Pandemic pushes graduate student back into student government service

June 1, 2021

Nick Messenger received his BS in economics from The Ohio State University in 2013. As an undergraduate, he took an active role in student government and served as president. After graduation, he taught in public education for a few years before deciding to return to Ohio State to pursue his PhD in regional and urban economics. His plan was to put all his energy into educational policy research and into studying the intersection of education, economics, and geography.

Then the pandemic hit. Teaching and learning moved into the virtual space. Labs closed. Research was halted. Students entering graduate programs couldn’t meet their advisors or their cohorts in person. They couldn’t travel to conferences or enter the job market. A conversation with the then president of The Ohio State University’s Council of Graduate Students (CGS) left him feeling validated and activated.

“They told me my experience working in student government would greatly benefit the council’s work with university president Kristina Johnson and other leadership to work through pandemic-related issues unique to graduate students,” said Messenger. 

He agreed to serve on select committees that met with leadership to proactively develop a plan to reactive campus in a way that took into account graduate students’ physical, emotional, and logistical needs. He wanted to continue to advocate for graduate students, so he decided in March of 2021 to run for president and was elected to lead CGS. His first objective is to ensure that as graduate students come back to campus in the fall, there are resources and support around mental health. 

Messenger and his team are also working with university leadership to develop centralized, virtual orientation modules to go live in Carmen In August so staff, faculty, and students all have access to important information in order to navigate dining halls, mental health resources, student health care, and HR issues. 

As president, Messenger is also working with leadership to submit a new graduate enrollment plan that centers on diversity and improving equity in the graduate student experience.

“We would like to not only increase our diversity across the student body and recruit the best and brightest and the most diverse class of students,” said Messenger. “But also develop cultural competency across the board so we create a culture on campus that supports that diversity.”

Through monthly meetings with President Johnson, Messenger, and his team provide a pulse on what programs and supports are needed to ensure graduate student success. He says Johnson is a big supporter of graduate students and change. 

“She has her PhD and has been through the gauntlet of professional academia,” said Messenger. “I think we have an ally in this president who is supportive of these big changes.”