As a UNC undergraduate, Shelby Dawkins-Law flunked her freshman year. But now, the Ph.D. candidate is running uncontested for president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation.
Dawkins-Law said her experience failing freshman year is one of the reasons she decided to run for GPSF president, which represents 37 percent of the student population.
“I had great support from people to help get me back to where I needed to be,” she said. “On the graduate side of things, it’s the least I could do to help people who may have been in my situation but also just help people in general.”
Julie Lauffenburger, GPSF’s vice president of internal affairs, said in an email that the Executive Board serves in an advisory capacity to candidates, and there are certain traits that the board looks for, including previous experience.
“In terms of qualities, being outgoing, flexible, motivated and being easy-going are great attributes to have,” she said.
UNC has been Dawkins-Law’s home for her undergraduate and masters degrees, and now for her doctoral degree at the School of Education. The time she’s spent at UNC has given her institutional knowledge, which would help her in this position, she said.
“I am deeply passionate about Carolina,” Dawkins-Law said. “I’ve been here for a long time because I love it here.”
Dawkins-Law has held positions on Honor Court, served as a senator to the GPSF and currently works on the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor.
UNC academic advisor Kelsey Axe has known Dawkins-Law since they were suitemates freshman year and said throughout that time Dawkins-Law has always been involved on campus.
“I can’t list the thousand projects she’s involved in and gives 110 percent,” Axe said.
Dawkins-Law said a major part of her platform is centered on the current minimum graduate stipend — which is $15,200. There is a considerable gap between the minimum stipend and the living wage in Chapel Hill, she said.
Some of the issue is out of UNC’s control, but Dawkins-Law said there are things GPSF can do to improve the situation.
Some of her ideas include reimbursing students for healthcare or providing grants for expenses such as textbook costs, she said.
Axe said when she moved back to Chapel Hill, many of her friends had moved away. When Axe was lonely or had a hard day, she said she could always count on Dawkins-Law to get dinner, even when she was juggling multiple projects.
“She’s always there for me,” Axe said. “I think that’s huge — to dedicate that much time and effort to everything.”
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