Frequently Asked Questions


What is the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly? . . .

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA) is the official student government body for graduate and professional students at the University of Pennsylvania. The organization represents over 13,000 students across Penn’s twelve graduate schools:

  • Annenberg School for Communication
  • Graduate School of Education
  • School of Design
  • Law School
  • School of Arts and Sciences
  • School of Dental Medicine
  • School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • School of Medicine, The Perelman
  • School of Nursing
  • School of Social Policy & Practice
  • School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Wharton School

When was GAPSA founded? . . .

GAPSA’s history dates back to 1952 when its predecessor sister organization was founded. In 1979, GAPSA itself was formally constituted. In 2007, a restructuring occurred and GAPSA was recognized as the official representative body for all Penn graduate and professional students. Since its founding, GAPSA has striven to enhance student welfare, promote interdisciplinary scholarship, and unify the student body.

What empowers GAPSA? . . .

Along with the Undergraduate Assembly, GAPSA is one of only two student organizations officially sanctioned by the Statutes of the University of Pennsylvania, a core body of governing regulations ratified by the Board of Trustees. The internal affairs of GAPSA are set out in its Constitution.

What are GAPSA's main activities? . . .

GAPSA’s activities, outlined below, are conducted against the backdrop of striving to bring students of different disciplines together while facilitating an outflow of important information.

  • Funding: The organization is a premier funder of graduate student governments, student groups, student-led initiatives, travel grants, and research grants and stipends, including the prestigious GAPSA-Provost Interdisciplinary Award and President Guttmann Leadership Award. An increasingly popular avenue of funding occurs through the General Assembly Discretionary Fund, which invites students to present proposals to the General Assembly that demonstrate projects and events compatible with GAPSA’s mission. Please see our funding page for further information.
  • Events: GAPSA plans both large social events – attended by hundreds and sometimes thousands of students – as well as smaller cultural events attended by a few dozen students. Examples of large social events are the annual Halloween Party, Black-and-White Formal, Moshulu Party, Boat Cruise, and GradFest. Popular smaller events in the past have included kayaking trips, baseball games, apple-picking, theater outings, and subsidized restaurant events. Please see our Event page for further information.
  • Advocacy: GAPSA members engage in an ongoing dialogue with the leaders of the university and sit on Board of Trustee and University Council meetings, and also meet regularly with Penn’s President and Provost. The Executive Officers of GAPSA are well positioned within the university leadership architecture to advocate for student interests. Please see below for a more detailed description of GAPSA’s advocacy work.

How is GAPSA structured? . . .

GAPSA features a General Assembly with representatives from all 12 Penn graduate schools and representatives from affinity groups which advocate for disenfranchised groups on campus. These General Assembly representatives work along with an Executive Board of 14 officers. There are 70 General Assembly representatives apportioned in line with school enrollment data and affinity group representation. Each Penn school and affinity group has at least one representative. The General Assembly meets every other Wednesday for three hours (6-9 pm). The Executive Board meets on alternate Wednesday nights. As set out in its Constitution, GAPSA is led by the annually-elected President and Vice President, who work closely with the rest of the Executive Board and General Assembly, in running the affairs of the organization and serve as the primary representatives to all University personnel and administration.

Does GAPSA participate in the Ivy Summit? . . .

Yes, GAPSA is committed to participating in the Ivy Summit, which is an annual gathering of student government leaders. Each year, student leaders at the Ivy League – Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale – convene to share ideas and discuss methods for enhancing student welfare; a tradition that has also come to include participation from the student leadership at MIT. Each institution alternates hosting the summit. Penn hosted the summit in the fall of 2012.

How can I get involved? . . .

To learn more about how to get involved with GAPSA and the university, click here.

When are GAPSA meetings? . . .

GAPSA holds bi-weekly general assembly meetings - open to the public - on Wednesday evening. Check out our full schedule.