The original Graduate Student Advisory Committee (now known as the Graduate Student Association) at Western Michigan University was established on February 11, 1969, by nine graduate students selected from graduate programs in mathematics, sociology, education, science education, chemistry, librarianship and applied sciences. They were appointed by the Dean of the Graduate College. The purpose of that Committee was to serve as a source of information for graduate students regarding administration and, conversely, as a source of feedback to the Graduate College regarding policies affecting graduate students. From 1970 through 1972, the Committee functioned at the University level with support from several departmental graduate committees. Initially, the Committee operated well and fulfilled its mission. As members began to graduate, however, participation waned and eventually dwindled to just a single member. It became clear that the Committee was in need of structural reform.
In the 1972-73 academic year, an ad hoc committee was formed to examine the issue of graduate student representation at Western Michigan University. In April 1973, that committee recommended to the Graduate Studies Council the re-establishment of a Graduate Student Advisory Committee.
Formally, the Graduate Student Advisory Committee was a standing committee of the Graduate Studies Council appointed by the Dean of the Graduate College. In practice, the members were selected by the acting committee chair of that Council. The chair received recommendations from several graduate programs as well as departmental and college-wide graduate student organizations. The Vice-President for Student Affairs and the Associate Dean of the Graduate College also serve on the Committee.
The Graduate Studies Council charged the Graduate Student Advisory Committee with the following mandates:
- Periodically review services and needs of graduate students.
- Make recommendations to appropriate officials and offices.
- Recommend graduate students for appointments to University councils and committees.
- Serve as a liaison between departmental graduate student organizations, the Graduate Studies Council, and the Dean of the Graduate College.
The newly reappointed Committee sought to establish its own identity as a graduate student organization in addition to performing the above mandates. It helped improve services for graduate students in the areas of the library, placement, parking, providing relevant news and communications, and scheduling of graduate courses during the spring and summer sessions. Members were committed to continuing efforts to enhance the academic experience of the graduate student body at WMU.
In March 1974, the Associated Student Government, upon the Committee's request, adopted a bylaw to its constitution delegating to the Committee the responsibility for graduate student affairs and appointments to Faculty Councils and Administration committees. As a result, the Committee gained autonomy in representing and managing graduate student affairs.
The Graduate Student Advisory Committee of 1974-75 continually sought to improve services provided for graduate students. It recommended the administration re-examine the overall service needs of part-time and commuter students and develop specific objectives and criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of the University administration in respect to graduate education. It surveyed library services at WMU in comparison to other large research universities in Michigan, and recommended that the libraries assign lockers and carrels to graduate students actively engaged in research, as well as conduct regular library orientations to familiarize graduate students with library services and staff. It requested that the Western Herald cover more graduate student news. This generation of the Graduate Student Advisory Committee also sought more representation of graduate students on councils and committees.
The Graduate Student Association continues to play an active role in the Western Michigan University community. It offers services such as university orientations for incoming graduate students and professional development workshops for those on the verge of graduation, and serves to ensure that graduate education remains a strong focus at WMU.