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Harvard Graduate Council Elects Extension School Student as President for First Time

The Harvard Graduate Council, pictured at an October meeting at the Harvard Divinity School, is a student government body representing the University's 12 graduate and professional schools.
The Harvard Graduate Council, pictured at an October meeting at the Harvard Divinity School, is a student government body representing the University's 12 graduate and professional schools. By Claire Yuan
By Andrew Park, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Graduate Council on Monday elected Harvard Extension School student Brett A. Monson as president, marking the first time the Council’s leader will hail from the University’s continuing education division, according to HGC records.

The HGC is a student government body that represents the University’s 12 graduate and professional schools. Monson will work alongside Idongesit Sampson from the Harvard School of Public Health, who was elected vice president.

Monson ran against four other candidates — Harvard Divinity School student Keisha L. Bush, graduate student Janan Iranbomy, HES student Mir Jahanzeb “M.J.” Mehdi, and Harvard Medical School student Arya S. Rao — and won by a simple majority of the 11 schools present. Representatives from the Medical School were absent from the meeting and did not vote in the election.

“My curiosity helps me connect with different cohorts of students,” Monson wrote in an email. “It is rewarding to see conversations during HGC meetings about law, medicine, technology innovation all happening within our group.”

The only vice president candidate who did not also run for president, Sampson wrote that she will continue to promote the idea of a “‘One Harvard’ community.”

According to outgoing president Carlos A. Gonzalez Sierra, the size of the executive board of the Council decreased from 14 to seven seats this year. The council is instead delegating tasks to additional committees formed by school representatives.

“Every executive position, with the exception of the president, will lead in a committee starting next year,” he said.

Mehdi, the previous finance chair, failed to win a majority vote, leaving the position vacant until another election round in the fall.

Harvard Business School student Yilun “Bill” Ding was elected as the new programming chair against HDS student Maria M. Dueñas Lopez.

The election of candidates all from different schools was a “huge step” in the direction of increased involvement across all the graduate schools, according to Monson.

“This year, huge strides have been made for in-person experiences to be restored post COVID-19, and we are looking at ways to heighten engagement even more,” Monson wrote.

According to Gonzalez Sierra, Monson and Sampson’s “different personalities and skillsets” provide opportunities for future collaboration.

“They always show up for HGC and for students, and I can always count on them to volunteer and lead a new initiative for the Council,” he said. “And that’s one of the qualities that I appreciated the most from them.”

Sampson wrote that shared goals and working experience will allow for stronger collaboration on projects.

“Brett and I have had the opportunity to represent our respective schools and work together at HGC over the past year,” Sampson wrote. “With our similar interests, mutual respect, and shared vision for the University and the HGC, I believe we will make a great team.”

According to Monson, the Council must tear down the walls between the largely independent graduate schools to allow for more collaboration.

“Sometimes our greatest strength can also be our strongest weakness,” Monson wrote. “We have a lot of incredible individualized schools and programs at Harvard, and HGC has the challenge of breaking down silos to foster inter-school networking between them all.”

—Staff writer Andrew Park can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewParkNews.

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