Kelsey Wren stands before a group of student senators arranged in a horseshoe shape, providing updates about graduate programs to the Northern Iowa Student Government.What differentiates her from other students in the room is that she is not an elected undergraduate student government representative, but a graduate student. Wren, a social work master’s candidate specializing in trauma informed care, has taken on the position of the Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) Director of Graduate Life. This position is a new graduate assistantship funded by the Graduate College.

NISG consists of undergraduate students, so the graduate student perspective was absent until Wren started the position. Wren’s input ranges from suggesting events be held at night because many graduate students work during the day to making sure campus events are advertised to graduate students. She also promotes the “Let’s Talk” peer mental health support, which is conducted by a graduate student. 

Not only is Wren active in NISG, she is also a member of the Graduate College Office and is tasked with spearheading projects that impact the entire graduate community. For instance, she plans on reviving the Grad Student Connect club in the near future. The club functions as “a vehicle for further student engagement and professional development activities down the road,” said Jason Cox, graduate admissions coordinator and Wren’s supervisor. The club’s goal is to equip students with the skills to succeed once they reach the workforce. 

Another part of Wren’s job involves reaching out to different graduate assistants in various programs and asking them about their position. Wren will be highlighting the importance of graduate assistantships and graduate work by sending messages across campus to encourage new and prospective students to apply for graduate assistantships. 

Wren is eager to give more campus tours to prospective graduate students. Giving tours was something she did as a volunteer while an undergraduate at Grand View University, so she is comfortable with it. She says she especially likes giving tours at UNI because the campus is large and she gets to meet people from various states and countries. “I like talking with them about their background and why they are drawn to UNI.”

Wren’s experience leading the orientation group at Grand View University as an undergraduate taught her the importance of connecting with other people to collectively build a project. “It takes a village for one thing to work at any university.” 

The most challenging aspect of Wren’s position is being the first person to fill the role, leaving her without a model for how to navigate her position. However, the newness of the position leaves room for creativity and she is shaping the position. “Something being unknown to me has been maybe a little bit more challenging, but I like a challenge.”

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Whitman Cler