Kim Gruver (she/her) is a PhD candidate in the Integrated Program for Neuroscience at McGill and works in a lab in the Biology department.
Where did you grow up / where is home for you?
I grew up in Pennsylvania between New York and Philadelphia, so I am a huge fan of Wawa hoagies. Home is wherever I choose to be, though, which right now is Montreal<3
What is your academic research about?
My research explores circuit properties of the cerebellum. More specifically, I look at the spatial relationship between two major cell populations: Purkinje cells (the integrators of input to the cerebellum) and cerebellar nuclear neurons (the output neurons of the cerebellum), to better understand cerebellar function.
What do you like doing for fun?
I love to go bouldering, eat cookies, read, walk through ruelles, bike all over the island, cross country ski down the street from my apartment in the parc, and scheme toward building a more just, loving, anti-capitalist world.
Favorite place in Montreal?
Café Neve (cookies), Lachine Canal (cycling).
How long have you been working as a TA at McGill?
I started TAing at McGill during my second semester of graduate school back in 2017.
How long have you been AGSEM delegate? What have been your tasks as a delegate so far?
This is currently my second year as an AGSEM delegate. In addition to attending the standard Delegates’ Council meetings and presenting at TA orientations at the beginning of the semester, I have also organized “Know Your Rights” presentations, helped with the Climate Day march, and have recently started out contributing to the Mobilization Committee, which has involved planning, advertising, and facilitating in events.
What is your favorite part of working as a TA?
My favorite part of working as a TA has been seeing how talented so many McGill undergrads are. I’ve definitely been blown away by students each semester I’ve taught.
What has been the biggest challenge in your work so far?
I think it is difficult to provide students with the education they deserve with the training and preparation we often receive (or don’t) as new TAs. I also find it challenging to devote the energy and attention I would like to the role. I find that graduate students are often pressured to perceive Teaching Assistantships as an unfortunate requirement, rather than a professional opportunity.
What should be improved about the current TA Collective Agreement between AGSEM and McGill?
I have heard concerns about the lack of transparency and clarity for TAs in supporting students’ accommodations in the TA Collective Agreement. Since disclosure is not mandatory, TAs are not automatically privy to the knowledge of students who are entitled to accommodations. I think the lack of clarity by McGill’s Student Accessibility and Achievement Office puts both students and TAs in a difficult position to fairly support students’ needs.
Why do you think unionizing and having a strong labor union is important for Teaching Assistants, Invigilators, and other groups of employees at McGill?
I think that, as graduate students, we are in an inherently precarious position in terms of our labor and how it is valued. Participating in AGSEM's actions is a powerful tool because it allows us to directly have a say over our working conditions and compensation in some capacity when we might otherwise feel pretty powerless as graduate students. I think that unionizing is not only important as TAs, invigilators, or other groups of employees at McGill while we are fulfilling these roles, but I think it also demonstrates to us that our labor is extremely valuable and we get to have a say over what we do with it. Hopefully being a part of a strong labor union can help fan the flames of that necessary hope and self-worth that many forces so often try to extinguish.
Are you involved or interested in other activist or political movements/organizations at the moment?
Before starting grad school, I was involved in a film series group where we presented films about Palestine: historical films, fictional films, and documentaries detailing the ongoing occupation of Palestine. Palestinian activism is very close to my heart. I am also a frequenter of manifs around town, whether for Woman, Life, Freedom, expressing solidarity for the people of Iran, Black Lives Matter protests, or May Day protests. I am also interested in anti-capitalist organizations like “Science for the People.” Last year I celebrated gay pride by attending the Anarchistic Book Fair.
Would you like to add anything?
If you’re interested in getting more involved with AGSEM but are not sure about committing, give it a shot! You’ll meet really wonderful and inspiring people that can help enrich your life outside of the lab/office/library/etc.
Thank you for your union involvement and for participating in the Q&A, Kim!
Follow Kim's twitter @ScienceJW
"Get to Know Your Delegate" is a series of blog posts introducing AGSEM Delegates in a Q&A format. Are you an AGSEM Delegate interested in being featured in the series? Email your External Communications Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org