Darquita Loyd is proud to be among the first students who will graduate from Middle Georgia State University with a master's degree in Nursing. While she's pleased with the quality of the program, she wants to make it even better.
That's why Loyd agreed to serve on the University's first Graduate Student Advisory Council, which MGA launched this semester as a way for graduate students to advocate for each other and for the continued quality of the master's degree programs, as well as having a formal way to bring ideas and concerns to administrators.
"We need student feedback to make sure the programs are successful," said Loyd, an RN at Navicent Health in Macon. "I wanted to be a voice for my class and the students who enroll in the future."
Nine students serve on MGA's Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC), which held its first meeting on February 22. Council members were treated to a welcome luncheon with Dr. Kevin Cantwell, dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Loretta Clayton, associate dean of Graduate Studies, and Liz Douglas, Graduate Admissions specialist.
Cantwell spoke to members about the importance of graduate student governance and about how the Office of Graduate Studies will rely upon the GSAC for recommendations to improve the culture of graduate education at MGA. Both Cantwell and Clayton spoke to council members about their prior experiences working in graduate student policy associations when they were graduate students.
Clayton said she is thrilled to be advising and working with graduate students on the process of shared governance. "Membership in the GSAC is a prestigious opportunity for graduate students to advocate for themselves and their classmates while developing leadership skills," she said. "The members of our inaugural council have already made significant academic and professional achievements."
That includes the GSAC's first chair, Amanda Johnson, who got her bachelor's degree in Information Technology from Middle Georgia State and is now in the IT master's program (MSIT). She is a member of the President's Torch Society, which provides an opportunity for top scholars interested in leadership at Middle Georgia State to serve the University and the community.
Larry Hollingsworth (MSIT), the chair-elect, is a Marine Corps veteran who ran a construction business for 15 years before enrolling at Middle Georgia State. Caleb Gay (MSIT), MGA's first graduate teaching assistant, is digital engineer for Government Contractors Association, based in Atlanta. Charles Williams (MSIT) is a retired Air Force veteran who hopes to start a college teaching career at MGA.
Other council members in the Nursing master's program (MSN) include Lorin Butler, an RN at Navicent Health who is pursuing the degree so she can take on a healthcare administration role.
She joined the GSAC because "the idea you can help shape and influence a program is exciting."
For spring 2017, the council will research and recommend ways to enhance support services for graduate students, including developing an orientation program for new students.
The GSAC's complete roster is:
Amanda Johnson (MSIT) – Chair, GSAC
Larry Hollingsworth (MSIT) – Chair-Elect, GSAC
Darquita Loyd (MSN) – Recorder, GSAC
Lorin Butler (MSN)
Caleb Gay (MSIT)
Larry Hollingsworth (MSIT)
Kelly Jones (MSIT)
Milton Johnson (MSIT)
Terri LeDoux (MSN)
Charles Williams (MSIT)
MGA became a University in July 2015. About 75 students total are enrolled in the University's two master's programs in Nursing and Information Technology. Two more graduate degrees - in Management and Secondary Education Teaching - are awaiting approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and others are in various stages of development.
Photo: Members of the Graduate Student Advisory Council and the dean and associate dean of Graduate Studies.