Brown-Cicero campaign aims to make UT more grad-friendly campus

Cassandra Jaramillo

Wills Brown and Francesca Cicero met while at Vanderbilt for an interview last year and reconnected months later as UT graduate students. Now the duo is running for Graduate Student Assembly president and vice president.

Brown and Cicero, both graduate students in the School of Education, said they are using their different backgrounds to bridge the gap they feel exists between graduate students and the University. 

“I don’t think a lot of graduate students know how to get involved in the GSA legislative process,” Brown said. “And we want to make it easier for them,” Cicero added.

Brown and Cicero said they want to make the University a more graduate student-friendly campus for the estimated 11,331 student body population through their four-pillared platform, which they’ve divided into four categories: students, campus, community and future.

Their comprehensive platform includes several goals, including raising awareness on graduate student mental health, increasing hourly wages for graduate assistants who have moved from salary to hourly wages, promoting collaboration with a graduate startup incubator space, adding agencies for women’s and LGBTQ issues and creating dialogue on campus carry ahead of the 2017 legislative session.

Brown, who attended UT as an undergraduate and served as Student Government vice president in 2013, oversaw the Student Services Budget Committee, implemented a 24-hour PCL program during midterms and advocated for Invest In Texas at the 83rd Legislature. Wills said his knowledge of the University and his connections to administrators will help him as president. 

“Serving as Student Government vice president is how I really got into student affairs,” Brown said. “I now want to have this as a career.”

Cicero said her personal and life experiences would shape her role as vice president. Cicero is a first-generation American and was the first in her family to attend college. The former trial attorney said her seven years of being in court has prepared her to argue and fight for graduate student concerns.

“I changed careers [from being a lawyer] and moved to higher education administration to help students in college,” Cicero said.  

Rachel Gandy said she’s known Brown since ninth grade when they met at J.J. Pearce High School. Now, Gandy is a graduate student in the LBJ School of Public Affairs. 

Gandy said she felt Brown and Cicero would make the best candidates because their platform goals, like adding incubator space, will effectively benefit graduate students.

“Undergrad is a good time to find your passion,” Gandy said. “Grad school is when you go after it. I think the space would be so helpful for students.”

Gandy said the issues the candidates raised throughout their campaign have earned her vote. 

“They form a really great partnership because Wills brings great experience as a former student at UT and then you have Francesca, who worked as a lawyer and knows how to argue to get things done well,” Gandy said. “I think they will ensure to represent all students.”