Meet the 2020-2021 GSA Executive Board and BOV Representative
Maruf Hoque – President
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.
Awad Abdelhalim – Vice President and Director of Legislative Affairs
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.
Martina Svyantek – Director of Programs
Martina V. Svyantek is a doctoral candidate in a self-designed and highly-individualized interdisciplinary program exploring Disability identity situated within higher education. Her research focuses on Disability-related institutional policies, accessibility, and campus activism.She earned her Bachelor of Science in civil engineering in 2011 from Auburn University, complemented by her MS from Virginia Tech in May 2018. Martina curates an ePortfolio (martinasvyantek.com), tweets into the internet void (@svyantek), and generally keeps to herself in large crowds. Ultimately, Martina aspires to continue working with the discipline-agnostic view of learning, research, and impactful service, weaving together connections and resources related to campus communities.
June Ann Jones – Director of Events
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!
Tahsin Mahmud Chowdhury – Director of Finance
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.
Sharon Flynn Stidham – Director of Communications
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.
Sabrina Sturgeon – Graduate Student Representative to the Board of Visitors
Sabrina Sturgeon is a 2nd year master’s student in the Student Affairs and Higher Education program at Virginia Tech. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies at the University of Southern Indiana where she was involved with Student Government, Lambda Chi Alpha, National Residence Hall Honorary, Sexuality and Gender Alliance, and performed as the university mascot. She was inspired to pursue higher education due to her innate love for learning and appreciation for perpetual growth. She approaches higher education from a critical perspective, always questioning how we can better serve students while challenging traditional values and methods of education
Now at Virginia Tech, she is establishing the foundation to her career in higher education. Sabrina is a graduate assistant with Housing and Residence Life at Virginia Tech President of the Higher Education Association at Virginia Tech. Her career interest include higher education governance guided through a lens of social justice and continuous innovation. Her personal interests include unicycling, writing, and hiking. Upon graduation, she aspires to unicycle around the world before pursuing service at institutions of higher learning and adjacent associations.