2020-2021 Executive Board Candidates

This year, our Elections subcommittee has gathered information from each candidate. This page shares the information provided by each candidate (their platform statements and statements of intent), organized by which role they are pursuing.

Presidential Candidate

Maruf Hoque

Translational Biology/ Medicine and Health
Director of Finance (2019-2020)

The motto “Ut Prosim” is one of the reasons I choose to attend VT for graduate school. I believe this
motto holds each and every one of us accountable to make change in our respective communities. My
mission as President is to be a voice for every graduate student at Virginia Tech regardless of what
campus they belong to and to elevate the student voice so it can be heard effectively by administrators.

My position at the GSA this year has exposed me to the fact that the graduate student body is
continuously changing, and the university is not keeping up with providing basic needs for us to thrive as
students. Though I think that all of these needs are interconnected, the three main problems I intend to
fix are food insecurity concerns that plague the student body, mental/general health access (especially
for extended campus students), and to ensure a greater financial transparency from the university
especially in regards to student fees/stipends rates. I look forward to working with the student body and
members of the GSA delegation to ensure that these changes are made this upcoming academic year.

Vice Presidential Candidate

Awad Abdelhalim

Civil and Environmental Engineering/Engineering

Chair of GSA GRDP Program, Graduate Fellow at the Residential College in West Ambler Johnston
Senior team member of Virginia Tech Autodrive
GRDP Chair (2019/2020)
GSA Programs Reviewer (2018-2020)

Just like the majority of Hokie graduate students, over the past few years, Virginia Tech has become my home away from home. Entering my final year as a PhD student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department, I’ve had the chances over my time here to work with various university departments and offices, serving as an Analyst for the Office of Enrollment and Academic Assessment in the College of Engineering, a GA and staff member at the Center of Enhancement of Engineering Diversity, and a member of the inaugural Graduate School/Cranwell International Center’s International Student Advisory Board. Interactions with those various administrative offices and the GSA have provided me with a good overview of the university’s structure, its shortcomings and opportunities it provides for collaborations that can benefit the graduate community. I believe I can make use of those experiences to add value to the Vice President of the GSA position and work alongside everyone involved with the GSA to serve the graduate community in the spirit of Ut Prosim

Working closely in the GSA programs over the past few years, it’s struck my attention that the majority of the delegates aren’t aware of crucial role they can play in directing and assisting with those programs, which are one of the very few things we as graduate students have a complete say in. I intent to work closely with the delegates and their respective departments on how we can improve the delegate role to make it more rewarding, personally and professionally, for the delegates and to foster their involvement and contribution in those programs and the various other university government bodies duties.

Director of Programs Candidates

Martina Svyantek

iPhD candidate, Do-er of all the things with Accessibility and Universal Design
Director of Communications, GSA, 2018-2020

Dear colleagues and GSA delegation,

Once again, Martina Svyantek is running to serve on the Executive Board, this time as the 2020-
2021 Director of Programs. This is my combined Statement of Intent and Platform.
You hopefully are aware of my existence and pre-existing relationship to GSA thanks my
previous work, most recently serving as your Director of Communications. These experiences
have prepared me to serve as your Director of Programs, because they have all involved the
perilous task of clearly relaying resources and materials to concerned stakeholders in a timely
fashion. Nothing is more important than sharing funding and presentation opportunities with
other graduate students.

My work with GSA communications have been a vital source of information for graduate
students concerning our programs, events, delegate activities, and university happenings. In
sharing this information, I maintained professional standards in how GSA is presented to the
world via our website and social media presence. With this insight, I will be able to work with
our incoming Director of Communications to share news broadly, accessibly, and in a timely

My previous emphasis on incorporating remote participation for our General Assembly
meetings has served us very well given the ramifications of Covid19 on large gatherings. This
work has allowed us to continue as an Assembly this spring, with the added benefit of live
captioning. My experience with Zoom, accessibility, and Canvas was also instrumental in
pivoting this year’s Research Symposium to its virtual format. I hope to continue adding value
to the Research Symposium in the future, providing a space for presentations that have more
impact for all those involved.

It has been an honor to represent and serve you this past year, supporting the rest of the
Executive Board in sharing our programs and events, and interacting with delegates and the
graduate student community at socials and after meetings. It would be an honor to continue to
represent and serve you in this role for the upcoming year. Thank you for your time and
consideration. ‘

TL;DR – I have a lot of experience with GSA. I’m excited to have the opportunity to build on my
previous work and continue serving the graduate student community.

