2016 UMGSA election candidates Profiles of candidates for executive, senate

The Gradzette sat down with all the candidates for the 2016-17 executive and senate positions for the University of Manitoba Graduate Students’ Association (UMGSA).

The campaign period for the election ends March 11. Voting takes place March 14-16 and is online only. UMGSA members will be emailed a link to vote.

An all-candidates forum will be held March 10.


Enoch A-iyeh (Your UMGSA)

Area of study: Electrical and computer engineering

Background and experience: Enoch A-iyeh is currently serving as vice-president external of the UMGSA where he worked in expanding the external relations of the organization. During his tenure, he organized a very successful and highly productive GU15 conference. This afforded UMGSA the opportunity to shape and inform graduate student policies and governance.

He has worked with a member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly for graduate students’ causes and has encouraged dialogue on the controversial budget cuts implemented by the university. Enoch focuses on providing input geared toward graduate student-friendly policies and opportunities on all committees he serves on. Notwithstanding, he has an understanding of the UMGSA structure and processes from his experiences.

Enoch is driven by the simple philosophy that “we are in this together. This is better than being on your own. Cooperation is what works in the real world.” He is committed to seeing UMGSA in useful partnerships. Having fostered co-operative efforts between UMGSA and other partners to useful ends, he would like to see future collaborative initiatives that would bring real resources to graduate students for the enhancement of their graduate experience. Students should have more opportunities and tools for success.

Enoch intends to drive outreach efforts to the over 90 graduate disciplines in the university – a drive that should curb the perpetual absence of student membership at UMGSA. Through inclusion strategies and active participation, Enoch will engage graduate students and solicit their inputs towards achieving a comprehensive association.

Further, Enoch intends to address the outward-focused financial approach of the current leadership by streamlining financial processes, minimizing costs and redirecting resources to priority issues.

A vote for Enoch is a vote for prioritization of the needs of graduate students and their issues; active and strong advocacy; increased cooperation; available tools and opportunities for success; enhanced graduate student outreach; active engagement; and a sustainable outlook on the operations and processes of the UMGSA.

Goals: Ensure that we successfully exit as “members” of CFS for his term. This could put locked up resources at our disposal. Address the increasing pressure and demand for conference grants to graduate students and empower students with the resources including fees required to publish in journals. Actively engage the university senate to ensure more favourable and unrestrictive voluntary withdrawal policies for graduate students. Engage the relevant parties to address increase demands for child care spaces on campus. Initiate dialogue and possibly revert previous budget cuts given recent provincial funding.

Carl Neumann (independent)

Area of study: Philosophy

Background and experience: I currently serve as the Philosophy Representative on the UMGSA Council. I am a member of several UMGSA committees including both Bylaws & Policy and Finance. I am the chairperson for the UMGSA’s Internal Development and Review Subcommittee (IDRSC), and we have just completed the first bi-annual review of the UMGSA executives for 2015-2016. In this role, I created and administered the Graduate Students’ Association Survey and gained a very thorough understanding of the internal workings of the UMGSA.

I have taken the initiative, both as a member of council as well as in my role as the subcommittee chairperson, to propose several council motions which aim to improve the accountability and functioning of the association.

I am currently the vice-president of the Ethics Center Students’ Association, and also a teaching assistant, so I have a personal understanding of what graduate students in similar roles are doing and experiencing.

Last year I was an executive-at-large with the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association, which gives me extremely valuable practical experience in how different but similar organizations and their executives organize and manage their affairs.

While completing my undergraduate degree at Carleton University, I served as a student senator for three years and a council representative for two years. During that time, I was a member of all of the students’ association’s committees, and I was elected as chairperson to conduct all administrative duties for the Long Range Planning, Financial Review, Students’ Issues Action, and Community Service Committees.

Goals: My primary goals are focused on engagement, communication, and ethics. I will personally meet with graduate students in their departments to strengthen the UMGSA’s connection with them, hear their ideas and concerns directly, and ensure they know about, and have access to, all that the UMGSA has to offer.

There will be fewer, shorter, and clearer emails, with links to additional information for those who want it rather than long emails containing extensive details that many do not want or need.

Our events will take on new meaning by supporting those in need. Prize raffles and food drives will regularly benefit charities such as women’s shelters and food banks.

The UMGSA’s investments should better reflect our shared values, and we will pursue divestment from carbon-intensive companies.

Vice-president external

Abdullah Al-Abbasi (independent)

Area of study: Mechanical engineering

Background and experience: A passion for self-development motivated me to be a team leader and events speaker and organizer during my journey of leadership. Being a secretary of the International Student Society sparked my interest in comprehending the needs of students and working with both internal and external affairs to overcome as well as providing the best.

Goals: Addressing issues and ideas regarding university’s public relations and fundraising strategies. Aiming to create more careers opportunities for graduate students by promoting their potential.

Albert Boakye (Your UMGSA)

Area of study: Public administration

Background and experience: Albert Boakye is a graduate student in the joint MPA program run by the University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg. He serves as a student representative on the joint discipline committee for the program and as vice-president (marketing/special functions) on the Student Association for the Master’s of Politics and Public Administration (SAMPA).

