GSS Executive Candidates Issue Statements

In anticipation of this week’s GSS Elections for the 2011-2012 term, please find candidate statements of those running for President, Vice President, and Treasurer below.

HONGMEI SUN, Candidate for President

My name is Hongmei Sun, and I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature. As the GSS Graduate Women’s Network Coordinator for the past two years, my task has been to bring together women graduate students. Toward that end, I organized events, workshops and meetings, including Creative Movement and Self-Expression Workshop, Campus Violence Victim Right Forum, Dissertation Support Group for women, the Marbling events, and the GWN Writing Group and GWN Yoga Group. As a member of the GSS team, I value collaboration and contribute my service to the team whenever possible. For instance, I have served on the Child Care Committee for three terms and was chair of the committee last semester at a time when the Vice President was not able to take on the role. I was among the ones who initiated reformation of the Child Care Assistant Program (formerly known as the Childcare Voucher), which has made the program accessible to more graduate families and the funding more fairly allocated based on equality and need.

My experience in the past years is valuable for me to understand how GSS functions and to develop my vision for the future of GSS. I think two reasons have contributed to some struggles and difficulties that GSS is facing: externally, the dormant senate system and lack of participation from the large graduate student body, and internally, the vague division of work within GSS and lack of transition between terms. I see myself in a good position to lead GSS forward by addressing issues on both fronts: Internally, I will make the GSS division of work more systematic, transparent, and attractive to people who are talented and motivated. Externally, I will work with my team to build upon the work by my predecessors to further invigorate the connections between GSS and the graduate students in general. This entails not only the continuation and strengthening of existing programs, but also the opening up of new venues and fronts.

With your help, let us build a graduate community that we can remember and be proud of even years after we leave the school. If such a community is what you want too, I hope you can give me this opportunity by supporting me—here and in the year to come! Thank you!


CHANGQIN XIA, Candidate for President

My name is Changqin Xia, from Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. For the academic year of 2010 – 2011, I am serving as the Vice-President of GSS. Considering my leader experience in my undergraduate university and in UMass, I know how to be a student leader, and know well enough of how GSS runs. So for the academic year of 2011 – 2012, I am running for President of GSS.

So far, I am serving as vice-president of GSS. I take care of daily affairs of GSS when the president is in the absence, hold meetings, serve visitors and some other duties. After learn from current President and combine my own student leader experience in and out of the US, I know how to be an outstanding president. Meanwhile, I know GSS quite well since I am working here for nearly two semesters, I think I have the ability to govern GSS team as the president and to serve all graduate students better. What I am embracing is trying to do something for our graduate students, which are really good for them and which are what they want.

I am serving as the chair of the Childcare Committee. In this semester, I updated and developed our new childcare policy, intensified propaganda, and finally we got the maximum number of applications in the past a few semesters. I worked with other committee members to review and triple check all the applications, notified all the applicants of the award, reported the award amounts to graduate school and I answered all the questions from applicants. Also, I am serving as vice-chair of the Finance committee. I worked with the treasurer and other committee members to process the ad-hoc funding and line-item funding for graduate student organizations and discussed the allocation. In addition, I have attended executive committee meetings and senate meetings, maintained regular office hours, and many other things necessary. And currently, I am working on reducing gym fees and plan to do something about reducing dining common fees.


HAO HUANG, Candidate for Vice-President

My name is Hao Huang, and I am running for the Vice President position at Graduate Student Senate!  Currently I am a first year graduate student in the Departmen tof Electrical and Computer Engineering.  Having served as Dorm Assistant Supervisor and Freshman Advisor during my undergraduate years, I feel confident that my experience on student affairs, my enthusiasm and responsibility qualify me for the position.

As the Vice President, I will dedicate myself to assisting President and other senators to maintain and enhance the transparency and the efficiency of Gss in order to fully benefit our graduate stduents.  First in all, I would like to help and develop GSS’s current issues such as increasing the child-care funding and striving for more affordable housing for graduate students, especially for the married graduate student.  Also, I would like to raise more money for our diverse GSOs and I have noticed that our GSOs are rarely organizing activities together, so I will encourage and assist them to communicate each other more often to prompt culture exchanging and set up networks between students.  What’s more, I would like to represent our fast gym addicted graduate students to argue for cutting down the gym fee in order to make graduate students get more affordable chances to build up for ourselves and for our future.  Last but not the last, I would like to cooperate with UMass Financial Aid Serivces to help those self-funded graduate students to be exposure to the diverse funding resource and to get funded.

If elected GSS Vice President, I will bring my leadership to lead GSS to serve our graduate student much better.

Thank you for your vote!

GARTH SCHWELLENBACH, Candidate for Vice President

My name is Garth Schwellenbach, and I’m a graduate student in the Architecture

Department here at UMASS.  I moved to the area last summer from Portland, Maine with my wife and two-year-old son.  Previously I taught elementary and middle school, and I have been in building and design for the last eight years, working a variety of jobs from digging ditches to drafting designs to managing job sites. I was drawn to the University of Massachusetts for the great educational opportunities it provides, and because it is affordable.  I believe that access to quality higher-education is extremely important.

Having nearly completed the first of three years as a graduate student here at UMASS,

I’m a strong candidate for Vice President of the GSS. I have a background in both management and education, and have great leadership skills.  As a father, I’m especially qualified to be chairman of the Childcare Assistance committee, a program which provides important support to graduate student parents.  I will also fight for funds to allow graduate students to further their development outside of campus, at workshops, conferences and seminars.

