The graduate student government is holding a special election on Wednesday to fill its vice president of internal affairs seat, after former student government officer Hope McCoy resigned in September.
The Graduate Students Association forum members will vote on the candidates in their regular meeting, which will be open to the public.
Heidi Alexander, Milan Chatterjee and Matthew FitzGerald are the three candidates running for the position.
Last summer, Heidi Alexander was denied a grant for a research trip for solar power development. Instead of giving up on the project, she said she used her talents as a vocalist, guitarist, flutist and trumpeter to perform in musical events and raise money for the trip.
Alexander, now a second-year graduate student at the School of Arts and Architecture, said she thinks dealing with stressful situations and fundraising will help her if she is elected as the vice president of internal affairs.
“I am an architecture student, so I am very detail oriented,” Alexander said.
Alexander, a UC Berkeley alumna, said one of her main objectives is to make already available resources more accessible to graduate students.
“For graduate students on a campus as big as this one, students can feel very anonymous and it is easy to lose your voice and find it difficult to push for what you want and need.” Alexander said. “I want to help students to push for what they want.”
She added that she wants to bring cross-disciplinary programming to graduate schools and she would like to establish a platform to help different graduate schools at UCLA work collaboratively toward addressing issues of inequality, diversity and environmental protection.
Alexander also said she plans to address the ownership of intellectual property in graduate-level work at UCLA by working with the UCLA Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Sponsored Research. She said she wants to focus on this because of the growing presence of technology in research and the issue of copyright infringement.
“I am not a miracle worker, but I have a lot of practical experience and I have a lot of motivation to work toward the goals that I have,” Alexander said.
Milan Chatterjee’s work as a disability rights and pediatric patients advocate pushed him to run for the position of vice president of internal affairs so he can work to establish a new GSA board position that would specifically address issues of inclusion.
The position, called the director of inclusive excellence director, would try to ensure that the interests of all diversity groups are met, he said.
Chatterjee graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in political science and is now a second-year student at the UCLA School of Law.
He said a major part of his platforms is to make GSA more accessible to the graduate student body by celebrating cultural diversity, making students part of GSA’s policy-making process and establishing a stronger alliance between the Undergraduate Students Association Council and the GSA.
“Undergraduate students have strong and passionate leaders as well, and I think that if we unite these two student leader organizations we can achieve more,” he added.
Chatterjee is currently the director of discretionary funding for GSA. He said he thinks this will help him because he thinks he already has a good working relationship with higher-level cabinet members.
“I will not need any sort of on-the-job training,” Chatterjee said.
As president pro tempore and chair of the academic affairs committee in the undergraduate student government at the University of Denver, Chatterjee said he thinks he is accustomed to how student government works.
Chatterjee said he also wants to establish a greater sense of school spirit among graduate students who come from different colleges and lack time to socialize because of heavy course loads.
After lobbying for student interests for more than two years at the University of Washington, Matthew FitzGerald said he wants to use his experience to demand accountability from the university about tuition hikes.
He said he thinks his platform to advocate for students against potential tuition increases is particularly relevant because of the University of California’s recent proposal to raise tuition over the next five years depending on state funding.
“I think it is deeply concerning that the UC is holding our tuition hostage in order to bargain with the state legislature,” he said. “This needs to be changed.”
FitzGerald graduated from the University of Washington, Seattle in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies, and is now a first-year student at the UCLA School of Law. He was also appointed to the Drug Free Schools committee in GSA in September.
“I thrive on the energy of the universe and it brings me great joy to see when voices of students are heard,” FitzGerald said.
FitzGerald said one of his goals is to make GSA more relevant to the lives of graduate students. He said he thinks that a key reason for limited student involvement in GSA is a lack of awareness about the services and opportunities the organization offers.
He said he thinks his work on the board of trustees of the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students and on the student senate for University of Washington will help him serve as the vice president of internal affairs. He added that these experiences helped him understand how to effectively manage budgets and lobby for student interests.
FitzGerald is the newest to UCLA out of the three students running for office and he said he thinks this will help him contribute a new perspective at the forum.
“I am highly disciplined and energetic and I do what I do from a place of passion and principle,” FitzGerald said.