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Students seek a sense of belonging

Students Seek a Sense of Belonging
Edward Ng has learned to give every student a voice.

When Edward Ng took over as chair of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate’s LGBT committee in fall 2010, he did so by process of elimination.

“My predecessor stepped down midway through the year, so I was happy to step in and take over,” Ng said. ” Looking back, it was a very good decision for me.”

In the two and a half years since stepping up, Ng has left his mark through educational programming, student advocacy, social events and outreach to graduate student organizations on campus.

“There’s a big difference between undergraduate and graduate students,” Ng said. “Undergraduate students come to campus and are looking to explore the world. Graduate students are still exploring the world, but they tend to be confined to their own departments or schools. [Self-segregation is] the biggest difficulty we’ve found as a committee. We want to tear down those walls and create new connections.”

Whether it’s been a trip to the beach, a screening about transgender students in Peru or a trek to a local museum, Ng said his biggest goal has been creating a place where everyone feels comfortable learning about themselves and each other.

“I am a strong believer that everyone needs a home or a place they belong,” he said. “Sometimes we come to this strange place, and we don’t know how we fit in. I’ve stayed on in this role because I am passionate about spreading this message of belonging to graduate students who might not feel that way when they first come to campus.”

As the undergraduate student government’s university affairs chair at Rutgers University, Ng learned to give every student a voice.

“The best way to figure out what graduate students want is to go out on campus and listen,” said Ng, who has worked with the Rainbow Alliance Social Caucus and Educators for Queer Alliance. “The demand has been there all along to put on these events, but in order to have success, like we’ve had recently, you have to be willing to embrace it.”

Although Ng will graduate in May with dual master’s degrees in planning and public policy, he will leave having made the committee a more accessible place for graduate students.

“People have told me that whoever takes over my position has big shoes to fill, but I don’t see it that way,” Ng said. “I look it at it like an Italian craftsman, who has to make his own shoes. Everyone has a different vision of how they want things to go. I came on board with a very specific one and have been pleased with the work we’ve done.”

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