WMU News

Dirks leads national graduate student organization

Dec. 17, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- A doctoral student studying medieval history at Western Michigan University has been elected to the presidency of one of the nation's largest graduate student advocacy organizations.

Doris Dirks was chosen as the new president of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students at that organization's national conference held in Tucson, Ariz., in November. Dirks was nominated and elected by delegates attending the conference.

Three other WMU graduate students also were elected to positions on the NAGPS executive board. Marcel Brouwers was elected as the organization's secretary, while Toby Johnson will head the employment concerns committee. In addition, Jessica Baby will serve as the campus coordinator when the NAGPS' Midwest regional conference is held at WMU in March.

NAGPS is an advocacy organization representing 900,000 graduate and professional students at 200 campuses in the United States. The organization, which has headquarters and staff located in Washington, D.C., works to promote the interests and welfare of graduate and professional degree-seeking students in public and private universities and local, state and national agencies.

At a time when graduate students across the nation are unionizing to receive better treatment and benefits, Dirks says the work is cut out for NAGPS.

"We really need to make sure graduate and professional students' rights are protected," she says. "It's important that graduate and professional students have a national organization that has a presence in Washington advocating on their behalf."

Dirks' term as president runs until next November. During that time she hopes to help NAGPS become more inclusive of professional students and establish coalitions with other graduate student groups, such as the National Black Graduate Students' Association.

Dirks says the presidential role is "a step up" from what she already does as the chairperson of WMU's Graduate Student Advisory Committee, a position she's held for three terms. Her GSAC role led to her participation in NAGPS and, last year, she was that organization's coordinator for its international student concerns committee.

"Student advocacy, which I've done for a number of years as a graduate and undergraduate student, is something I am truly passionate about it," she says.

Dirks, a native of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is the daughter of Hildegard Dirks. She attended Mount Royal College and transferred to the University of Calgary, where she received bachelor's and master's degrees in 1994 and 1996, respectively. She is currently working on a doctoral dissertation on the late medieval Spanish Inquisition.

Brouwers, a WMU doctoral student in English and creative writing, is the son of Hans Brouwers of Mt. Prospect, Ill., and Amara Brouwers of Chipita Park, Colo. He holds two bachelor's degrees from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a master's of fine arts degree from WMU.

Baby, a native of Mentor, Ohio, is the daughter of Robert and Julia Grace. Currently working on a master's degree in medieval history at WMU, Baby received a bachelor's degree from Miami University in Ohio.

Dirks says having several fellow WMU students as members of NAGPS board will help the organization's efforts.

"GSAC has always been a strong supporter of NAGPS and, as president of the organization, I wanted people to work with who are passionate about graduate student advocacy and who would contribute," Dirks says. "It worked out that those people happen to be WMU students. It says great things about graduate students at WMU."

Media contact: Marie Lee, 269 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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