PRESIDENT (1 seat)

Matt KrottEngineering – My name is Matt Krott and I am a 4th-year Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering. Currently, I serve as an Engineering Delegate, Chair of the GPSA Advocacy Committee, and the GPSA representative on President Barron’s Smoke-Free/Tobacco-Free Task Force. Including my undergraduate education, I have spent almost eight years as a Penn State student, so I am extremely passionate about giving back to the University which has given me so much already. This year’s Assembly has made great strides in many areas, and it’s crucial that we build on this momentum. Because of my experience as Advocacy Chair, I am aware of current issues facing graduate and professional students, and I can immediately pick up where we left off. As we tackle both old and new issues, I hope to create an environment where GPSA communicates with its constituents and serves as a forum for all graduate and professional students to be heard by their representatives.


Brianne PraggLiberal Arts – My name is Brianne Pragg, and I am a 3rd year PhD candidate in Sociology and Demography. This year, I have served as the Chair of the Graduate Council Student Caucus, a member of the Graduate Council’s Graduate Student and Faculty Issues Committee, a member of the GPSA Advocacy Committee, a member of the Student Parent Child Care Subsidy Advisory Committee, and the Chief Organizer of the Coalition of Graduate Employees (CGE). I am consistently a vocal advocate for grad students and employees. I have actively participated in many grad student/employee-focused efforts, including organizing informational sessions on Title IX and immigration law, fighting to loosen eligibility requirements for childcare subsidies, and advocating for comprehensive and affordable healthcare. As VP, I will continue to be a staunch advocate for graduate and professional students when our interests are inconsistent with those of the university or faculty.


Nasr Cheaib – Engineering – I am currently a first-year student in the College of Engineering, completing my Masters in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research with a concentration in Manufacturing. I completed my undergraduate studies at Penn State, earning degree in Industrial Engineering. I come from a small town in Lebanon. My previous work experience was in the oil and gas industry (NOV) particularly overlooking manufacturing processes and aiming to utilize all resources. I have been involved with many student organizations during my undergrad studies and was always keen to ensure smooth effective communications within the association and the community. I am well organized and detailed oriented. I am determined to stay true to the GPSA mission and make sure we are an accurate voice for the student body. I am also committed to working toward facilitating more transparent communication between students, faculty and staff to allow for dialogue and positive outcomes.

TREASURER (1 seat)

Erica Schwalm – Eberly College of Science – I am a fifth year Ph.D. student in the chemistry department. My dissertation research focuses on determining the chemical mechanism utilized by bacterial enzymes responsible for the modification of RNA, hoping to gain knowledge that can aid in the development of novel therapeutics to combat the growing antibiotic resistance problem in bacterial infections. I have served as a Delegate for the Eberly College of Science for the last year. As a member of both the Professional Development and Programming Committees, I helped organize events including Graduate Writing Boot Camp, professional head shots, tailgates, and the Winter Gala. I believe these events are valuable to graduate and professional students and want to continue working in GPSA to provide social and professional development opportunities.

Ruimin ChenEngineering – My name is Ruimin Chen and I am a first year master student from the Industrial Engineering department. I have been to several GPSA events and I think it is a great organization. As a member of the IIE student chapter when I was a undergrad, I have helped organize the fundraising events and assisted in department open house. I think those experiences would be a great help me to work as a treasurer for GPSA. If elected, I will be responsible with funds in the organization and keep track of it.


Kevin ReuningLiberal Arts – I’ll be starting my 5th year as a PhD student in Political Science in the fall. I have served as Faculty Senator since the middle of the Fall Semester when the previous Senator resigned. Currently I sit on the Committee on Research, which provides guidance on how to improve the research community at Penn State. If elected I plan to work on broader engagement of graduate students with the Faculty Senate, as many decisions made by the Faculty Senate impact their lives. Previous to being Faculty Senate I served as the Chair of the GPSA Advocacy Committee.


