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GSA Executive Board Candidates

Below you will find the candidates running for the Executive Board in GSA.

The election for the new GSA leadership has begun! You can get to the online ballot at this link: (If you have not logged into CatLife before, you will be first prompted to activate your account).

Name Position Personal Statement
Alexandria Pabst

Vice President

I've had the opportunity to speak with graduate students from a wide variety of programs and institutions within the UC this past year through my work in the CARE office, UCOP Title IX Student Advisory Board, and various graduate student events. One of the most pertinent issues brought up during those conversations was a feeling of disappointment with the Graduate Student Association because of lack of engagement, communication, and information on the state of the organization. If elected External Vice President, I will unequivocally support consistent and transparent communication with the graduate student body, foster an inclusive environment that can represent all graduate student voices, and vocalize our concerns to organizations outside of the UC system, including UCOP, UCSA, and the Department of Education. During the past year and a half, I represented the graduate student body of UC Merced and worked with UCOP, Title IX, and CARE organizations to change policy and procedures involving sexual harassment and sexual violence on a systemwide level to better represent student voices and needs. I promise to continue advocating for graduate students in whatever capacity I can, whether that be a member of the graduate student body or a member of the Executive Council. My goal is to help cultivate a better-functioning GSA, one that can represent the diverse voices of graduate students on our campus and actively respond to graduate student needs and concerns.
Maria Ramirez-Loyola Climate, Diversity
and Equity Officer

Hi Fellow Graduate Students!
My name is Maria Ramirez Loyola and I’ll be starting my fourth year as graduate student in the Psychological Sciences Department this summer. As a candidate for the 2019-2020 Climate, Diversity, and Equity Officer position my campaign is rooted in elevating the graduate student voice and building a safe and welcoming campus environment for everyone.

If I am elected I will work hard to ensure that all graduate students have an opportunity to share their views and concerns regarding matters of climate, diversity, and equity at UC Merced. I will work alongside various stakeholders and administrators to ensure that the graduate student voice
is elevated as the campus welcomes the inaugural Associate Chancellor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dania Matos. Moreover, I will strive to collaborate with other groups on campus to ensure that graduate students are provided with resources and/or training that will help facilitate our ability to successfully teach and mentor diverse undergraduate students. Over all, my ultimate goal is to ensure that the diverse perspectives and concerns experienced by graduate students regarding climate, diversity, and equity are represented as we continue to build a safe and welcoming campus environment for everyone.

I am qualified to accomplish these goals because I have previously experience advocating for the views and concerns of graduate students regarding climate, diversity, and equity at the broader university level. Specifically, I served on the Graduate Dean’s Advisory Council of Diversity during the 2017-2018 school year. As a member of this council I worked with a diverse set of individuals to increase diversity on campus by facilitating a culture of mutual respect, inclusivity, engagement, and acceptance among graduate students. I was also nominated for and served on the advisory search committee for the Associate Chancellor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion during the 2018-2019 school year. By serving on this search committee I was able to provide a graduate students perspective when identifying a senior member of the Chancellor’s team who would—alongside university and community stakeholders—build a welcoming and equitable campus environment for a diverse body of students, staff, and faculty.

In light of my previous experience I believe that I am highly qualified to represent and advocate for graduate student interests as your 2019-2020 Climate, Diversity, and Equity Officer. I am very passionate about helping creating a safe and welcoming environment for everyone on campus and I hope that you will consider voting for me. Thank you!

Vicky Espinoza Internal
Vice President

Hello peers! My name is Vicky Espinoza and I am a PhD Student in the Environmental Systems Graduate Group advised by Dr. Viers. I graduated from the University of Southern California in May 2017 with a Master of Science degree in Environmental Engineering and obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in Geophysical Sciences from the University of Chicago. Prior applied research experiences at Argonne National Laboratory, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pomona College Geology Department, and University of Alaska Fairbanks include research in various fields like atmospheric and ocean chemistry, energy-water systems, and climate change impacts on atmospheric river trends. I have also been actively involved in making science and mathematics accessible to underrepresented, Spanish-speaking communities through outreach and tutoring throughout my educational career.

My research addresses sustainable water management for global food, energy, and water security. I am analyzing how California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act could impact the retirement of more than 10% of San Joaquin Valley’s irrigated lands, and how those land use changes could affect already socioeconomically vulnerable communities within the region. Attending UC Merced has not only allowed me the opportunity to be in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, in the center of the environmental issues and inequity that my research aims to ameliorate, but it is a place where I have found supportive faculty, friends, and peers. The past two years I have had the honor and opportunity to represent UC Merced, the amazing graduate student body, and the San Joaquin Valley on various occasions  at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Food Security Symposium as a Next Generation Delegate in D.C., on Graduate Research Advocacy Day with Graduate Dean Zatz in Sacramento, and at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco  and I hope to continue to do so. 

