About the Board

Graduate Assistants United 2015-2016 Executive Board

The Executive Board officially took office on June 1, 2015 and will serve for the 2015-2016 academic year. 

Melissa Burger, Natural Resources Science
Melissa Burger is a third year PhD candidate in the Natural Resources Science Department. She studies invasion ecology and genome size variation in Phragmites australis. She served on the GAU stewards council during her first year at URI. This is Melissa’s second year as GAU President and co-chief negotiator. Please stop by her office (Coastal Institute 009) if you have any questions regarding your assistantship!

 Elizabeth Brannon, Biological Sciences
I am a third year Ph.D. student in Biology and Environmental Science and my research focuses on greenhouse gas emissions from wastewater treatment plants.  I first got involved with GAU last year as the leader of our Contract Action Team (CAT).  In this position I helped organize several CAT walks in which members of CAT visited other GAs one on one to update them on negotiations and discuss potential actions.  Although I am still assisting with CAT, I now focus most of my attention on my duties as Vice President.  This past summer I had the opportunity to attend the annual AAUP conference (our affiliate organization) in Washington D.C. and represent our chapter as a voting member.  While there I was also able to meet with our RI senators and congressmen and discuss the issues (such as student debt) that are important to us.  I also attend CGEU this summer where I learned valuable information that will help us as we move forward with negotiations and continue to grow as a union.  I am looking forward to a great year and getting to know each and everyone one of you.

 Rachel Conners, College Student Personnel, Housing and Residential Life

Erin McLeanBiological and Environmental Sciences
My name is Erin McLean, a 3rd year masters student in Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the consequences of ocean acidification the growth of juvenile lobsters. While I don’t have a large background in unions, I’ve been involved with GAU for the past year as the Treasurer. I have a lot of experience with running the finances of an organization from my time as an undergrad at BU, where I ran the Marine Science Association. I love working for GAU because I care a lot about improving our work conditions.

Sandi Lewanika, Music, Piano Performance
Sandi Lewanika wants to live in a world where minority children are able to learn essential life
skills in the performing arts and ice cream is free.
As a second year Master of Music, Piano Performance student, she has performed the solo piano
works of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Rachmaninoff, George Walker, Margaret Bonds,
and many others. She has recently performed at the University of Rhode Island Piano
Extravaganza Faculty and Student Recital and the Jamestown Piano Association Student Concert
hosted by St. Matthew Episcopal Church in Jamestown, RI.
When she is not practicing, arranging music, or giving piano lessons, you can find her advocating
for communal peace and love, spreading happiness and laughter, or looking up the latest fashion
trends on social media.
As the 2015-2016 Member-at-Large of the University of Rhode Island Graduate Assistant Union,
Sandi hopes to present fresh, innovative media ideas and coordinate events in order to build and
sustain our evolving organization.

Member-at-Large: Margarete Walden, Natural Resources Science
Margarete is a second year Master’s student in the Department of Natural Resources Science. She a member-at-large on the executive board, and can be found in Coastal Institute 007 when she’s not tracking turtles on Long Island.


Grievance Chair: Andy Nelson, Political Science
Andy Nelson is a second year master’s student in the political science department.  After spending most of his 20s touring with bands and pursuing music, he decided to enter back into academia.  His goal is to become a high school teacher and reclaim the importance of civics and history.