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Graduate council doesn’t act on travel grants

BY ARIANA WITT | APRIL 28, 2010 7:30 AM

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Graduate students are at a standstill on a move that would remove restrictions from travel grants.

The University of Iowa Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students was unable to reach a unanimous decision at its meeting Tuesday regarding the council’s plans to expand an existing grant program that provides money for graduate students looking to travel abroad.

The Executive Council’s Professional and Development Grants at present allocate funds to students to attend workshops, conferences, or symposiums nationally and internationally.

Farah Towfic, an Executive Council member and the head of the grant committee, said she would like to see grant recipients also include students looking for international learning experiences.

The proposed measure would allow students not attending formal events overseas to receive grant funding to travel abroad.

“There are some things students have the opportunity to learn in other countries that they can’t get in the States,” Towfic said.

The UI Graduate Student Senate plans to review the grant proposal at its meeting on May 4 before the Executive Council conducts a final vote via e-mail on May 7.

The UI Study Abroad Office reported that almost 400 graduate students traveled outside the United States during the 2008-09 academic year. In addition, individual colleges, such as the UI College of Law, offer students international opportunities.

Many of the Executive Council’s members admitted the current proposal was not perfect but were willing to vote in favor on the motion.

However, Kristina Rogers, the president of the Graduate Student Senate, said she felt uncomfortable voting “yes” without more input from graduate students.

Rogers’ vote was the only factor keeping the motion from being passed Tuesday night.

“The comments I have from students in the Graduate College aren’t positive,” Rogers said. “So I don’t feel like I can vote yes at this time.”

The importance of gaining international experience is something some UI officials said should not be overlooked by graduate and professional students.

“It’s hard to think of an area of law that doesn’t have international implications,” said Marcella David, an associate dean for the College of Law’s International and Comparative Law Program.

David said the college offers two programs to law students; its summer program in France sees upwards of 40 participants. But she said the college doesn’t have access to many grants for students, and funding for the programs is based on student financial need.

Towfic said the Executive Council grant won’t rely on student financial need but will instead be based on the quality of the application.

The Executive Council voted in favor of allocating an additional $2,500 to fund those grants in anticipation of next week’s approval.

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