Before 1999, the Office of the Chancellor gave GSA $12,000 annually to help graduate students with expenses associated with travel to conferences. The grants were truly mini back then, students could apply once a year, and there was a different fixed amount allocated for local, national and international applications. In 1998-1999, while negotiating an increase in the allocation, then Chancellor Ray Orbach bluffed that, if the graduate students agreed to tax themselves for this purpose, he would match the fee increase. On the 1999 GSA elections ballot, a referendum was included proposing a raise in GSA fees from $10 to $20 per student per quarter. The $10 increase would be phased in $2 each year, the additional fees were earmarked for the conference travel grant program, and the Office of the Chancellor would match the increase. The referendum passed, and as a result the GSA rolled in $132,000 for the conference travel grant program in 2003-2004 (the year when the fees finally capped at $20 per student per quarter).
In April 2006, the mini-grant committee changed the program’s name to the conference travel grant program. The mini-grant committee adopted this new name to avoid confusion between the mini-grant and mini-GSA programs and to clarify the types of events that the grants fund. The program has also adopted a mission statement, which is now available on the main conference travel grant page. GSA thanks the Chancellor for continuing Ray Orbach’s commitment to fund the conference travel grant program.