Director of Finance Candidate

Tahsin Mahmud Chowdhury

Engineering Education, College of Engineering

Graduate Fellow, Academy for Global Engineering, VT (2019-present)
Treasurer, Council for International Student Organization, (2019-2020)
Board Member, Student Budget Board, VT (2019-2020)

Through my experience of working with leaders in different fields and leading teams in both academia and industry, I learned to value two important aspects of leadership: being culturally responsive when leading and learning while leading. I acknowledged these values when I integrated my leadership experience in the Virginia Tech community. Last year, I was elected as a Treasurer of the Council for International Student Organization (CISO) at Virginia Tech (VT), representing a total of around 4000 international students on campus. My vision was to ensure the power of voice for the 11% international community here at VT through several cultural program and international showcasing opportunities. The unique aspect about being involved in this organization was the fact that I was the only graduate student representative in the board. I ensured that the decisions made by the organization includes the benefits of graduate students in the community. This year we planned to organize the ‘International Week’ where I co-lead with GSA to organize events that prioritize the involvement and voice of graduate students on campus.  After a successful stint of learning and leading as a member of a student organization, I plan to move one step forward to work directly for my fellow Graduate Community at VT as the Director of Finance.

This year, I plan to continue leading the financial aspect of the organization and beyond through the lens of the Graduate Student community at VT. I had the opportunity to serve as the board member of the Student Budget Board where I had learned the dynamics of budgeting and finance here at Virginia Tech from a broader perspective. I would continue to work as a Budget Board member representing GSA this year and ensure proper budget allocation and spending of the GSA budget on time and in full. I would welcome internal and external auditing of our budget from the GSA delegates and student body to ensure the integrity of GSA.

We know that Virginia Tech is experiencing expansion and we should be anticipating more graduate students in the future. My vision as the Director of Finance will be to work as a team player and plan the changes required for the expansion of the graduate community by being culturally responsive. I would ensure honesty and transparency from my end and am looking forward to work along with the GSA delegation and the student body to bring changes in GSA.

Director of Communications Candidate

Sharon Flynn Stidham

College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences / School of Education / Instructional Design & Technology

2019-2020 GSA Director of Programs
co-chair, 2019 GSA Research Symposium
2019-2020 President, Instructional Technology Student Association
2018-2019 Treasurer, Instructional Technology Student Association
Graduate Assistant, Pre-Education Advising Program, Office of Academic Programs, School of Education

My intent is to leverage my years of experience as an executive, a student leader, a
parent, an entrepreneur, and as a marketer to continue the legacy of excellence set
forth by my predecessors as the Director of Communications for Graduate Student
Assembly of Virginia Tech.

The executive board of the GSA seeks to enrich the lives of all graduate students at
Virginia Tech, and through their activities, events, and programs, affects the lives of all
professional and graduate students. The Director of Communications is tasked with
ensuring that not only we communicate effectively within our own graduate student
communities, but with the departments, offices, and administration of the University as
well as the world within which we exist. Communications is more than updating a
website, posting to social media, emailing various constituencies, and publishing the
achievements of the Graduate Student Assembly. It is the executive board’s voice, it is
the voice of the graduate and professional students to the administration and the world,
it is the town crier, calling the masses to listen. A many faceted role, I bring years of
experience not only in marketing but in communications and outreach. This position has
expanded over the years, and will continue to do so. As Director of Communications, I
plan to follow in the footsteps of the outgoing Director, and to maintain the high level of
performance and service she has modeled.

Director of Events Candidate

June Ann Jones

Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought / College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Teaching Assistant in Political Theory,
Food Sovereignty advocate in Maryland, Community Change Collaborative

I believe that unified voices move mountains. I am hoping to use my position as a member of the
Executive Board to unite the graduate students with allies across the campus and out in the New River
Valley to have fun, to build connections, and to change the world for the better. As a student, I see the
university as a place that exists to nurture and empower its students, something that your Graduate
Student Assembly should be working toward with every decision we make. The little things will add up,
and one day we can look back and be proud of all the things we tried and accomplished during our time as students at Virginia Tech.

I plan on making every event, to the best of my ability, locally-sourced, zero waste, carbon neutral, and
inclusive of our entire graduate student community and their familes. While these values will be front
and center, I believe it is important to continue hosting events such as the Little Hokie Hand Me Down,
the Welcome Back BBQ, and professional development events. I would also like to add events that raise
awareness about social justice issues such as climate justice, food security, and financial security. By
creating alliances across campus with all of our established student organizations, I believe that we can
better serve our campus and the surrounding community. United as Hokies – Ut Prosim!