I'm Jerome Clarke, Co-President of the CGE and a first-year Philosophy graduate assistant from Philadelphia. Like many first years, upon arriving to State College, I received a "Welcome to Penn State" folder which introduced me to the ongoing unionization campaign. I did some research, weighed the arguments, and got involved in the CGE as a result. I believe that we can advocate for ourselves as students and workers, and we deserve not only proper working conditions but also a transparent university so we can properly plan our lives.
I’m Harrison Cole, Co-President of the CGE and a PhD student in Geography. During my years in graduate school, I’ve heard countless stories from colleagues about the stresses of academia, from choosing between paying rent or attending a conference, to working in a lab without any heating or air conditioning. Contrary to the notion that these issues are personal struggles, you are not alone. Together, we can advocate for our wellbeing more effectively than any one person could on their own. A union is designed to empower its members. By fighting for a more democratic university, we can not only make our own lives easier, but also the lives of future graduate assistants.
I’m Emma Van Burns, fifth-year PhD candidate in chemistry, and Record Keeper for the Coalition of Graduate Employees. After graduating from a small, tight-knit undergraduate institution known for its collaborative atmosphere and strong sense of community, I came to Penn State expecting the same. Unfortunately, while serving as a teaching assistant and as a research assistant, I’ve seen too many graduate students slip through the cracks. I joined CGE in order to fight for a Penn State where we not only survive, but thrive; where all graduate students are willing to be there for each other, and every graduate student knows that they’re not alone and someone will be there for them; so that we can focus on working towards the advanced degrees we came here to earn.
I’m Katie Warczak, the Media Officer for CGE and a graduate assistant in the English Department. Since I’ve been at Penn State, I’ve served as both an instructor for English 15, a required undergraduate course, and as an RA for the Hemingway Letters Project. I got involved with CGE pretty much the second I got on campus because I saw the benefits of unionization in my home state of Wisconsin where I grew up in a family full of educators and because my undergraduate advisor explicitly told me I shouldn’t go to a grad school unless there already was a union or a union in the process of forming. She was right; in a position where we don’t always know what’s around the corner, a union can give us additional peace of mind because instead of hoping that we get a raise or our healthcare coverage continues at its current level, we can know what is going to happen when in regards to the workplace elements that affect us the most.
I’m Roman Jaramillo, Treasurer of CGE and a PhD candidate in Chemistry. Penn State graduate assistants are amongst the most innovative and driven scholars working on advancing research and society. I support CGE because I believe in a Penn State where graduate assistants can apply our ingenuity towards transforming our offices and laboratories. We know what it takes to be effective researchers. We know the obstacles that prevent us from reaching our full potential. Together we can ensure our livelihood and well-being. We can create a better world; it starts with creating a better workplace.
I’m Garrett DuCharme, Organizer for CGE and PhD candidate in Physics. Shortly after arriving at Penn State a year and a half ago, my neighbor, Brianne, got me involved with CGE. Graduate assistant unionization seemed like a natural idea to me after seeing how a teacher’s union that my mother is a part of helped her and her colleagues secure stable benefits and salary increases when they were taken away. We graduate assistants at Penn State deserve the workplace stability that a union can provide. The collective power that we gain will also allow us to advocate for a better Penn State.
I’m Brianne Pragg, one of CGE’s Organizers and a PhD candidate in Sociology and Demography. Over the three and a half years I’ve been at Penn State, I have worked as an RA, a graduate instructor, and a predoctoral trainee. In addition to volunteering with CGE, I am currently the vice president of Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) and have previously served on the Graduate Council. Graduate employees deserve a say in all aspects of our lives at Penn State: by advocating for our learning conditions through GPSA and Graduate Council, as well as with a seat at the table when it comes to our working conditions through our union.
I’m Mariam Taleb, a first-year Ph.D. student in Entomology and International Agriculture and Development, and an Organizer for the Coalition of Graduate Employees. I have seen what organizing could do at a school like this one through the lens of my public, research based undergraduate institution. The union gave graduate assistants a structure by which they could advocate for working conditions stable and healthy enough to allow them and their colleagues to focus on what mattered. The union by its nature and its stated goals gave a more diverse group of students access to education. The union protected good students with due process. I’m proud of my colleagues here at Penn State– their work, and their voices,– and proud to be a member of a university that is working to respect labor!