Graduate Assembly announces executive officers, Graduate Council representatives for 2017-18

Kena Hazelwood-Carter/Courtesy

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The 2017-18 Graduate Assembly executive officers and Graduate Council representatives were announced Friday, along with the reelection of several incumbents.

Kena Hazelwood-Carter was elected to her second year as president. Additionally, Shreyas Patankar was chosen as campus affairs vice president, Jamie Lincoff as internal vice president, Andy Schwartz as vice president of finance, Jonathan Morris as external vice president and Yonatan Mintz as funding chair. Sonia Travaglini, Mary Shi and Aaron Smyth were elected as Graduate Council representatives, and David McSwiggen was chosen as rules officer.

Beyond the executive officers, delegates represent most graduate departments. The mission of the assembly is to improve the lives of campus graduate students and “to foster a vibrant, inclusive graduate community,” according to the assembly website. Members of the assembly serve on various campus committees that focus on a variety of issues ranging from housing to mental health.

Hazelwood-Carter characterized the assembly election process as a “parliamentary system,” in which anyone can be nominated by a delegate to run for executive office. Positions contested by multiple candidates are chosen by a simple majority vote, according to Hazelwood-Carter. If only one person is running for a given position, they must receive at least 50 percent of the vote, plus one vote.

Over the course of several weeks prior to the election date, the assembly had open nominations in which delegates could nominate any graduate student for a position. Before voting occurred, anyone who was nominated for a position had the opportunity to address the assembly briefly.

Hazelwood-Carter took over as assembly president earlier this academic year after the resignation of former president Iman Sylvain. She is a third-year doctoral student in psychology. Prior to enrolling at UC Berkeley, Hazelwood-Carter attended Bard College and the City College of New York, where she studied political studies with a concentration in race and ethnicity.

Before becoming president, Hazelwood-Carter served as a delegate for two years. She said she is proud of the assembly’s success around building communities for graduate students.

“We did a beautiful job making sure graduate students are receiving the benefits graduate students are paying for,” Hazelwood-Carter said.

Hazelwood-Carter said that as president, she wants to continue supporting marginalized community members and services for disabled students on campus as well as work more closely with the ASUC.

“We want to create a community that fosters emotional, intellectual growth to look at the excellence one expects from Cal,” she said.

Because several assembly executives stepped down over the course of the past academic year, the assembly went through four special elections during this time period, according to Hazelwood-Carter. She said the recurrent elections made the team stronger, adding that the team would joke, “Elections? We’re good at that.”

Hazelwood-Carter said that, growing up, she always valued the process of supporting and empowering people. She added that she strives to create a space where everyone is unafraid to ask for help.

Incoming campus affairs vice president Shreyas Patankar said serving in the assembly is his way of getting involved in campus and the larger graduate community. Patankar praised Hazelwood-Carter for being “valuable for the campus.”

Patankar is a sixth-year doctoral candidate in the physics department who also works as a graduate student researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Before moving to Berkeley, Patankar attended the Chennai Mathematical Institute in India. His goals as a member of the assembly are to reach out to students across campus and to support the campus’s international graduate community.

Patankar, who nominated himself to the campus affairs vice president position, noted that self-nomination is common in the assembly. He added, however, that incumbents cannot nominate themselves.

“I’m happy the incumbents are continuing,” Patankar said. “They’ve done excellent work.”

Current assembly Chief of Staff Jamie Lincoff nominated himself to the position of internal vice president and was successfully elected. Lincoff said he plans to improve the assembly as an institution by keeping good records so that passing on knowledge is made easier.

Lincoff said he joined the assembly to break barriers between different graduate programs and to meet people from other departments.

“As graduate students, you come to Berkeley knowing what department you are going to be in, and you’re generally confined in that space,” Lincoff said.

Andy Schwartz, the incumbent vice president of finance who was reelected to his position for the 2017-18 academic year, is a fourth-year doctoral student studying finance in the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. Schwartz said he spent his past year in office uncovering assembly funds that the assembly had lost track of over the years.

Schwartz said that as part of his 2017-18 term, he wants to ensure that the assembly has stable funding for the future.

“GA has given me the opportunity to meet students who I wouldn’t otherwise have met … to branch out and meet new, different people,” Schwartz said.

Contact Ella Jensen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ellajensen_dc.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Shreyas Patankar attended the Chennai Institute of Technology. In fact, he attended the Chennai Mathematical Institute.