Mara CloutierAgricultural Sciences – My name is Mara Cloutier and I am a first year PhD student in Soil Science and Biogeochemistry. I have not served the GPSA before, however, I was elected Social Chair of the Biology Graduate Student Association at my previous school, where I received an M.S. in Biology. At my previous university, there was a very small graduate school and very little graduate student culture. I would like to offer my service to you, to enrich graduate student experiences across all colleges. As graduate students at Penn State, we work hard for our degrees. We lose sleep at night stressing about a test, a research project, a fellowship application or a job interview. We deserve to have an organization that will work for us and will keep our interests in the forefront of decision making. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to represent you. Thank you.

August JenkinsHealth and Human Development – My name is August Jenkins. I am from Detroit, MI and am an alumna from Michigan State University, with a B.A. in Psychology. I am currently in my first year of the Human Development and Family Studies doctoral program. My research interest is in minority health, more specifically trajectories of psychopathology and physical health among African American couples. As a graduate student I am excited to take an active role in shaping our educational and social experiences here at Penn State. I have enjoyed my time at Penn State so far. I would love the opportunity to contribute to and further the rich, positive environment for current and incoming graduate students.

Ling YangEngineering – My name is Ling Yang. I am a 2nd year PhD student majoring in Bioengineering. I have been a member of the Engineering Graduate Student Council (EGSC) since last year and currently, I am the community service chair of EGSC. I have organized multiple events, including blood drives, volunteering activities, and Engineer’s Week. In addition, I serve on the Academic Integrity Committee for College of Engineering (COE), as a graduate student representative. I have a strong interest in contributing to the graduate student community and being part of the Graduate Student Council is a great opportunity. My current experience in EGSC allows me to understand the interest of the community, while my experience in COE gets me prepared to interact with the faculties and administrators. As a member of the Graduate Student Council, I will serve as a voice of the graduate students and fight for the interest of the community when issues arise.

Saratu Terreno – Engineering – I am a third year PhD student in the Department of Architectural Engineering. I have followed the progress of the GPSA over the past few years, and have been impressed by how much has been achieved on behalf of graduate students in Penn State. I would be honored to be given the opportunity to continue on this path and play my own part in ensuring the advancement and well-being of graduate and professional students.

Jashwant Raj Gunasekaran – Engineering – Hi I am Jashwant, 3rd year MS (aspiring PHD) student from Computer Science and Engineering. My origin is from India and I have been at Penn State for 3 years. I have closely followed the course of GPSA in the past years, their achievements for the purpose of students has been remarkable. This, motivated me to be a part of GPSA which enables me to be closer to the committee and also serve the students directly. I have served as a leader of my class back in undergrad which has given me the right exposure and experience with student and social groups.



Devon Carroll – Masters candidate in Agronomy with a Bachelors in Turfgrass Science. As an undergrad, I was president of the Horticulture Club, a member of the College of Ag Sci ambassador program, Ag Advocates and on the 2016 Penn State Ag Day executive committee. As a former representative of the College of Agricultural Sciences in various capacities, I have a close connection to the student population within the college and thoroughly understand the challenges this group faces.





Gerry Knapp – My name is Gerry and I’m finishing my first year in the Materials Science and Engineering Ph.D. program, where I’m researching 3-D printing processes for metals. I joined GPSA last fall as a delegate for the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and have helped the professional development committee to put on events like Graduate Writing Boot camp and professional head-shot opportunities. Now that I have some experience with GPSA, as a delegate I would aim to bring even more fun and useful opportunities to graduate and professional students!

Joshua Bostwick – My name is Joshua Bostwick, a first year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering. As an out of state student, I believe creating an environment where the community supports the graduate student body is vital for student success. If elected, my goal would be to push for social events not just between graduate students but also with the community as well.

