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Message from 2014 GSC President, Michelle Cowin-Mensah

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, November 20, 2014

 Dear ASTR GSC Membership:

Welcome to the 2014 annual conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Our GSC Cabinet and Committees have an exciting palate of events over the next three days. While I will share this update at the Business Luncheon on Saturday, here are some general announcements and updates since my last report in July 2014 for those unable to join us: 

ASTR Executive Committee and GSC Cabinet Updates

The structure and overall health of the Graduate Student Caucus is excellent. This is thanks to the excellent leadership from past GSC presidents and cabinets including Kellyn Johnson (2013) and David Calder (2012). Despite the strength of our structure, we did see a decrease in membership (236 in 2014) since Dallas 2013 (252). However, there was an increase in conference registration from 2014 to 2013 (190 in 2014 and 180 in 2013). I am confident that the health of the GSC is sound, but could be improved by some additional visibility from the whole of ASTR on behalf of the GSC. 

This year my goal as President was to help improve the visibility of our group. Sara Boland-Taylor (2014 Rep. to the New Paradigms in Graduate Education) and the GSC Cabinet proposed some recruitment initiatives focused on soliciting Theatre and Theatre-related graduate program. We drafted a recruitment letter addressed to graduate program advisors to introduce the goals and interests of our caucus as a reminder of GSC activities and events.

Over the summer, Allan Davis (2014 VP, Rep to the Committee on Conferences) and Rita Kompelmakher (University of Minn.) organized a virtual book club featuring Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius’ So What Are You Going To Do With That?: Finding Careers Outside Academia. The book club attracted many graduate students and scholars. Allan and Rita will lead a Career Session on a discussion of the book, as well as offer resources to faculty mentors and graduate students on how to navigate the changing job market. This session will be held on Friday 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. 

The ASTR Executive Committee is considering ways to improve the guidelines for working group paper submissions. There has been an increase in double and triple paper submissions across multiple working groups. Please note, ASTR traditionally does not allow same paper submissions to multiple sessions. The general rule is one paper to one working group. 

Committee on Conferences Host City Schedule is as follows: 2015 Portland, 2016 Minneapolis, and 2018 Atlanta. 

Graduate Fellowship Program:
The Graduate Fellowship Program continues to be a valuable financial resource to graduate students looking to offset conference registration fees. For more information on how you can apply for 2015 ASTR Graduate Fellowship, please contact the ASTR Administration Office at   

ASTR GSC Committee Updates

Conference Assistance Committee:
Co-Chairs, Areum Jeong (UCLA) and Ira Murfin (Northwestern) 

This committee oversaw the 2014 Baltimore Conference Assistance Packet. This document which will be distributed in Baltimore (hardcopy form and online) features host city information, arts and entertainment, local restaurants, and information for new and current members on navigating the conference. This year, we decided to add photos of the co-chairs and current GSC Cabinet Reps. We hope these will serve as a point of reference for new and returning ASTR members. Please do seek us out as points of reference while in Baltimore. 

Mentorship Committee: 
Co-Chairs: Shamell Bell (UCSD) and Christiana Molldrem Harkulich (Pitts) 

Formally, Peer Mentorship, this committee is organizing the ASTR Mentorship Breakfast, and two social networking events to take place in Baltimore. Currently, we have a total of 90 participants (42 mentors and 48 mentees). Last year we had 46 mentors and 54 mentees for a total of 100. While this is a slight decrease from last year’s mentorship breakfast, we are confident that interest in the breakfast, these numbers may reflect the slight loss in general membership in 2014. 

Web Resources Committee:
Chair: Danielle Rosevally (Tufts) 

The Web Resources Committee has created a digital pamphlet with GSC information and events. Click here to view. We are thrilled with our social media presences. In April 2014, we had 254 members of our Facebook Group. We now have 283 members, 114 Twitter Followers, and Facebook community page has attracted 83 Likes. If you are attending the Baltimore conference either in-person or via webinar, we encourage you to help us increase our online presence by tweeting @astrgsc and #astr2014. Please be respectful when posting photos from the conference on social media. It is generally recommended that you if you intend on posting photos on social media that you obtain consent with the person(s) who are visible and/or recognizable in the photograph. Also please be respectful in terms of language and subject matter when referring to your fellow ASTR members. Respect carries across all forms of communication.  


GSC Election:
The GSC closed elections for 2014-2015. The current cabinet is working closely with the new representatives to ensure a smooth transition. 2015 reps will assume their positions after the business meeting in Baltimore on Saturday, November 22, 2014. Click here to view the 2015 GSC Cabinet bios or visit President-Elect, Kellen Hoxworth will select chairs and co-chairs for 2015 available committees. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved! Please contact Kellen at if you are interested in chairing/co-chairing Web Resources, Mentorship, or Conference Assistance Committees. 

