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UNC GPSG President-elect Theodore Nollert wants to build graduate student community

Theodore Nollert, a third-year PhD student in the English and Comparative Literature Department, has been elected president of the Graduate and Professional Student Government. He smiles for a portrait inside Graham Memorial Hall on Feb. 17, 2022.

Theodore Nollert, the incoming president of the UNC Graduate and Professional Student Government, hopes to improve life for graduate and professional students through mentorship, career preparation and GPSG reform. 

Nollert, a third-year doctoral student in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, defeated information science and law student Zachary Boyce, the UNC Board of Elections announced Wednesday

“There are certain kinds of problems we just can't solve in isolation from one another,” Nollert said. “My challenge is, how do I convince people that it's worth solving those problems and joining those communities to do so?” 

His platform focuses on building a foundation to tackle both long-standing systemic issues and smaller problems.

By engaging the community, Nollert also hopes to organize in a way that would build on long-term projects, like increased stipends for graduate students.

In addition, Nollert noted dignity and university governance as part of his platform for improving quality of life among graduate and professional students at UNC. But his immediate priority is filling seats on the executive branch and the cabinet. 

“I'm very invested in the idea that there are going to be a lot of people participating in a lot of different communities who are going to be closer to the ground on issues than I am,” he said. 

He previously served as president of the Comparative Literature and English Graduate Student organization and is the director of employment affairs under current GPSD President Neel Swamy. 

“I'm, first and foremost, extremely excited for Theodore,” Swamy said. “I was really impressed by his vision for building a coalition of graduate professional students who can come together from different disciplines to contribute to the solving of complex problems.” 

Nollert will begin the role in April. 

Brendan Chambers, a doctoral candidate in the same program as Nollert, is also excited for what Nollert will do as GPSG president. 

“One of the great things I really like about Theodore’s platform is that he's really interested in and invested in getting more grad students involved in his administration,” Chambers said. 

Nollert decided to run for GPSG president at the beginning of this semester after learning that no one else had planned run yet.

Soon after, he sent emails to members of the UNC community to gather information on what they wanted from student government and developing his own campaign platform. 

“I developed a platform by talking to people, finding out what they were interested in,” he said. “... Trying to find a way to build that sense of community is something that has emerged from this campaign process as a real priority."

As Nollert transitions into the role, he hopes his administration will benefit more people on campus and get them invested in student government. 

“I'm going to start doing the work," he said. "And then when we have enough people who are doing that, we make it better, not just for ourselves, but it's a legacy for other people. How do we generate interest in that legacy? That's my project. That's what I want to learn how to do.”


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