In a recent message, Graduate Dean Andrew J. Szeri paid tribute to a vital group of people who work on behalf of graduate students in colleges, schools, and departments all across the campus. A very important person to each student, he said, is “the Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) for your program.” He continued,
The duties of a GSAO are summarized on the Graduate Division website in this way: ‘GSAOs are departmental staff members who are responsible for the administrative advising of graduate students. For example, GSAOs remind students about registration and fellowship deadlines, stay abreast of requirements from the Graduate Division and University, and manage requisite administrative paperwork on behalf of the department and its graduate students.’ But this may well be the understatement of the millennium!
In my years of working on graduate education, I have found no more dedicated, thoughtful and dependable group. GSAOs are there to help you navigate the systems and rules that we all must live by. They often are very proactive on your behalf, arranging for financial support, or advising on milestones and deadlines. GSAOs know the campus inside and out: where to obtain counseling, how to apply for an emergency loan, who is your Faculty Adviser for GSI Affairs, who is your Graduate Assembly delegate, and so on.
I have examined recent survey data from thousands of graduate students. It shows a high level of student satisfaction with GSAOs, across programs large and small. So, do me a personal favor. Next time you interact with your GSAO, tell him or her how much all of that dependable help has meant to you over the years, or how much you appreciate the excellent start they are helping to provide to you. Your GSAO is an important key to your success as a graduate student at Berkeley.