I would greatly appreciate your support.


ROBIN ANDERSON, Candidate for Treasurer

My name is Robin Anderson, a fourth year PhD student in the Department of Communication. As a student at UMass-Amherst I have been involved both in my department and at GEO. While at UMass I have witnessed, and been a part of, the struggles that face graduate students whether in the attempts to build departmental community or in the continuous struggle in support of public education. These struggles have involved campaigns (i.e. gym fee membership, UHS, etc), the coordination of departmental events, and assisting in the 2009 Passions Conference spearheaded by the graduate students in the Department of Communication. While these struggles have often been contentious, I have been privileged to meet many who have spent long hours in support of public education, improving graduate student life, and building coalitions (e.g. grad and undergrad students, faculty, public employees, etc). With these thoughts in mind, and a desire to continue the work of previous generations of graduate students, I accept the nomination for GSS treasurer. My involvement in university life at various levels, I believe puts me in an excellent position to be GSS treasurer. I thank you ahead of time for your support and wish well to all the nominees.


Candidate for Treasurer

My name is Abraham Sineta, a fourth year doctoral student in the school of education, center for international education. Before I came to UMass-Amherst, I was a secondary school Mathematics and science teacher. I then moved into educational administration as a district educational Manager in Malawi, Africa. My work involved supervising the preparation and implementation of educational budgets for my district. As a GSS treasurer, I plan to use my supervisory skills to facilitate the preparation of GSS budget and oversee its implementation.

As a student at UMass, I have been an active member of GSS through voting and attending meetings. I have also served as secretary of the African graduate Association (AGASA) which is one of the graduate student organizations on campus.

I am a believer of diversity and my philosophy is to promote such among students by making GSS budget process participatory. I am also passionate about transparency and accountability in the work I do. I therefore plan to make sure that I am open to all stakeholders in our organization in my work as treasurer.

I accept nomination as treasurer and hope you will give me chance to serve. I wish all my fellow nominees good luck!


REHAN TALAT, Candidate for Treasurer

Hi! My name is Rehan Talat and I am in my second semester of graduate studies at the ECE department. I would like to thank GSS for providing a platform to unite graduate students and to cater to their needs. As an undergraduate student, I have organized various events, both social and technical in nature. While serving on the Executive Committee of the Senate as Treasurer, my objective is to ensure transparency in all transactions. As a member of the GSS Senate, my aim is to bridge the gaps between graduate students and the rest of the community at UMass.

However, last but not the least, my goal as an individual will be to get to know you and to gain your trust. This may seem like an enormous task at the moment but as they say journey of 1000 miles begin with one step!

A little more about myself, well, I like to travel a lot with my friends and enjoy discussing photography. I spent two years in the industry before attending grad school. Also, I assisted my father in managing his business for almost a year and hence, have some prior experience of managing large funds.

Thank you in advance for your precious time and good luck to the other contestants

EESHA WILLIAMS, Candidate for Treasurer

I have been a history grad student at UMass since 2006. For two years, I served as GEO shop steward and bargaining committee member. If elected to GSS, I will urge the state and federal governments to spend much less money on war, raise taxes on the rich, and use some of this money to make UMass free for undergrads and grad students, and to increase wages for grad student workers. I will also work hard on whatever other issues UMass grad students tell me are important to them.

GSS vice-president Changqin Xia has endorsed me. I look forward to working closely with Changqin, who I know will be an outstanding president.

I’m the author of a published book, Grassroots Journalism, and the editor of a local news web site ValleyPost.org where you can find my contact info.

I possess the experience and skills required to perform the duties of GSS treasurer:

  • serve as chair of the finance committee;
  • manage the GSS trust fund and develop the GSS budget with executive committee, at the direction of the senate;
  • and perform other duties in the GSS constitution and by-laws.

Thank you for your vote!


MAO ZHAO, Candidate for Treasurer

My name is Mao Zhao, a first year graduate student in Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. As the president of Students Union in my undergraduate school, I was in charge of all big events, such as school New Year Concert and basketball league competition. I am pretty comfortable with organizing events, communicating with people, coordinating and most important, finding financial support for activities that I am responsible for. As a student leader, I always hold the belief that it is my duty to earn more benefits for the students, it is my duty to organize successful activities to please all the students and let everyone have fun, and it is my duty to contribute to my university and society.
Supported by my belief, I was selected as a volunteer representative at Beijing 2008 Olympic Game. Although 10 hours work every day made me exhausted, I was honored to have the opportunity to dedicate the society, and I learned a lot from team work and cooperation. I also served as a medical first aid member in the Red Cross during Olympic Games.

The position at GSS would give me a perfect opportunity to realize my belief at UMass: dedicate all I have to UMass students and earn every benefit for them. I believe I could maximize my talent of finding financial support to give UMass students colorful activities.

If elected, I will actively communicate with big companies for cooperation with GSS, and try to obtain their financial support. When GSS get sponsors, first, we will have budget for organizing graduate events and activities, such as ball party to give graduate students more opportunity to socialize, make more friends and relax. Second, we will have budget for donation to university facilities. We will donate to university for MORE HEAT in winter, more desktops in library and FREE PRINTING for graduate students. Third, if we get sufficient support, it is possible to support each graduate student some money for sports since it is not free for graduate to go to the gym. Last but most important, I will make the GSS budget and money usage transparent for everyone and I welcome any suggestions and criticism. Anyway, as I said before, it is my duty to earn every benefit for students.

I sincerely appreciate your consideration. Your vote may become your future benefits.

Thank you!



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