Get To Know a GAU Steward – Sandy Kim

s-kimPolitical Science Steward Sandy Kim responded to several questions the GAU Communications Committee asked about her experiences, education, and union activism.

GAU Communications Committee:  Where are you originally from?

Sandy Kim:  Chicagoland suburbs

GAU:  How long have you been at SIUC?

Kim:  I am starting the second year of my PhD.

GAU:  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Kim:  I came down to Carbondale two summers ago with my partner, who is a grad student in the Philosophy Department. Our furry family consists of our cat (Piper), our new puppy (River), and two gerbils (Merryweather and either Flora or Fauna).

GAU: Why are you pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science?

Kim:  Originally, I had planned on going to law school, but eventually came to the realization that I was far more attracted to the study of law, as opposed to legal practice itself. Although I’ve been politically active most of my life, it wasn’t until the last two years of undergrad that I became more interested in the study of politics and government.

GAU: What are your research interests?

Kim: My current research interests are centered around American politics and public law: religion and politics, particularly the intersection between religious interest groups and the public sphere; varying interpretations and conceptions of religious liberty; the LGBT social movement and group mobilization; and the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court.

GAU:  When do you plan on graduating, and what are your plans post-graduation?

Kim:  My partner and I both plan on being done in 2017-2018, at which time we will both pursue careers in academia.

GAU:  How long have you been involved with GAU?

Kim:  This is my first year actively involved with GAU.

GAU:  What do you currently like most about SIUC?

Kim:  Despite the usual grumblings about the University, I feel like it’s a good environment for graduate students to learn about teaching and research. I like my Department and am confident that it will prepare me well for a career as an academic.

GAU:  What do you like best about GAU?

Kim:  I like that there is a union that represents graduate assistants specifically since our interests and concerns can be quite different from the other shareholders at the University.

GAU:  Is there anything you would like to change about the union, and how might that change take place?

Kim:  I feel that GAU needs a huge boost in membership, which requires current members to reach out to colleagues and friends about the benefits of union membership. There have been some public image negatives of GAU in recent years, and I think that we will all need to work together to enhance the reputation and effectiveness of our organization.

GAU:  What motivated you to become a steward?

Kim:  It seemed important to ensure that our Department was active and represented in the GAU, and I wanted to help provide a familiar link between our graduate assistants and the union.

GAU:  How do you see your role as GAU steward for the Department of Political Science?

Kim:  I hope to serve as a liaison between our Department’s graduate assistants and the GAU. I hope my colleagues feel they can come to me in order to address any issues or concerns they may have, and we can work together with the GAU on resolution.

GAU:  What do consider the biggest issue – or biggest issues – for graduate assistants at present?

Kim:  Decreased funding for state universities in general.

GAU:  Do you view unions as important today for workers in the private and/or public sector? And how important are unions for graduate student workers in the contemporary university setting?

Kim:  For us graduate students planning on continuing in education, it is a good way to experience firsthand unions in action.

GAU:  What advice would you give new graduate students/assistants in your department?

Kim:  The first year was pretty rough…find some way to balance classes, work, and fun with family and / or friends, all while sleep-deprived. I’ve been told that it gets better.

GAU:  Is it important that GAs become involved with GAU in some capacity? Please explain.

Kim:  I’m a firm believer than an organization is as good as its members make it. GAU is what its members wish for it to be, so I believe it is extremely important for members, dues-paying or not, to be involved.

GAU:  What are your hopes for the union this year?

Kim:  I hope we can produce a significant increase in membership, particularly in preparation for contract negotiations and further financial difficulties for the University and the state.

GAU:  What are your hopes for graduate assistants and for graduate students generally at SIUC and beyond?

Kim:  Graduate assistants are a vital component of university education and as such, I hope that we are able to work together with faculty, staff, and administration to continuously improve the teaching and research environment.

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