New GSC co-chairs on supporting graduate students during challenging times

Graduate students Kari Barclay and Will Paisley – the new co-chairs of the Graduate Student Council – talk about supporting their fellow grad students during an academic year unlike any other.

Last month, Stanford’s Graduate Student Council elected PhD candidate Kari Barclay and coterminal master’s student Will Paisley as its new co-chairs.

Graduate students Kari Barclay and Will Paisley are the new co-chairs of the Graduate Student Council. (Image credit: Courtesy Kari Barclay and Will Paisley)

The students enter their new leadership roles under unprecedented circumstances, as the COVID-19 pandemic and protests against anti-Black violence continue to challenge daily life, both at Stanford and globally. Barclay and Paisley recognize the immense obstacles ahead and acknowledge that their efforts going forward are both bolstered by and a continuation of years of hard work from their predecessors.

“Serving on the GSC to me means building on a history of graduate students at Stanford who have advocated for affordable housing, racial equity, subsidized childcare and the other guarantees that we’re still trying to fully realize as a university,” Barclay said.

He and Paisley are not new to student leadership roles at Stanford. Barclay – who is from Durham, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C., and is a fourth-year doctoral student in theater and performance studies – has served on the GSC for the past three years. He has also led the GSC’s Diversity and Advocacy Committee and has advocated for undocumented students through the organization Stanford Sanctuary Now.

Paisley is from Lake Tapps, Washington, and is a coterminal master’s student in education through the Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies program. He has been an active member of Stanford’s Native American Cultural Center, where he has helped organize and lead numerous events. He also served as the director of Stanford Student Enterprises Cardinal Group, which provides financial and asset management services to student organizations, and was the recruitment chair for his undergraduate fraternity Theta Delta Chi.

Supporting graduate students

Roughly every decade, the GSC conducts a survey of Stanford graduate students to learn more about what life is like for them. Barclay said that certain themes repeatedly emerge from the study.

“Affordability, equity and mental health are three topics that keep surfacing,” he said, adding that those issues, particularly affordability, will guide his and Paisley’s leadership decisions into the new academic year. “We need to make sure that graduate students can afford rent and that the recommendations of the Affordability Task Force move forward.”

Barclay recognizes that the pandemic has added strain in each of these areas, and he stressed the importance of supporting students who may be particularly vulnerable as a result.

“We need to support international students, students with young dependents and students of color, given that the social response to COVID-19 tends to exacerbate existing inequities,” he said.

In the coming weeks, the GSC will hold a virtual “check-in” on Zoom with international students to discuss the changing circumstances around visas and how those students are navigating their work and education in light of the pandemic. The GSC will also be working to address social isolation – an issue exacerbated by the pandemic – by organizing social events and support networks to foster community among grad students.

Getting involved

All Stanford graduate students are invited to participate in the GSC’s meetings, which are held every Wednesday night during the academic year, and every third Wednesday during the summer months.

Students can also sign up for the GSC mailing list,, which includes its weekly agenda and links to join meetings on Zoom.

Barclay said he encourages every grad student to play a part in improving student life at Stanford.

“If there’s an issue you care about, talk to your colleagues and your neighbors. The Stanford Solidarity Network is a great place to start,” he said. “The GSC and graduate students are only as powerful as our connections with each other. That’s where our work begins.”