Mikael Hiestand – I’m Mikael Hiestand and I’m in my first year of a 5 year master’s and Ph.D. program in geography. As a physical geographer, I focus on how ecosystem dynamics can affect regional climate systems. I am a proud member of We Are for Science and am involved with The Coalition for Graduate Employees. If elected, I would seek to provide a voice for all graduate students, advocate for science, and promote social activities. I am running as a delegate for GPSA to help ensure an inclusive environment for graduate students at Penn State and that we are respected within the university community. I seek to not only represent all graduate students at Penn State, but also be a voice for science within the GPSA.

EDUCATION (3 seats)

Sonja Robinson – My name is Sonja Robinson and I am from the ‘warm and sunny island of Jamaica”. Currently, I am a first year Ph.D. student in Workforce Education and Development. In another life, I was a teacher at a local community college in Jamaica. As an educator, I enjoyed teaching, and the opportunity to share my knowledge with my students. My aim was to empower them while, instilling a drive for not only academic success but personal growth and development. I would like the opportunity not only to represent the College of Education but would be honored to serve in the GPSA.

Carmen Vanderhoof – My name is Carmen Vanderhoof and I am a second year PhD student in Science Education, department of Curriculum and Instruction. Prior to starting my program, I conducted molecular cloning research at SUNY Upstate, earned a Masters at PSU, and taught middle school science in Maryland. Currently, I am researching the types of resources and strategies elementary students employ to push for their ideas to be incorporated into the final product in an engineering design challenge. I am passionate about education and drawing interdisciplinary connections. If elected, I would work towards improving opportunities for graduate students to collaborate and exchange ideas across different areas of study.


Shenli Pei – I am a second year Ph.D student, a current delegate of college of engineering, and serving on the programming committee. I have helped organize events such as the cooking program and the Grad Cup. I would like to continue to serve on the assembly as a delegate. The experiences that I had in GPSA helped me to understand the essence of having such an organization as well as the commitment it means to be a delegate.

Saratu Terreno – I am a third year PhD student in the Department of Architectural Engineering. I have followed the progress of the GPSA over the past few years, and have been impressed by how much has been achieved on behalf of graduate students in Penn State. I would be honored to be given the opportunity to continue on this path and play my own part in ensuring the advancement and well-being of graduate and professional students.

Farnaz Tehranchi – I am a second year Ph.D. candidate in the department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). My mission is to provide a platform to encourage the graduate student of my department to contribute more with the hope of being effective without compromising their position.

Khushboo Patel – My name is Khushboo Patel and I am pursuing Master of Science Degree in Aerospace department under College of Engineering. This is my fifth year at Penn State and I have learnt a lot being an international student and being a part of a diverse yet welcoming student culture. I have realized that sometimes we fail to recognize the help available through great initiatives like the GPSA and so I would like to get involved and create a bridge of communication to better serve the community. I have never served for GPSA but I worked as the webmaster for the AIAA Penn state student chapter during my undergraduate years. I have also lead projects including robotics and learnt Management skills through it as well as through Space Systems Engineering training at Penn state itself. If selected, I would like to work hard and better understand the needs of my colleagues and fellow graduates and help them get involved.

Jashwant Gunasekaran – Hi I am Jashwant, 3rd year MS (aspiring PHD) student from Computer Science and Engineering. My origin is from India and I have been at Penn State for 3 years. I have closely followed the course of GPSA in the past years, their achievements for the purpose of students has been remarkable. This, motivated me to be a part of GPSA which enables me to be closer to the committee and also serve the students directly. I have served as a leader of my class back in undergrad which has given me the right exposure and experience with student and social groups.


Abigail Keim – I am a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. I’m interested in improving grad student life across campus on behalf of the Department of Human Development of Family Studies (HDFS). I will have direct input from the HDFS steering committee and would communicate with other departments in HHD to represent our collective interests and contribute to the Penn State community.


LIBERAL ARTS (3 seats)

Tori Thomas – My name is Tori Thomas, and I am a doctoral candidate for Sociology and Demography. My current specialization is the effects of school racial segregation on academic and behavioral outcomes. Thus, I’m very passionate about diversity and multicultural initiatives. Though I have not been involved in GPSA, I have been involved in Penn State’s graduate student community. I’m currently secretary of the Black Graduate Student Association. I have co-chaired BGSA’s event, “Celebration of Black Lives.” I have been involved in many committees in my department, including diversity initiatives, recruitment, and mini conferences. If elected, I will push for more multicultural initiatives, and collaborations with graduate student organizations of color.

