Student Affairs

Get to know Graduate Student Government leadership


Justin “Shay” Easler and Abhilash Thomas serve as president and vice president, respectively, of Graduate Student Government (GSG). In their roles, they advocate for and work diligently to increase engagement with Clemson’s graduate student body.

As election season ramps up in the spring, get to know these graduate leaders, their Clemson stories and how they’re working to elevate GSG among students.

“I went to undergrad at USC Upstate ‘17. I went on to Coastal Carolina ‘21 for my master’s degree. When I was applying to Ph.D. programs, it was Clemson or bust. Clemson has provided everything I needed academically. My work as a senator and now as Graduate Student Government (GSG) president has been about helping to improve some of the challenges graduate students face at Clemson. Abhilash and I have worked to improve GSG by creating interest in the organization. Even though we haven’t filled all our Senate seats, we’ve seen interest grow tremendously.”

Abhilash Thomas
• Hometown: Gujarat, India
• Graduate Program: Computer Science
• Position: GSG Vice President

“I am originally from India and did my undergrad in computer engineering. I graduated in 2011 and completed my MBA in 2014. My wife got a job in the U.S., and that’s how I came to the states. One of my wife’s good friends had completed a Ph.D. at Clemson, so I ended up applying. It has been challenging, but in a very good way. It’s motivated me to do something I didn’t set out to do. Becoming the vice president has helped me become a better student and leader.”

Jennifer Apland, President Clements and Shay Easler in the President's Suite prior to the Clemson vs Florida Atlantic football game in September 2023
Easler and another member of the GSG executive board, Jennifer Apland, spend time with Jim Clements in the President’s Suite during the Clemson vs Florida Atlantic home football game in September 2023.

What are your primary responsibilities with GSG?

Easler: My primary responsibility is working with administration and our advisor and point of contact Dr. Kimberly Poole to ensure everyone is briefed on what GSG is working on. It’s about communicating the needs of our graduate students to the administration to find progress as things push forward. I’m also responsible for our external committees, which relate to graduate student life and connect to the greater student life.

Thomas: I am responsible for coordinating internal committees, such as student organization funding, research initiatives, graduate travel grants, rules and procedures, and activities. Managing the entire Senate is part of my role. We currently have about 60 senators as well as 11 delegates. I help train these students and ensure they are placed within committees that meet their interests. I onboard them into GSG.

What made you want to be involved with student government?

Easler: I thought about running because I was a senator. A friend in my program had recommended GSG to me. I thought about getting involved to help make a difference. When the elections came around, it was a bit chaotic because some candidates dropped. A previous GSG president asked if I wanted to run, because she thought I’d bring something unique. With that trust placed in me, I decided to run for the position.

Abhilash Thomas
Thomas presides over a meeting of the GSG Senate.

Thomas: It was a difficult transition year for GSG. Our executive board has 26 members. Out of those 26, only two returned from the previous year. I was a member of the executive board last year. Everyone else is new, other than one student. To echo Shay, I never expected to become vice president. I was promoted after the incumbent got a job in a different city. I was hesitant initially, but happy ultimately because we needed the leadership. I have seven years of work experience in India. I wanted to get a feel for the U.S. culture, so enrolling in GSG as a senator and first-year student was my motivation. I enjoyed the leadership team, and they were very helpful in motivating and encouraging me. It prompted me to stay longer. I’m graduating this year and hoping the current Cabinet will be motivated by us to continue working hard next semester and beyond.

How did previous experiences help prepare you for a leadership role?

Easler: I didn’t have a ton of leadership experience before GSG. I like to think of myself as a communicative person, which is probably how I found my way into the role. I’m receptive of criticism. And while I don’t have a lot of experience, I take seriously the trust people have in me to maintain the professionalism of this position. I do my best to develop further as a leader and keep that trust solid.

Thomas: Two things helped me. For one, I don’t shy away from difficult conversations. When I need to give constructive feedback, I know how to do that in a way that’s not discouraging. Secondly, I have experience of replying to a lot of emails. Handling the GSG email can be a big task. A lot of people have questions during training. I believe that experience helped me find answers to a lot of questions that others may not have.