At Washington State University, the Graduate and Professional Student Science Policy Initiative (GPSSPI) is a nonpartisan, graduate student-led advocacy group that connects WSU students to the community and local policymakers and helps students be informed on policies that affect science and their communities. NSPN caught up with Halle Weimar (GPSSPI Vice President) and Julianna Brutman (GPSSPI President) about some of their recent actions and projects.
Who are we?
Founded in 2018, the Graduate and Professional Student Science Policy Initiative (GPSSPI) is a student organization at Washington State University (WSU), located in Pullman, WA. We are a proud affiliate organization of the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) since 2019. We are also a member chapter of the National Science Policy Network.
The purpose of GPSSPI is to engage graduate and professional students in the policy making process. This encompasses three primary goals:
1.) Networking: Catalyzing collaboration between graduate and professional student science advocates and policy makers.
2.) Education: Providing resources and information to graduate students regarding science policy issues, science policy careers, and science advocacy opportunities.
3.) Advocacy: Advancing science policy issues at the local, state and federal level.
What are some projects you’re working on now? Recent Successes?
Over the past 2-3 years, we hosted several events focusing on public health and environmental issues. For instance, in 2018, we hosted a community-based event called “Branching Out” which brought together undergraduate students, graduate students, and community members to discuss how our local community can contribute to fighting climate change. Some of the topics discussed included recycling and supporting bee populations. That same year, we also hosted a congressional candidate forum on Public Health as well as a “Know Your District” event for graduate students to meet with their elected officials. At this event, Representative Mary Dye (R) and Senator Mark Schoesler (R) from Washington's 9th Legislative District discussed the intersection between scientific evidence and policy making, covering topics such as climate change, land-use, and university funding. Rep. Mary Dye and Sen. Mark Schoesler also fielded questions from WSU students and faculty in attendance.
In 2019, our members organized a public event on opioid addiction in the Northwest in collaboration with the WSU Foley Institute. This event included a vibrant discussion on the current opioid epidemic and probable upcoming methamphetamine crisis with a focus on Whitman and Spokane Counties. Our GPSSPI members also had the opportunity to participate in an exclusive Q & A session with the speakers, Dr. John Roll of the WSU, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, and Dr. Bob Lutz of the Spokane Regional Health District after the main public seminar. That year, our members also conducted local STEM outreach to teach elementary school-aged children about using critical thinking skills to tell science fact from science fiction.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, GPSSPI has shifted our usual in-person events to online live streams to continue to engage in our organization’s science policy goals. Thus far, we have hosted two “Science Policy Skills Hour” events, which have been open to the public and live streamed/archived on YouTube Live for all to view. At our first Science Policy Skills Hour, “Advocating for Science in Our Community”, Dr. Douglas Call and Laura Lockard, M.S., discussed how to write an effective letter to the editor and how to combat COVID-19 misinformation in our communities, respectively. Our second event focused on wildfires in the West. We invited two experts in the field of wildfire sciences to discuss the policy - past and present - that have led massive wildfires to be a yearly issue in the Western United States.
How did the challenges of 2020 impact your work? What do you hope to do moving forward?
Zoom fatigue has taken a toll on our membership and events this past year. As such, we are very excited to resume hybrid or fully in-person meetings and events within the coming year. Going forward, we will continue to host Science Policy Skills Hours, participate in STEM education events, and connect graduate and professional students to local legislators. Our member’s science policy interests play a large role in driving our yearly events- so we are excited to see what ideas they will bring to the table for the next academic year!
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To learn more about the GPSSPI, follow them on Twitter: @gpsspi or visit their website www.gpsspi.org.