counselors provide assistance with writing and refining resumes, improving interviewing skills, conducting mock interviews, and even videotaping mock interviews. While many employers conduct on campus interviews, they do not typically target PhD's. However, this is not an indicator that companies are not interested in PhD's, but rather a function of the small numbers of PhD's who are graduating and planning to go into industry each semester. Graduate students might also be interested in attending the Professional Development seminars organized by Nancy Klancher.

Renee felt that it was not necessary to focus a Career Panel/Discussion on local employers, as many companies are interested in targeting Carnegie Mellon even if they are not currently hiring. With regard to budget, some companies are also willing to pay their own travel expenses. GSAC felt that some recruiting during the event would be beneficial, but an information session provided by actual employees rather than HR representatives or recruiters is also important. Allowing both of these components would also maximize attendance. Companies who send a recruiter and a Carnegie Mellon alumnus could maximize their benefit from such an event as well.

The group also discussed the possibility of working with the University of Pittsburgh to plan such an event. Renee has a connection at Pitt and indicated that they are eager to partner with Carnegie Mellon. This would also mean a larger attendance at the event and would mean that Pitt's Career Center would help with the budget. In addition, career options/connections in biomedical research within UPMC could be presented.

For the next meeting, GSAC members should develop a preliminary list of non-academic career options that are of interest and also a list of specific companies. Companies that were suggested at this meeting are:
  • RAND
  • Lincoln Labs (MIT)
  • Bristol Meyers Squibb
  • IBM
  • National Labs - NIST, NIH
Members should also check with their departments to see where recent graduates have gone, so that we can contact alumni that might attend.

Regarding the timing of the event, next September was suggested so that it could coincide with the TOC and BOC, which many of these companies will already be attending. Since these events are usually held on Thursday and Friday, our event could be a Wednesday evening dinner and panel discussion. The Mellon Institute Conference and Social rooms would be an ideal location, particularly if the event is co-sponsored by Pitt.

Renee will distribute a list of the companies that attended last year's TOC/BOC.


David is still looking into the possibility of other "educational", non-travel, awards. Catering options were distributed. The subcommittee should meet to decide what food to order, a deadline for poster submission, and any changes to the flyers that were distributed last year. David volunteered to attend again this year since he has had the required training for hosting an event that involves alcohol.

As a reminder, the subcommittee for the Social Event is:
  • Biological Sciences, Ed Horsey
  • Chemistry, Pushan Chowdhury
  • Mathematical Sciences, Kate Trapp
  • Physics, Abhijit Brahme
The event will be held on Friday February 1 from 6:30 - 9:00 PM. Catering orders (for UC Catering) should be placed two weeks before the event (January 18). Most of the outside catering options do not give prices until you place a specific order. Please keep this in mind when planning.


Pushan checked into the possibility of a joint MCS Happy Hour and said that if each department contributed $200, GSAC could hold two happy hours per semester - one on campus and one in Mellon. There is also the possibility of asking GSA for funding. Several other departments around campus have held joint Happy Hours sponsored by GSA (see the winter edition of the Graduate Times). For more information about this option, contact GSA VP Sarah Pressman (


This was the last meeting of the Fall 2001 semester. Meetings for the spring semester will be announced when they have been scheduled. It's probably a good idea to have a meeting prior to the Social Event on February 1.