2018-19 Executive Officers
President: Brooke Huynh, College Student Personnel
My name is Brooke Huynh and I use she/her pronouns. I am serving as your Graduate Student Union President. Outside of this role, I work as the Graduate Assistant in the Disability Services Office at for Students at URI and I will be working as an Intern in the Intercultural Center at the Rhode Island School of Design. I am in my second year of the Masters of Science College Student Personnel Program in the Human Development and Family Studies Department. Prior to coming to the University of Rhode Island, I worked as a Program Assistant in the Campus Leadership and Activities Office at Hampshire College for two years. I am a proud alumna from the Mount Holyoke College class of 2015 with a degree in both History and Gender Studies. While working in the field of Student Affairs, I found my passion in multicultural education and social justice.
As a result of my experiences in social justice and inclusion, this year, I hope to build a community of graduate assistants. I aim to create better working conditions for all graduate students which include: advocating for increased pay, pushing for affordable health care, especially dental and vision insurance, and educating folks about our rights as graduate students. On my free time, (when I am not laying on the couch with my partner and my cat, Snuggles), I love to play Rugby, I love to win matches in Words with Friends, and I love eating ice cream.
Vice President: Kaytee Canfield, Marine Affairs
I came to URI in the fall of 2016 to begin my Ph.D. in the Marine Affairs department, and have been involved with GAU since November 2016. The union empowers us to make an impact in our campus community, connects us to fellow graduate students, and teaches us how to be more effective organizers and activists.
With the current uncertainty of immigration rights of our international students, funding for science and education, and decisions of government in general, I can no longer be a bystander. The momentum we have been gaining as a union excites me and has motivated me to continue fighting for the rights to education and humanity we all deserve.
Secretary: Marisa Pfhol, Department of Pharmacy
My name is Marisa Pfohl and I am the GAU secretary. I am going into my fourth year in the PhD program for pharmacology and toxicology. I am from a rural, blue-collar town in upstate New York but I have been living in RI for seven years now. I research the biological mechanisms and health impact of environmental pollutants in the body. Studying environmental pollution has shed light on how the voices of many sounding as one is a vital part of enacting lasting change and achieving environmental justice. I am committed to help leverage our collective voice in the pursuit of fair compensation, benefits, and working conditions for all graduate assistants at URI.
Treasurer: Anita Oppong, Chemistry
I am a Ghanaian studying chemistry (PhD) at the University of Rhode Island. I am training to be a synthetic chemist specializing in Method development.
I was introduced to GAU in my first year and I got curious about what they stood for. I didn't know the depth of their importance until I really got involved. I was elected for member at large but had to step in for the Treasurer last year. I was super excited because this was an opportunity for me to know how our dues are utilized since I get people asking me such questions. This year I got elected to continue the awesome duty as treasurer.
It was an incredible year last year and I know this year will be too. As Treasurer, I am responsible for bank account management, Grant Fund administration, managing our resources, and ensuring with the help of our executive director, Danielle Dirocco, that the Union runs smoothly financially and logistically.
I know GAU will serve you well this year and in the years to come because we are dedicated to our members. United we stand, divided we fall. We need YOU to make GAU work!
Grievance Chair: John Barrett, Department of History
I am a MA student and Teaching Assistant in the History department here at URI. Broadly, I am interested in American political history with a special interest in Labor politics. Since reading The Grapes of Wrath in High School, I have been a passionate believer in the power of organized workers to build a better future.
Through GAU, I have been able to take a more active role in my workplace and to see the how the historical trends I study impact the real world. I am excited to give back to an organization that has given me so much.
During my time in the Los Angeles branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, I served on a complaint committee. In this role, I learned how to apply the techniques of Restorative Justice to serious interpersonal conflicts. This experience will prove invaluable in the Grievance process.
Communications Chair: Catherine Winters, English
I am a fourth-year PhD candidate in the English department, focusing on contemporary American multimodal literature, or books with pictures. In addition to my work at the university, I have been the social media manager for a small local business for the last three years and I look forward to using my experience with communications on this board. This past year, I got more involved in the union through a revision of the constitution and by-laws with a small and dedicated group from the English department.
The union cannot do anything without a strong and informed membership. As we come up on another year of contract negotiations, I want to help keep all members up-to-date and engaged. I am excited to use my background in marketing and outreach to spread the word about the work GAU does and our rights as Graduate Assistants at URI. More importantly, the union cannot represent its members without hearing from them and I want to make sure that everyone feels heard. #GAUWorks better when we all hear each other.
MemberSHIP Co-Chair: Amber Hardy, Geosciences
I grew up part of a working-class family in rural Maine and attended college in Maine, where I found my interest in soils and environmental science. After some time in Texas completing a M.S. program, I came to URI to pursue a Ph.D. in Natural Resources Science.
In an age of increasing politicization of scientific research, I see academic labor unions as instrumental to safeguarding the intellectual liberty of scientists and researchers. I believe this will only become more important as humans continue to impact the environment. Speaking truth to power is risky and requires courage. The stability, both economic and social, that our union provides is the source of that courage for me.
As a membership co-chair, I can put my energy into building our union as it is: a living body made of all of us. As graduate assistants, our labor is indispensable to the university and worthy of pride. We are high-quality workers and we stand together to protect ourselves from exploitation. The more our members know about their contract and rights, the better our union becomes and the more we will grow as a community of academic workers in Rhode Island.
Membership Co-Chair: Timo Kuster, 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 the 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 current 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.
Past President: Kira Homola, Oceanography
I entered GSO in 2014 after earning dual Bachelor’s Degrees in Oceanography and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Geochemical Oceanography under Dr. Arthur Spivack. Originally from the Puget Sound, my passion for science, education, and the ocean keep me involved in outreach and teaching in addition to my research.
My expertise lies in organization, rallying interest into action, public speaking, event planning and implementation, and attention to detail. Being involved in a group that fights hard for the rights of all its members is incredibly appealing to me, as I am strongly devoted to equality and opportunity for all. I would like to see the GAU community grow, strengthen, and work to educate our members and the general public about the role of unions in politics, the workplace, and our futures.