Hassan Nasir is the current elected President of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) at the University of Waterloo (UW). From 2009 to 2010, he held the elected position of Vice President of Operations and Finance. In this position, he established a universal bus pass for all full time registered graduate students and spearheaded an extension of health services which will now include a family clinic and additional services. He has also been a Director at Large and Departmental Councillor for the GSA. Before Hassan’s involvement with the GSA, he was elected Vice President External for the (UW) Civil and Environmental Engineering Graduate Student Association.
As GSA president he is the “head representative of the graduate students within the university and outside the university”. Primarily, this role involves sitting on various committees such as the Board of Governors, Senate, GSA council, chairing the Long Range Planning Committee and co-chairing the Graduate Student Relations Committee with the Associate Provost of Graduate Studies. In these committees, he advocates on graduate student issues, votes and often simply listens to remain up-to-date on university issues. He also attends three meetings (the Policy and Strategy Meeting, Lobby Conference and Annual General Meeting) of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. Each meeting is a week long and occurs annually in different Canadian cities.
There are many issues that Hassan is involved in. An important issue that many universities, including UW, focus on is graduate student funding. The GSA helped establish a minimum funding guarantee for PhD students but there is currently no such guarantee for Master’s students. In addition, the higher cost of living and rise in tuition is a serious concern affecting all graduate students. This is compounded with the provincial government’s announcement in March that there will be a ban on salary increases for the 2010 to 2011 fiscal year which means there will be no increase in teaching assistant pay rates. There will be a small increase in the minimum funding guarantee for PhD students but Hassan knows that this is not a sufficient increase. Hassan also recognizes the diverse group of students attending UW, especially at the graduate level. For example, UW has a higher percentage of graduate students with families among the top 13 research intensive universities in Canada. Naturally, one of the main issues Hassan is interested in is providing adequate family housing and childcare for graduate students on graduate student salaries. Another concern Hassan foresees is limited resources as the graduate student population grows. In particular, UW is aiming to double their graduate student population from approximately 4000 to 8000 by 2017. Many issues such as office space, which all full-time UW graduate students are entitled to, and parking space will arise. In fact, limited office and parking space are already current issues Hassan is dealing with.
In addition to his role as GSA president, Hassan is also a full-time second-year PhD student in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Although the demands of the GSA can at times be hectic, there is downtime especially in the summer and he never feels his studies and research suffer. After years involved with the GSA, Hassan has “mastered balancing both roles”.
Hassan feels a great deal of satisfaction with his GSA involvement and sees the benefits of his hard work; so naturally, his words of wisdom to current and future graduate students is to become more “involved with working for the students, departments and community.” He also appreciates the “respectful and accommodating” environment at UW and encourages everyone to continue with this tradition.
Thank you to Hassan for taking the time to do this interview.