Long before COVID-19 research started taking up much of his time, Joshua Weitz had a different cause vying for his attention: efforts to roll back temporary graduate student fees that have been in place for a decade.
Weitz, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences and Director of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Quantitative Biosciences, was recognized for those efforts this spring with the Faculty of the Year Award from the Graduate Student Government Association (SGA).
The first student fees were $100 per semester. In Fall 2019, Weitz drafted and presented a resolution before the Faculty Senate detailing how the graduate student fee, now totaling $1,000 per fall and spring semester, was a major concern for the students. “While the faculty have been generally supportive of this cause, this was the first time that the Faculty Senate went on record to acknowledge the issue,” says Narayan Shirolkar, Graduate SGA president, in an email to School of Biological Sciences Chairman Todd Streelman announcing the award. “He (Weitz) has been ardent advocate for graduate students, raising this issue through social media, and has contributed to numerous public articles on this topic, including an op-ed in The Atlanta Journal Constitution in March 2019.”
“It is an honor to be recognized by the Georgia Tech community of graduate students,” Weitz says. “I am deeply grateful for the critical contributions that graduate students make to Georgia Tech's research, teaching, and entrepreneurship missions. I am also particularly proud of their collective service and action-taking in the past year, whether as members of the SGA, or as concerned students acting of their own accord, to raise awareness on the critical need to reduce fees and improve graduate student financial well-being. I remain optimistic that progress this past year will mark a change point towards long-term improvements to support graduate students at Georgia Tech in the broadest sense.”
Weitz’s research team, the Weitz Group @ Georgia Tech, studies theoretical ecology and quantitative biology. The group is working collaboratively with researchers at Tech and around the globe on several projects related to COVID-19 modeling and response efforts.