Albert currently serves as a Teaching Assistant at the U of W and has worked as research assistant on post-secondary education financing in Canada at the department of political studies at U of M. He has previously worked as a policy analyst for Manitoba Mineral Resources with a key responsibility of designing legislative frameworks through a provincial jurisdictional scan.

Before coming to Canada, he served as a teaching assistant at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration and Ghana Christian University College. Albert holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wales in development management with a specialization in microfinance. His research interests include leadership, governance, and development issues; public management and public policy; and strategic management. Albert participates in academic conferences on an annual basis and coordinates research activities for a couple of non-governmental organizations in Ghana.

Goals: Partner with both internal and external bodies (UMSU, UMFA, CUPE, GU15, ministry of education, media, etc.) to speak with one voice to advance the value of graduate education at U of M and in Manitoba in general. Help improve the university’s global reputation beyond U15. Help cultivate an inclusive and culturally diverse student body in UM by championing “Education for All” through making UM affordable and accessible to international students. Being inclusive of international students improves the research and development capabilities of the university and engages an important group that will result in many future Canadian citizens.

Address the increasing pressure and demand for conference grants to graduate students and to empower graduate students with resources including publication fees for reputable journals. Ensure significant commitments to global exchange programs for graduate students.

Vice-president internal

Ben Akoh (Your UMGSA)

Area of study: Education

Background and experience: Ben Akoh has been actively involved in empowering women, children, and marginalized people across the world and recently in remote fly-in communities in Northern Manitoba through teaching and implementing educational technologies. He was actively involved in producing policy research in Canada and in many developing countries in the intersection of technology and education with climate change adaptation, transparency and accountability in governments, and in increasing citizenship participation in the governance process.

Ben is a seasoned project manager, educator, organizer, and manager who has courses at the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg. He is currently working on a federal project with post-secondary institutions to produce competency standards for business and technology management graduates required in today’s ever-dynamic and evolving workplace. Ben is a serial volunteer. He gives back through teaching in First Nations reserves and was recently spotted volunteering at the Grey Cup (Winnipeg), Pan Am Games (Toronto), and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

Goals: Increase and enhance internal relationships between graduate students across faculties. Improve access to research funds and grants and assist students who need support to apply. Improve internal communication among graduate students. Minimize operational expenses while maximizing student access to funding research, conferences and papers. Improve the overall efficiency of internal operations of the UMGSA.

Vice-president academic

Kathryn Marcynuk (Your UMGSA)

Area of study: Electrical and computer engineering

Background and experience: As a current PhD student with two previous degrees from the University of Manitoba, this institution has truly become my “home away from home.” I would love to have the opportunity to give back to the community here. I have been actively involved at the university since my undergraduate degree, and I would be honoured to be entrusted with representing graduate student interests next year.

I was a member of the UMGSA executive as a senator for 2015-2016; member of the UMGSA awards committee and internal development and review subcommittee; four years on the engineering undergraduate student council executive, including membership on seven committees; four years as a faculty of engineering student representative on a total of nine committees; three years on senate; two years on the senate executive committee; four years on senate subcommittees; academic commissioner and chair of the education committee of the national engineering student council; chair of both IEEE Winnipeg Graduates Of the Last Decade (GOLD) & IEEE Women in Engineering Winnipeg.

Goals: Continue to represent graduate student interests on topics such as the course withdrawal policy, and new issues that arise next year based on my previous senate experience. Increase Profile of the UMGSA awards and streamline the application process. Improve communication with the faculty of graduate studies, with the university, with committees, and with the UMGSA council and executive. Ensure that graduate students are well-represented and informed of any academic policy changes.

Vice-president marketing and events

Ehsan Tahmasebian (independent)

Area of study: Electrical and computer engineering.

Background and experience: I have been the vice president of ECE-GSA (Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Student’s Association chapter) for two years. In the past two years we have held more than 10 different events, including orientation parties, year-end luncheon parties, movie nights, bowling nights and laser-tag nights. I was in charge of getting sponsors for supporting our events. Our events have been supported with many of the known restaurants and stores on campus such as Degrees, Global Bubble Tea, and the Bookstore.

I started my graduate studies in U of M in September 2011 as an MSc student and after finishing my MSc degree I started my PhD program in the same department. Being in U of M graduate studies for the fifth year has helped me find many friends among the graduate students, which I believe can help me greatly in acting as an executive member.

Goals: I believe that the events UMGSA holds are very important, because so many graduate students are not involved in UMGSA activities and these events are a way of creating motivation. My plan is to make sure that I would keep holding the main events (like orientation events and occasional parties) and try hard to improve the quality of them, as well as holding new events such as sport competitions and art competitions.

Md Waliullah (Your UMGSA)

Area of study: Computer science

Background and experience: Md Waliullah is currently studying for his MSc in computer science at the University of Manitoba. Previously, he completed his MSc in network and computer systems security at the University of Greenwich in London. Md Waliullah has been involved with student organizations since his undergraduate degree. He was the president of a drama organization at Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science & Technology University in Bangladesh.

