Meet the 22-23 GSA President
Five questions with Marcela Radtke '18
The Graduate Studies community is pleased to welcome Marcela Radtke '18 as the 2022-23 president of the Graduate Student Association–the student leadership organization that represents the graduate student community to university leadership. Radtke is a Ph.D. candidate in nutritional biology who also received her bachelor’s degree from UC Davis. We had a chance to sit down with Radtke and ask her a few questions about herself and her plans for the 2022-23 academic year.
Q: So, what brought you to UC Davis?
A: To be honest, UC Davis wasn’t my top choice initially only because I’m a beach person; but, when I visited the school and met the people and the community, I fell in love with Davis. Throughout my undergraduate work, I was fortunate to gain some amazing research experience, including bench research, animal research, and community-based research. Through that I came to appreciate the rich, diverse, and collaborative research network that exists here. So that’s a big reason why I’ve stayed. I think there’s a unique culture here at UC Davis where everyone wants to collaborate and is willing to help each other out.
Q: Where does your interest in nutritional biology come from?
A: I actually changed my major toward the end of my sophomore year to science nutrition because of a medical diagnosis I received. I had a tumor in my stomach that was obstructing my body from digesting and absorbing nutrients. So, because of that, I had to learn a lot about gastrointestinal health and nutrition. Fortunately the tumor was benign and the doctors were able to remove it; but it did spark my interest in pursuing the interface between medicine and nutrition. Then, through my work at the Graduate Student Pantry, I became very interested in the effects of food insecurity on college students, so my dissertation research is now focused on that.
Q: Why did you decide to run for GSA President?
A: I’ve held a few different leadership roles in GSA as a graduate student, including being director of the Graduate Student Pantry, and through that, I learned I really enjoyed being in a position where I can advocate for graduate students and help address issues that affect them. Concurrently, I’ve developed a passion for working with students with intellectual disabilities. I helped develop the UC Davis Redwood SEED Scholars program, which is the first fully inclusive program for students with intellectual disabilities west of Colorado. As GSA president, I’m really looking to listen, and be a voice to help advocate for others, especially those who for one reason or another don’t feel like they can advocate for themselves.
Q: What are your top three priorities for this year?
A: First, one of the things I’m most excited about is the new executive board position we created called the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This person is going to be focused on including and expanding DEI policies for the graduate student community.
Second, I’m very interested in increasing our basic needs efforts to make sure people have access to healthy foods and affordable housing. With inflation rising and Davis being an expensive place to live, it’s a big financial burden for graduate students. Also, food insecurity and the effect it has on college students is not only my research focus, it’s also an important issue at colleges across the country, including here at UC Davis. With over 40% of students experiencing food insecurity at some point in their college careers, resources are crucial to reduce this prevalence; however, research also shows that people don’t access help because they assume someone else needs it more or they are embarrassed to ask for help. I want to make sure we share the resources in a way where everyone feels open to access help.
The third is, I want to make sure the graduate student community has long-term access to mental health resources through our insurance. Right now the system is only set up for short-term mental health services. Based on anecdotal experience, many grad students had to serve as ad hoc therapists to undergraduate students during the pandemic, in addition to being instructors. It was emotionally heavy and a lot to manage. So, based on that experience and what graduate students went through during that time, I think it’s important that we provide better options for long-term mental health support for the graduate student community.
Q: What message would you like to share with the UC Davis graduate student community?
A: I’d actually like to relay a piece of advice a mentor told me when I started grad school that really resonated with me, which is: “Life happens in five years.” What I mean by that is that, for a lot of people, graduate degrees take anywhere from two to ten years to finish and during those same years life happens: we lose loved ones, we go through traumas, we have really great moments, and we experience hardships. Life doesn’t pause because you are getting a graduate degree. So it’s important to take care of yourself and those around you. If you are not feeding that aspect of your life, of seeking work-life-balance, then you won’t be as strong and the quality of your work will reflect that as well. So embrace the good and not so good moments, and focus on living this major chapter of your life. Don’t be afraid to lean on your cohort group and other graduate students in different departments. Find the community who will likely have an impact on your life beyond your five plus years here.
Lastly, I want to let people know that I welcome all questions, comments, and feedback. We really can’t help solve a problem unless we know what those problems are. So I’d like to encourage people to email me - ask questions and urge answers. I want to be that person who can provide clarity on issues and relay those issues to the university. I want to be that liaison between the university and the graduate student community.
Marcela can be reached at email@example.com.