Your Elected Officers
This is your sabbatical team that was voted in our summer elections in May 2020.
Our officers are elected to represent students to the University on a range of issues.
Click each officer profile below to find out more:
Pürnur Altay - GSA PresidentClick here for more info
Hi everyone! I’m Pürnur the GSA President. I came to the role in September 2019 and will be starting my second term in the office soon. Yay! I am Turkish and I came to the UK for my postgraduate studies. I have completed my MA in University of Leeds School of English and PhD in English and Related Literature here at York which was a rocky road. Having studied in two Russell Group Universities and experienced difficulties as an international student, I am in a position to compare and observe the good practices happening across the sector and create more awareness about the difficulties students face at the university. I attend quite a number of senior level committees of the University and speak on behalf of all postgrads. Please get in contact with me if you think that there
Clara García - Vice President Wellbeing & CommunityClick here for more info
Hi, my name is Clara! Some of the things you can notice about me is that I am from Spain, I am very clumsy at any activity that resembles sports, my mood improves with a good amount of food and sleep and that public speaking is not my thing. Fr, I am a feminist activist, a social worker, and now, the Vice President Wellbeing & Community at the GSA. As a social worker I specialised in gendered violence and migration population, which led me to develop campaigns against xenophobia and work on emergency services against violence against women. I have also a PGdiploma on conflict resolution in educational contexts, which taught me to focus on the richness of emotional intelligence, intergenerational relationships and assertive communication. I came to York to study my second year of the Erasmus Mundus Master GEMMA on Women and Gender Studies, and my research has focused on feminist methodologies and overcoming the gap between grassroots activism and academia. My nexts steps would hopefully lead me to a PhD -let me know any funding opportunities you may know haha.
As a student, I have had the opportunity to undertake my studies in four different universities (Spain, Brazil, Italy and the UK) and became engaged in university life by being a course rep, and joining different activist collectives and study groups. This experience gave me some insights on how university services and our approach to learning and teaching could improve, based on a holistic view of the students and our relationship with the institution, our lecturers and our peers, and that’s when I decided to stay working at the postgraduates students union.
During my studies, I have witnessed how my colleagues struggle to access services and support when having caring responsibilities, especially being international students. I have seen how difficult it is to study in academic contexts that do not recognise epistemological traditions outside the Western mindset. During the past years, I have also identified common issues when going to study abroad: the struggle to find a proper housing, the insecurities to meet new people and have a support network, the unrecognise challenges that you face when studying in other languages, trying to understand the new standards and assessments process in the new institutions, and how everything affects your mental health and self esteem as a researcher.
But I have also experienced how individual members of staff can make a huge difference in your path through academia, developing non-hierarchical relationships and creating a pedagogical space that takes into account personal relationships and emotional wellbeing. Sometimes a bit of guidance and kindness can change your whole experience -even with small things like discussing how to inscribe yourself at the doctor or where the closest nursery is-. I have taken part in student groups that have demonstrated to me that through collective organisation and critical and engaging discussions, we can create a better environment for everyone. And this last part is the roots of my politics.
When studying at UoY I became involved with the campaign ‘York Cut the Rent’ to try to avoid the cost and privatisation of university services, that led to a marketise sector and a business-like relationship with our education. In the past year, I have been challenging the university in order to improve their student services in relation to accommodation, mental health and financial support. Some of the campaigns that I have developed alongside students have been focused on addressing sexual harassment and misconduct at university, and how to decolonise our institution. I have focused on listening to students experiences though open forums and assemblies, coffees online, and by being more present on campus. If you want to read more about my first year as a sabb please read my end of the year blog. This year has been challenging for a number of reasons, but my main concerns have been to make university accountable, to improve official communications, and to make our postgraduate union activity approachable and transparent. For the next academic year, I will be focusing on targeted student support plans for students with disabilities, departmental and college support for students with care responsibilities, and the creation of a student support fund that is open and accessible for all students.
I still have a lot of doubts about this job, as I am still wondering how to best represent students, but I believe that an engaged student community and collective organisation where everyone is represented are essential to continue to fight for students rights and wellbeing. Let’s continue to do so!
Jane Baston - Vice President: AcademicClick here for more info
Hi! I’m Jane, the Vice President Academic. My role is to respond to the academic needs of students and to represent them to the University to make sure that you have the best academic experience possible.
When I was a student at York I studied Bioarchaeology, and I focused on methods of ancient DNA extraction. Before starting my Masters at York I completed my Undergraduate degree in Genetics at the University of Essex. I’ve been a course rep since my first year in University and continued to do so when I moved to York. During my Masters I saw how the GSA fought for the voices of postgraduates and continually worked to improve their experiences.
When I originally ran for my role in 2019 I wanted to continue raising postgraduate voices to the University. I planned to improve the Course Reps system, provide more study space and fight for GTA rights. The year didn’t exactly go to plan and I still had a huge list of things I wanted to fix so I ran for re-election and was incredibly lucky to have been re-elected.
For the next year my manifesto has focused on fixing the issues that create a huge number of problems for Postgraduates. Academic departments have a lot of freedom over how they run their courses and that’s great until it starts to impact the student experience. I want to work with departments to create a more consistent strategy for Masters supervision across the summer, career support and clearer guidelines for Research support.
One of my priorities for the past year was to work against casualisation of Graduate Teaching Assistants. When the GSA supported the UCU strikes and entered in negotiations with the University on staff contracts casualised Postgrads were prioritised. The University has committed to putting GTAs on to contracts for the next academic year and I’m determined to hold them to the promise. The GSA runs a GTA network that provides a community space for GTAs. It’s been relatively inactive over the past year but I’m hoping to build it into a space where GTAs can share experiences and support each other.
I’m a passionate advocate for widening participation and decolonising STEM and I’m looking forward to working on these two issues in the next year. I’m planning to focus not just on teaching but also on research, funding, and community culture. Clara (VP Wellbeing and Community) and I have been working on this, alongside the YUSU Sabbs for the past year. We don’t have universal definitions of widening participation at the postgraduate level but enabling everyone to go achieve a postgraduate degree (Masters or PhD) is an area that I’d like to work on over the next year. We need to make sure that we’re supporting students throughout their degrees as well, not just during the application process.
I’m also planning to work with the University on making their governance structures more accessible. In the office I’m known to start speaking in acronyms, and for being a fount of knowledge in how the committee structure works. It’s taken me months to gather this knowledge and I know that it’s incredibly difficult for students to understand how and where decisions about their academic experiences are being made. Providing simple, understanding outlines of the committee and governance structures of the University, along with regular updates from Sabbs that attend these meetings.
I’m generally known as the fount of all knowledge regarding the up-to-date developments of the Higher Education sector. I almost always have one eye on twitter throughout the day to keep up with recent developments, and I enjoy reading national publications about HE. I know that a lot of the issues the students face in York are also faced by students at other institutions and that to fix them we need to work across Students’ Unions. This year I’m planning to work with our network of Postgraduate Officers to raise the visibility of issues facing Postgraduate students and to campaign on issues such as funding and GTA support.
The things I’ve mentioned above aren’t the only things I’m going to be working on over the next year. I have a lot of on-going projects that I haven’t been able to complete because of the pandemic. I’m also up for taking on any projects that you’d like me to be working on. All of my contact details are below so please do get in touch if you want to work with me!