He has successfully organized various cultural and social events. He actively performed in several stage drama and cultural productions during his undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Bangladesh and the U.K. Recently, he directed and acted in a short stage drama at a fresher’s event hosted by the University of Manitoba Bangladeshi Students’ Association.

He believes in two things in life: growing and giving. He loves to bring a smile to people’s faces. His philosophy of life is simple: “Do what makes you happy.”

Goals: Showcase the achievements and the research works of U of M graduate students. Organize a fresher and farewell event for the incoming and outgoing graduates. Increase networking between graduate students by organizing different events. Organize different sports events between inter department & faculty graduate associations, if possible inter university. Organize multi-cultural events to create a bridge among various communities.


Mohammad Emrul Hasan (Your UMGSA)

Area of study: Physics

Background and experience: Mohammad Emrul Hasan is currently serving as a GSA internal representative for the Physics and Astronomy Graduate Students Association. Previously he worked for two years as a vice-president of the Kishoreganj Students’ Welfare Association in Sylhet, Bangladesh. He organized two successful orientation and farewell programs for fresh and outgoing students respectively. Mr. Emrul also was a secretary of Joika Union Students’ Association in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In addition, Emrul is currently attending the Intercultural Development and Leadership Program offered by ICS.

Goals: Represent graduate student interests to UMGSA council meetings and show strong voice in favour of them. Increase communication with GSA representatives of all departments as well as interaction with graduate students.

Md Monjurul Islam Khan (Rasel) (Your UMGSA)

Area of study: Electrical and computer engineering

Background and experience: Rasel has served various organizations and program-organizing committees in his home country of Bangladesh, where he led a team to the Asian Youth Summit 2014 in South Korea. He would like to employ his experiences for UMGSA as a senator. He will focus on reflecting graduate students interest on various policies on all committees he serves on.

Goals: Represent graduate students’ interests in all senate and student senate meetings. Improve communication among graduate students to sort out their interests and represent them in meetings.

Sampath Liyanage (independent)

Area of study: Electrical and computer engineering

Background and experience: I received my BSc degree in electrical and electronic engineering from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, in 2012. Then I worked as an engineer at an electronic manufacturing company for two years. I’m currently pursuing an MSc degree in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Manitoba. During my undergraduate studies I was a member of several student bodies and I have raised my voice and volunteered to campaign for students’ rights. I have worked closely with various groups at the U of M and I know what graduate students’ interests are and I’m sure your aims and goals coincide with mine.

Goals: As a senator my aim would be to represent graduate students’ voice at the senate. I am eager to work for a better future for graduate students and I will always welcome their ideas. If you empower me with your trust, I would like to make the university a little better place for graduate students with other executive team members.

Ramin Naseri (independent)

Area of study: Mechanical engineering

Background and experience: Member of Students’ Syndicate at University of Tehran. Treasurer for Mechanical & Manufacturing Graduate Students’ Association (MMEGSA). Secretary of Volleyball Club at University of Manitoba.

Goals: Being the voice of graduate students in senate and caucus meetings. Having a productive interaction with UMSU senators regarding the general issues of students. Having separate meetings with other senators to provide reports and discuss future plans.

Patrick Eleazer Ndolo

Area of study: Agribusiness and agricultural economics

Background and experience: Over the time that I have been at the department of agribusiness and agri-economics I have been actively involved in the affairs of the graduate students. I serve as the vice-president to the department’s graduate students’ association. In the course of being in this office, I noticed that there is a significant information divide between graduate students and their representatives. The rich ideas and interests that graduate students have hardly reach their representatives and the authorities capable of ratifying them.

Goals: As a senator, I seek to actively close this information divide through extensive outreach to the graduate students to tap from their rich ideas and thus be in a position to comprehensively represent their interests in senate. All this I am hoping to accomplish with the coordination and help of all of you, grad students and other UMGSA executive members. I am looking be a part of a Graduate Students’ Association that truly represents its members.

Amila Nuwan Pathirana (independent)

Area of study: Electrical and computer engineering

Background and experience: I am currently a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering. After completing master’s in this department I started my PhD in electrical engineering in 2012. With five years (and counting!) at the University of Manitoba I have a very good understanding of both the academic and economic challenges faced by graduate students.

Goals: As a senator my sole aim is to represent the ideas and interests of my fellow graduate students to the best of my ability. I will always give voice to the majority opinion of the graduate students.

Amin Yousefi

Area of study: Mechanical engineering

Background and experience: Member of Students’ Syndicate in Amirkabir University of Technology (master’s degree 2012-13). Senator of graduate students in Amirkabir University of Technology (master’s degree 2013-14). Vice-president for mechanical engineering students (bachelor’s degree 2010-11).

Goals: Being the voice of graduate students in senate and caucus meetings. Having productive interaction with UMSU senators regarding the general issues of students. Having separate meetings with other senators to provide reports and discuss future plans.

Feature image: Photo by Beibei Lu.

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