I have been nominated and am running for GSA position of Internal Vice President. Thank you to my peer(s) for the nomination! As a GSA member, I would like to continue the hard work and dedication to the graduate student body that our previous GSA board has demonstrated. It is my aim that I contribute to the progress and improvements on campus with a momentum that bring changes that the graduate student body seeks. Let us make UC Merced even better together!

Feng Yu International
Affairs Officer

My name is Feng Yu. I come from China. I am now researching on the intrinsically disordered protein.

The reason I want to be the International Affairs Officer is simple. International students nowadays are facing more problem than before such as the restriction on the funding and restriction on the F1 visa. For example as a Chinese student, most my high school and university classmate who are pursuing the PhD in US are all given a 1 year visa instead a 5 year visa as 2 year before. And almost all the people I know experiencing a more than 30 days ‘check’ period before they actually get the visa. Not only this policy limited the students’ freedom to attending the conference outside the US, but also make go back home become extremely difficult. Because these students need to plan ahead to have a 40 days vacation otherwise they maybe can not get back US. For a PhD student it is really hard to get 40 days off in a row.

Although I know I can not change the policy and there is little I can do as a International Affairs Office to solve this problem. But I still want to become the International Affairs Officer to do my best help the international students like me to overcome the difficulty they meet with.

Lorenzo Booth President We should aspire to create an environment and culture that generates good scholarship and healthy, productive academics. If you agree with this statement, please consider supporting my candidacy.
Matthew Turner Academic
Affairs Officer

I have a wealth of experience occupying leadership roles where I made big things happen. To name two of relevance to serving as your next Academic Affairs Officer, I initiated and led a successful effort to bring Bill Nye the Science Guy to Syracuse University when I served as vice president of the Society of Physics Students during my undergraduate work there.

In my previous job before returning to school, I was lead software developer of a multi-university team of software developers and geohydrologists. In this project, I integrated many individuals’ software with the geohydrologists’ scientific needs. Together we built a number of cutting-edge information systems for geohydrology. Here is one particularly strong example of an output of that work:

My experience getting things done with cross-cultural teams will serve me well as Academic Affairs Officer. I will work hard to make sure that internally the systems are in place, and obstacles removed, that will improve the conditions for graduate student success.

In my first weeks and months I plan to listen more than I act or speak. The Academic Affairs Officer, according to the description of duties in the GSA By-Laws, is a facilitator. This officer facilitates communication between academic planning and resource allocation, the campus ombudsman, correspond with the Deans, facilitate the GSA committee on research, and more. In order to bridge those different offices, it will be necessary to first understand them. My experience facilitating information exchange between diverse cultures will help me towards success in serving as your Academic Affairs Officer. Please see the By-Laws themselves for more info on this position:

Mark Seelos Climate, Diversity
and Equity Officer

The current political climate has led to social polarization and inequity, but I’m confident that we can maintain a fair, inclusive environment to ensure the continued success of our entire graduate student community here at UC Merced.  As the Graduate Student Association’s Climate, Diversity, and Equity Officer, I will help improve coordination with Office of Student Life to foster an environment of multicultural collaboration, mutual respect, fairness, and inclusivity. I’d like to see more info sessions, more social events, and more opportunities for our diverse group of graduate students to engage with one another, and their community.

I’m a first year MS student in the Environmental Systems graduate group. My career and work at UC Merced focuses on ways to reduce mercury-related health risks to vulnerable communities who rely on locally-caught fish as a means of subsistence. As a native Californian and Bay Area resident, I have personally benefitted from the value of community diversity, and I would like to help maintain an inclusive environment here at UCM. I serve on the board of a small non-profit centered on lake and reservoir management, and I have years of experience negotiating with regulators at the local and state levels. If elected, I will fight for our collective interests.

Muhammad Shattique International Affairs Officer I am a 1st year PhD student at the MBSE major. I am also an international student from Bangladesh.
Ahmed Correa Alavarez International Affairs Officer

I am a second year Ph.D. student from the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program. I am Cuban but also lived in Ecuador for almost 7 years. This would be my first experience in the UC Merced Graduate Students Association, but as an international student, I think I could rely both on my own and others experiences to work on the benefit of graduate students in our campus.