Outside Academia: 
The committee on New Paradigms in Graduate Education has released a five-volume set of interviews on theatre artists and scholars who have careers outside of the academy. The interviews were conducted and written by graduate students. Our GSC Rep, to the Committee on New Paradigms in Graduate Education, Sara Boland-Taylor, is the editor. There will be a limited number of hardcopies available at the conference. To read these interviews, please visit us on Facebook at 

In Closing

It has been a pleasure serving as your 2014 GSC President. I am thankful for your support of graduate student interests. We could not serve the graduate student population or the ASTR community without the guidance of President Heather Nathans, the members of the Executive Committee, Nancy Erikson (ASTR Administrator), and Shaun Sewell Franklin (Communications Manager). I would like to extend a special thank you to Nancy Erickson and Shaun Sewell Franklin for their continued assistance and dedication to the GSC. As announced earlier this year, Nancy Erickson will step down as ASTR Administrator as of December 31, 2014. Shaun Sewell will also step down effective June 1, 2015. Ewald Consulting will assume ASTR administrator and communication duties as of January 1, 2015. Nancy and Shaun have been pivotal to the success of the GSC and I am grateful for their guidance and support. 

Additionally, no presidency is a success without the support of her/his cabinet. Thank you to the 2014 GSC Cabinet and Committee Chairs: 

Allan Davis, Vice-President and Representative to the Committee on Conferences
Kellen Hoxworth, Vice-President and Representative to the Annual Conference Committee  
Amanda Boyle, Secretary/Historian
Sara Boland Taylor, Representative to the ASTR Committee on New Paradigms in Graduate Education
Areum Jeong and Ira Murfin, Conference Assistance Program Committee
Shamell Bell and Christiana Molldrem Harkulich, Mentorship Program Committee
Danielle Rosevally, Web Resources Committee
If you are interested in chairing or serving a GSC Committee, please contact President-Elect Kellen Hoxworth at So until we meet again in Portland 2015, take care and thank you! 

Graduate Student Caucus President and Graduate Student Representative to the Executive Committee
Doctoral Candidate, Bowling Green State University

Tags:  2014  ASTR Baltimore  ASTRGSC  Michelle Cowin-Mensah 

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[Reminder - Deadline Extended] Call for Volunteers: GSC Conference Assistance Committee for ASTR 2014 in Baltimore

Posted By Ira S. Murfin, Northwestern University, Monday, February 10, 2014

ASTR’s Graduate Student Caucus (GSC), the body representing current and recent graduate students within ASTR, is still looking for graduate students interested in volunteering for the 2014 ASTR Conference Assistance Committee. The conference assistance committee is in charge of putting together a comprehensive information packet to help both graduate students and conference attendees in general navigate the conference and the host city - this year Baltimore! We are in need of additional volunteers and have extended the response deadline until February 21st. Please see below for details:

We seek volunteers to form four subcommittees that will each be tasked with independently gathering and organizing useful information to be compiled into an informational packet in advance of the conference. These are:

  • Arts & Entertainment: Provide a guide to performances, music, museums, nightlife, sightseeing, and other cultural activities, as well as general information about walkable neighborhoods accessible to the conference hotel. May need to coordinate with the Food & Drink and Transportation subcommittees.

  • Food & Drink: Provide a guide to a variety of options for food, coffee, & drinking both convenient to the hotel and worthwhile destinations for those who wish to travel farther afield. May need to coordinate with Arts & Entertainment and Transportation subcommittees, especially to identify dining options near performance venues and other cultural attractions.

  • Transportation: Guide to transportation in Baltimore, including driving directions, information on getting to the conference hotel from transportation hubs by taxi, public transit, etc., and information about getting around Baltimore by public transit, on foot, and by alternative methods (bike sharing, etc.) May need to coordinate with the Arts & Entertainment and Food & Drink subcommittees.

  • Conference Navigation: A guide to conference basics, including introducing the different types of sessions at ASTR and how to participate, and highlighting some events and aspects of the conference that may be of particular interest, especially to those newer to ASTR. May need to coordinate with the GSC representatives to the ASTR Executive Committee and a representative from the GSC Web Committee, which has already published some of this information on the GSC blog. It would be useful to have the voice of someone in this group who has attended ASTR before.

Each of these groups will work independently, in consultation with one another and the committee co-chairs, to research and compile a useful set of information for the guide. Some will require more research, writing, and coordination, others are more straightforward. So long as subcommittees work together no individual should have to do an overwhelming amount of work. Once formed, the subcommittees will have 4-5 months to prepare their material before final submission to the committee co-chairs, so there should be plenty of time.

Volunteering for the Conference Assistance Committee is a great way to get involved with the GSC and meet other graduate students in the field. It is also a good professional service credit to add to your CV. You do not have to have attended an ASTR conference before to volunteer, though those who have done so are encouraged to contribute the wisdom of experience, it is nice to have a mix of newer and more experienced perspectives. If you are familiar with Baltimore at all, that is also a plus, though not at all a requirement.

If you are interested in volunteering, please send your contact information and your first and second choices of subcommittees you would like to work on, to committee co-chair Ira S. Murfin at by February 21st.  We will respond with assignments and further instructions soon thereafter.

With thanks,

Areum Jeong & Ira S. Murfin

Conference Assistance Committee Co-Chairs

Tags:  2014  ASTR  Baltimore  conference  Graduate Student Assistance  graduate students  GSC 

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