Austin “Nathan” Geiger – I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology. Together with collaborators, I work on evaluating the effectiveness of climate change communication interventions and seek to identify socio-psychological factors that lead individuals to become more engaged with the topic. For the past two years, I have also been a social co-chair of BRIDGE, a departmental diversity group, as well as a member of the Coalition of Graduate Employees. As a delegate of GPSA, I will work to foster an inclusive, supportive environment, ensure that graduate students are provided the appropriate respect, and provide graduate students with a voice toward helping the Penn State community to live up to our values. I am especially passionate to provide an avenue for us to contribute our collective knowledge about environmental sustainability to improve the community and help Penn State to reach the 2016-2020 5-year plan sustainability goals.

NURSING (1 seat)


Brian Conway – I’m a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Chemistry studying the dynamics of solutes and solvents in conventional/ionic liquid binary mixtures. Through 2016-17, I have served as both Programming Subcommittee Chair and Speaker of the Assembly of GPSA. The current assembly orchestrated a variety of well received social and professional development events, collaborations and advocacy initiatives. Should I be elected, I would work to ensure that the successes of this assembly continue in to the next.

Alex Zhao – I’m a first year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in statistics, as well as Treasurer for the Statistics Graduate Student Association. In general, I want to improve the lives of graduate students, and especially those of students in the Eberly College of Sciences. If elected, I would push for more funding for social events as well as greater engagement with the administration.

Sonny Arora – I am a fifth year PhD student in Mathematics studying problems in encoding and decoding messages across the internet. I served as a Delegate at Large of the GPSA for the 2016-2017 year, working on the Graduate Student Cup sub-committee. If elected, I would work to continue the GPSA’s efforts to connect graduate students through social events and professional development activities.

SCHOOLS OF LAW (3 seats)


Abdulaziz Dahlawi – I am currently a first-year student in the School of International Affairs, completing a Master of International Affairs degree with a concentration in Development Policy. I completed my undergraduate studies at Penn State, earning degrees in Economics and Spanish. My involvement with multiple student organizations in the past five years has led me to understand the different interests and objectives of various groups within the university. Considering my experience with University Park and the connections I’ve formed with students and faculty at SIA, I believe I can best serve the interests of the community at GSPA and contribute to the intercollegiate collaborative atmosphere in the association.


Sailahari Ponnaluri – I am a first year Ph.D. student in the Bioengineering Department studying cardiovascular devices. I recently graduated from the University of Iowa and I’m really excited to be a part of Penn State. Since coming to PSU, I have joined the Biomedical Engineering Society and have become the Career Co-chair, planning professional events for all BME students. GPSA provides a unique opportunity to meet graduate students from other departments and I would like to continue creating an inclusive environment with diverse events that students will attend. With my leadership experience in multiple student organizations and my communication abilities with my college administrative positions, I believe I can work with others to accomplish our goals. I am excited to be have a chance to represent the students of the intercollegiate program and their needs.

David Dopfel – I am currently a second year PhD student in Bioengineering. My research focuses on using animal models of stress disorders to study the effect of stress on the brain. I have been a delegate in GPSA for the past two years. I have enjoyed being a part of the grad cup, programming and internal development committees. If elected this year, I will continue to work to improve the graduate and professional student life through events and advocacy.


MEMBER (2 seats)

Ilias Moysidis – My name is Ilias and I am from Greece. I am currently attending the Ph.D. program in statistics. Before coming here I spent 9 months in the army and before that I studied math in Greece. It is my first year in Penn State and I am having a really good time here. All the people I have met, domestic or international, have been amazingly helpful. My intention is to help the upcoming students as well as the students already studying here have a great experience.