I owe a great deal to students of my program from previous cohorts who welcomed me and helped me, and without whom my transition into a new country, a new university, a new language, would have been very difficult. To be part of the GSA is a way to thank those who helped me, but also to honor them by giving my contribution to the graduate students and especially to international students.

I am interested in contributing to the Constitutional Aims of our organization, especially those seeking to foster and promote diversity and inclusion, and creating a safer and inclusive campus climate, but also to think about our relationship as a graduate student with the community of Merced.

I believe that as part of the responsibilities we will have as GSA representatives, even in the midst of the obligations of our lives as graduate students, we must contribute to strengthening our student community on our campus. I look forward to contributing to that.

Brandon Batzloff President

I am a doctoral candidate in the Cognitive and Information Systems (CIS) program. Prior to coming to UCM, I organized local, national and international projects. This gave me the experience necessary to ensure the implementation of small systemic changes that would improve the functioning of the GSA and elevate the voices of graduate students at UCM. As GSA President, I will focus on two goals:

Many of the people running for GSA positions are doing so out of a concern for vital campus issues. I will ensure that these issues, as well as issues of concern from the greater graduate student body are addressed.
To complete the first goal, the GSA constitution requires one or two minor changes. Presently, there is a disconnect between graduate students and the Executive Council. The result has been that prior elected officials have had difficulty accessing a bottom up view of what graduate students need. Their intentions have always been good, but the structure of the GSA does not allow for communication from the student body through the Delegate Assembly  to the Executive Council. To fix this, the Delegate Assembly should be granted legislative powers. The current structure requires the Executive Council to propose legislation that Delegate Assembly members discuss with their respective departments, resulting in bottom to top communication being interrupted. My first priority will be to establish a committee that proposes constitutional amendments to be voted on by all graduate students.

This past year, I was the Delegate for CIS. I have served on the Chancellor's Advisory Committee for Queer Issues and the LGBTQ+ Center Planning Committee. Further, I have both started and advised student organizations. This experience has helped acquaint me with the administrative structure of the university, as well as the people serving in various positions.

Before being a graduate student, I had a career as the founder and chief executive of a non-profit organization that published a political magazine. As such, I was very active in connecting under-represented communities to voices that could represent them, helped to organize broad political movements, and was involved in large scale events, such as G8 Summits. This experience allows me to lead the GSA in a way that elevates the voices of our constituents above my own, resulting in a GSA that works for everyone. Thank you for reading my statement and thank you for your vote.

Ritwika Vallomparambath Panikkassery Sugasree President

I have long thought of GSA as an organization that can advocate for graduate student interests and well-being, and from conversations I have had with members of the graduate student community, I have come to realise that the GSA has been not as successful as it could have been in meeting its goals. As President, I want to:

- Encourage all EC positions + delegate assembly positions to be filled so that the entire grad student body is represented and key positions are not left vacant -- but if any positions are vacant I want to work with EC members to ensure that no important responsibilities of the GSA are being left unmet
- Work closely with the union to ensure that systemic graduate student grievances are addressed (eg: parking issues, availability of child care, availability of affordable housing, equitable and fair TA workloads, etc.)
- Ensurr that all GSA proceedings are transparent and are readily available to the graduate student body
- Ensure that graduate student grievances are addressed in a timely manner
- Work closely with graduate students as well as the CARE and Title IX offices to ensure efficiency and transparency on policy and activities regarding sexual discrimination and harrasment and to promote a safe and healthy environment for all graduate student.

Please let me know if you need anything else from my side.

Tafadzwa Joseph Dube Public Relations and Community Outreach A strong association needs a good public relations strategy. I would like to use the experience I possess from past appointments in student organizations to strengthen our public relations/community outreach office. Thank you for supporting my candidacy.
Shayna Bennett Treasurer At UC Merced, we are surrounded by talented graduate and professional students making amazing contributions to their academic field and to society at large. Unfortunately, graduate school is filled with obstacles, many of which can seem daunting. The GSA was established as an organization to provide assistance to these talented students when such obstacles arise. If appointed treasurer, I will work to maintain the financial health of the GSA. I look forward to playing a role in helping fellow graduate and professional students overcome the obstacles they face at UC Merced and I hope for your support.
Edgar Perez-Lopez Treasurer I would like to be part of the Executive Board as Treasurer to ensure that financially the GSA is doing what they can for our fellow graduate students. The fact that we all have the same issues and meeting people from different departments has motivated me to run and solve issues that have been ongoing. I would like to help the graduates of UC Merced by making the appropriate recommendations to the Executive Council for the sake of the students.