Education Echo Blog

University of Redlands School of Education

Joining the Graduate Student Association to Give Back

Hello, ¡Hola! 

My name is Michelle Rodriguez Castillo, and I am a first-generation Mexican American college student. I have lived in the Inland Empire my entire life and would like to contribute to making positive changes to the community. I earned a B.S. in Health Science, and I am currently finishing my master’s degree in School Counseling. I have been working in tobacco prevention for 8 years and would love to continue this work after I graduate. I am married, a mom of two beautiful girls, and have two schnauzer mix dogs. I love the outdoors and cooking delicious meals

As graduate students, we are attempting to balance school, work, and family. In addition, for many of us, that includes the attempt to find time for our partners and children. We are confronted with decisions between staying up late to finish assignments or getting a few more hours of sleep. Do I attend a family function or take more time on an assignment to ensure its perfection? We all face dilemmas and everyone’s experience in graduate school is unique. However, you are one of the main contributors to how that journey unfolds. That is why I would like to take you through a distinct element of my journey in graduate school by sharing my experience as a busy person that decided to apply for a cabinet member position within the Graduate Student Association (GSA).  

GSA, an organization led by students and in collaboration with faculty and staff, aims to advocate for the needs of graduate students.

The time spent with GSA is dependent on the position that is held within the organization. Cabinet members attend advisor and cabinet meetings biweekly, while program representatives attend cabinet meetings biweekly. However, cabinet members always work collaboratively to achieve desired outcomes and ensure everyone is supported through the process. Meeting days and times are set by GSA members to accommodate work and school schedules. Additionally, meetings can be conducted virtually or in person. Necessary tasks are assigned during meetings, and you can contribute to project efforts as your availability allows. For example, when planning Graduate Student and Professionals Appreciation Week, I contributed more time by planning out one of the activities for the week. However, for another project involving outreach, I contributed less time by creating social media posts.  

Keep in mind, every member of GSA is a graduate student and can relate to the struggles of balancing everything occurring in life. You learn a lot from people of diverse backgrounds and create an additional support system. Additionally, you have professional development opportunities to attend conferences and training. Consequently, it is a place to build relationships and yes, network. If you were involved in extracurriculars during your undergraduate degree, you would understand the importance of being active at your university. If you were like me and were not involved during your undergraduate studies, you should consider being involved. I felt like I had great ideas about better supporting students and wanted to contribute to the cause. I also met amazing people, built great relationships, made memories, and expanded my network. Overall, I have built great relationships with my peers. Remember, your ideas are valuable and can make a difference. Hopefully, this will encourage you to join GSA! 😊  

If interested in joining the Graduate Student Association or learning more, please email the Graduate Student Association at or visit the Graduate student association | University of Redlands.