2019-20 Executive Officers
President: Timo Kuester, Chemical Engineering
I started at URI in 2016, coming from the “Technische Universität Braunschweig”, Germany, as part of dual degree master exchange program. Soon after my arrival I fell in love with the beauty of the Ocean State, and therefore decided to stay for a PhD to continue my work on the development of an improved sensor for marine pollutants. My drive to get involved in GAU was growing up in Germany, which has a long history of labor movements. Unionism led to significant improvement of working conditions in my country. Coming from a working class family, the necessity of unions was never debatable to me.
As students were not represented by a union at my German university, I was absolutely amazed when I first heard about GAU and the resulting opportunities to take action and fight for our rights as well as improved working conditions.
Seeing the ongoing nationwide attacks on unions, which not only feels like an attack on my personal values but also threatens us, the students makes it more important than ever to have a strong union. Of course, a union is only as strong as its members, and therefore I will do everything in my power to strengthen our membership base and motivate members to actively participate and take action when needed.
Vice President: Sara Wigginton, Natural Resources Science
My name is Sara, and I am a third-year, Biological and Environmental Sciences PhD student working as a research assistant in the Department of Natural Resources Science. I have been an active member of GAU since coming to URI as a Masters’ student in 2014 and have served in both leadership and supporting roles. In 2014, I was elected to the executive board as a Member-at-Large and in 2015 I was elected Vice President. Additionally, I served on the GAU Grant Fund Committee in 2014 and 2018. As a mother, I bring unique insight to the complexities that come with navigating graduate school while managing parental responsibilities. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to represent our many members facing these same challenges. As GAU Vice President, I will strive to ensure our union meets the needs of all our members and supports us in the fight for a living wage, reasonable hours, decent health care, and fair treatment.
Secretary: Emily Marques, Department of Pharmacy
I am a fourth-year PhD student in the pharmaceutical sciences program with a specialization in pharmacology and toxicology. I was the Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences Department Representative on the GAU Leadership Council last year, and I am also currently serving as a graduate student representative of Mechanisms Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology. I am passionate about promoting the well-being of fellow students and am excited to be more involved with GAU. I believe that as a union as we have a responsibility to fight for education and fair labor for all our members. I hope to help build a community of Graduate Assistants that encourages and supports each other, as we pursue our rights to fair labor and education.
Treasurer: Annie Haynes, Chemistry
My name is Anna Haynes but you'll hear many people on campus call me Annie. Originally, I'm from Massachusetts and graduated from Worcester State University in 2018 with my B.S. in chemistry. I am heading into my second year in the graduate chemistry program where I am a TA and do research under Dr. Mindy Levine. After getting settled last year, I am excited to become more involved in our union. I come from a very hard-working family and saw firsthand how much impact a union can have. This past year, my father's company was shut down unexpectedly. Fortunately, he was a member of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union for as long as he had worked at his company, who fought hard for the workers like my father who worked so hard for so long. They were with the workers throughout the negotiations for severance pay and retirement plans and did everything they could to ensure the best possible outcome for the employees of the factory. More personally, the union made it more financially possible for me to attend the college of my choice by awarding me their scholarship. As treasurer, I hope that I can contribute to GAU to ensure that we have the back for all the graduate students at URI.
MemberSHIP Chair: Amber Hardy, Geosciences
I am grateful for the opportunity to run for Membership Chair of the GAU. As a current Membership Co-Chair I have been successful at recruiting and engagement of our membership and am a strong voice for the interests of the membership every chance I get. I believe strongly that our union depends on the members being active and engaged, and if elected, I will continue to work hard to bolster membership and solidarity in our union.
I am from a rural, working-class background and spent about 15 years working in the culinary field before finishing college. During that time, I saw firsthand the consequences of “employment at will” and what happens to workers that are not organized. Poor wages, hours, and working conditions were justified by fostering an attitude that workers should endure exploitation because they love what they do. This attitude seems common in grad programs, where many of us are pursuing scholarship in fields that we love and making significant sacrifices for that scholarship. Our union vigilantly protects us from exploitation as long as the members are talking to each other and staying informed and engaged.
As a candidate returning to this position for a second term, I have significant value and effectiveness as an organizer of our members and as a voice for their interests. There is nothing I enjoy better than advocating loudly for the well-being of our union membership. As your Membership Chair I will use all the communication and organizational skills I have acquired in the pursuit of an active, engaged union pushing for fair compensation, safe working conditions, and fair treatment for all our members.
Grievance Chair: Kim kleszczynski, Housing and Residential Life
My name is Kimberly Kleszczynski and I am the Grievance Chair for the 2019-2020 academic year. I am currently a second year graduate student in the program of Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in College Student Personnel. My Graduate Assistantship is as a Graduate Hall Director for the Department of Housing and Residential Life. I also have an internship this year in the Center for Student Leadership Development.
My leadership style focuses on building community and social justice. I find these to be important in my work with students and will also incorporate this approach in my grievance chair position. My vision for this position is to ensure that the integrity of our contact is upheld within all departments and graduate positions on campus.
Communications Chair: Nyla Husain, Oceanography
I’m Nyla, GAU’s Communications Chair and a fifth-year PhD student studying physical oceanography at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography (Bay Campus). My research explores the interactions between wind and waves, and the processes that facilitate the exchange of energy, momentum, heat, and gases at the ocean surface that can impact weather and climate patterns over long distances. I became interested in the physics of the oceans after studying fluid dynamics as an engineering undergrad and realizing that it could be applied to natural processes.
I became acquainted with GAU in her first year at URI, quickly feeling a sense of community and solidarity with other graduate students that I would otherwise have been isolated from on the Bay Campus in Narragansett. After the 2016 elections, I decided to get involved with GAU as a department representative for oceanography, having realized that the union I had since taken for granted was now under threat (see Janus v. AFSCME, decided 2018). This year, I has decided to take my involvement a step further by becoming involved with direct communications to the student body as GAU's Communications Chair.