By: Moira Johnson, Graduate Student Intern, UNC UCS
Today, we bring you Autumn McClellan, who is a graduate student in the Sociology Department at UNC. She was interviewed by Moira Johnson, a Graduate Student Intern for UNC UCS.
Autumn hails from a small town called Brown City, Michigan, where she grew up on her family’s farm. When she completes her PhD in Sociology in the Spring, Autumn is interested in pursuing a career involving teaching, advising, and mentoring students and working with other educational professionals. The interview below focuses on Autumn’s previous experience as the Treasurer of The Graduate and Professional Student Federation (GPSF) at UNC.
Johnson: Can you describe your position as Treasurer for GPSF?
McClellan: I was the GPSF Treasurer at UNC for 3 years. As Treasurer, I was part of a 6-member executive board representing all UNC-CH graduate and professional students. As a board member I not only helped to manage the group’s finances, but I was also able to play a major role in the decision-making process concerning many other aspects of student governance.
Johnson: What was the most meaningful part of the experience?
McClellan: I learned how much power students in leadership roles in campus organizations have to influence the decision-making that goes on among administrators on campus. For example, as part of my involvement in student government, I also served on the Student Fee Audit Committee. We had to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of proposed fee increases, and the administration took our recommendations very seriously when deciding whether or not to approve these increases.
Johnson: What have been some of your accomplishments in this position?
McClellan: As I mentioned before, I was the treasurer for GPSF, so I did have a huge amount of responsibility managing a $100,000+ budget for the group. However, I would have to say that I am proudest of my role in helping to establish a autonomous student government for graduate and professional students. The other board members of GPSF and I realized that under the old structure, we didn’t have the final say over how we governed our own constituents, or how our constituents’ student fee money was spent, so we wanted to change that. It took four years to increase awareness on campus, and to gain support for our campaign. However, all our hard work finally paid off in Spring 2017 when we held a vote amongst all UNC students to decide whether to separate the graduate student governance from the undergraduate governance structure. 80% of voters (including undergraduates) agreed that we needed two separate governments, and the division was approved for Fall 2017.
Johnson: In what ways did this experience help prepare you for your next steps after Carolina?
McClellan: Being involved in student government, I have had to learn strong time management. I’ve had to balance my role in GPSF with my responsibilities to my department such as teaching and research, in addition to making time for my own dissertation writing. I’ve learned how to create and manage budgets. I’ve also learned how to negotiate with different stakeholders, and how to hold a professional and amicable discussion with people who may disagree with GPSF funding decisions or policies.
Johnson: Do you have any advice for other Carolina students who might want an experience similar to this one before they graduate?
McClellan: In general, I would tell current students to seek out experiences beyond your basic degree requirements, and to get started with this process early on in your time at UNC. You may find that one activity or role doesn’t suit you, but eventually you will find an experience you are passionate about. Shop around and look for interesting leadership opportunities or experiences both on campus and off. The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle is such a diverse place that you are sure to find your niche. If you’re a graduate student who is even considering careers outside of the professoriate, then it is crucial that you have experiences outside of academic research and teaching so you can showcase a diverse skill set to employers.
If you’d like to learn more about how to get involved in campus government, visit:
UNC Student Government
For a full list of student organizations on campus, visit:
UNC Registered Student Organizations