GEO 2015 – 2016 Election: Candidate Statements for Mobilization Coordinator


Voting will occur at the December 2nd Membership Meeting by secret ballot at the Cape Cod Lounge located in Student Union, first floor. The meeting is scheduled from 6:30pm-8:30pm, so voting will be available from 6:00-7:00pm.

In accordance with the bylaws, to accommodate those who cannot attend the membership meeting, additional voting by secret ballot will take place in the Campus Center Concourse on the following days and times:

Campus Center Concourse:

Monday November 30 10am-1pm

Tuesday December 01 1pm- 4pm

Wednesday December 02 4pm-5:30pm


Steph Koullias

Dear GEO Membership,

I am pleased to accept my candidacy for the position of GEO Mobilization Coordinator for Spring 2016. My commitment to GEO and to the graduate student body, affirmatively furthering diversity in the academy and the workplace, and ability and willingness to meet others where they are at make me the best candidate for this position.

As a member of the Contact Bargaining Committee, I dedicated my time and resources to supporting GEO, educating graduate students about their rights and the administration’s unresponsiveness to graduate student needs. I also recruited students to participate in demonstrations and bargaining sessions opposite the administration. In this position, I employed my skills as a visual storyteller, creating content and providing coverage of the solidarity by graduates, undergrads, and faculty and staff. Archiving these efforts serves as a reminder to the University that our collective actions are not to be trivialized, and our history is not subject to revision.

I am running on a platform to use my visual storytelling skills to speak to the truth to power with a multi-faceted voice that reflects the rights of the entire graduate student body. In these efforts, I will be aided by my experience working with other graduate student groups, including the GSS. Realizing that that dialogue is the threshold between communication and non-communication, I hope to join GEO’s leadership at a time we have begun dialogue with the administration, which I hope will be ongoing. The current administration’s stance on bullying is a step in the right direction, and I would work to see its fullest application to respect the needs of graduate students that are affected by micro (and not-so-micro) aggressions by faculty and administrators.

I also running on a platform of bringing greater awareness for and advocacy of Mental Health issues, and International Student issues. Having been affected by the alienation and affliction of both, I bring an empathic and informed approach to dealing with these complex and sometimes overlapping issues. The University consistently fails to adequately address both of these issues in ways that are culturally sensitive, age appropriate, and do not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, and sexuality. This interest is grounded in my own academic work, where I explore the dimensions of human survival and dignity in society for the most marginalized. At the same time, I acknowledge that good will is not enough to advocate for these unprotected classes. Through my legal training, which I have begun off-campus this semester, I also bring the technical skills to frame these issues as actionable items.

I would be extremely proud to serve as your mobilization coordinator, and to work with the current GEO leadership who continue to make great strides with the current administration.


Steph Koullias
Masters in Planning, UMASS
Masters in Law, Vermont Law


Destiney Linker

Dear fellow GEO members,

            I am honored to be running for Mobilization Coordinator for the remaining 2015-2016 Academic Year. As a committed and active GEO member, I believe it is my time to step up into an elected position to further serve my fellow graduate student employees. My experiences in GEO and in organizing in social justice circles position me in the best possible position to mobilize our membership and help inculcate a more democratic and engaged union.

            From my first moments as an active member within the unit, I stepped up to become a leader. After attending my first membership meeting, I was elected to the bargaining committee in Spring 2014. Throughout the next year, I fought with GEO leadership, bargaining committee members, and a wide variety of our rank and file members to bring experiences of our members and the issues we face as graduate student employees to the UMass administration. I’m proud of the contract that I helped the bargaining committee win, and I’m interested in continuing the project of testing the limits of our contract and finding out how we can strengthen it in future campaigns to make.

            In Fall of 2014, I was elected to UAW 2322 Joint Council, the highest elected decision making body in our amalgamated local. I am currently still serving in that capacity, and have participated in voting in many important changes in our local. In addition to Joint Council, I was appointed to steering committee this past summer as an interim member, a position in which I am still serving until we fill the Mobilization Coordinator position in this upcoming election. If you are to elect me for Mobilization Coordinator, I will be able to seamlessly take up my position on steering committee having been present at meetings in the past few months.

            In addition to serving in leadership positions in GEO, I have been determined to help make GEO a union that is devoted to social justice unionism. I have been pleased to be involved with a nationwide network of AWDU (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union) activists, who are attempting to make their unions more democratic, with leadership coming from the rank and file and making connections between more just academic labor and a more just world. I was an integral part in the planning and hosting of this summer’s 2015 Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions conference, which was held here at UMass. I have also begun work this semester with a small group of GEO members to kick off a BDS campaign at UMass that will unfold over the next two years.

            Even as a doctoral candidate with a 20-hour position in the Department of History and other community obligations, I have dedicated a large portion of my time and energy to my union. I take great pride in our union, but I also know that we have a lot to do to improve it. This year’s new leadership has already done so much to mobilize more of our membership. I have seen record numbers turn out to our membership meetings and take an interest in union issues. The Mobilization Coordinator’s most important job is to bring as wide a layer of our membership out to events, to educate members about their rights, and to ensure a more democratic union through the widest engagement possible. I like to think that my work in GEO so far has helped us move in that direction, and I am excited to find out what a few months of dedicating myself to furthering those goals might bring us. I look forward to working with my union comrades should you elect me as Mobilization Coordinator or should you elect someone else. As the most experienced and committed candidate running for this position, however, I hope you will choose me to serve you as Mobilization Coordinator.

                                                Solidarity Forever,

                                                Destiney Linker


Damola Oduwale

Dear GEO Members,

My name is Damola Oduwale, a graduate student in Resource Economics. Prior to coming to UMass Amherst in fall 2013, during my undergraduate career as a member of the National Association of Nigerian Student (NANS), I was at the fore-front of advocating for the reversal of unpopular policies in the Nigerian University systems, I have also worked in the private sector with an active Worker’s Union. I have had the opportunity to work in a team to achieve stated goals, and to work independently to meet expected targets. These experiences have given me the opportunity to contribute to the social capital of the society through my community-based services.

You will recall that I contested for the position of the GEO Co-Chair in the last interim election, in the period leading to that election, I went everywhere on the UMass Campus; classrooms, laboratories, dining, residence halls, to wherever I could find GEO members and graduate student members alike. My goal then was to connect with graduate students’ workers, engage and interact with them to share our common campus experiences, especially with my fellow international graduate students, who undoubtedly constitute the largest population of our union membership and, lastly to ask for their votes so I can be their voice in the GEO leadership. The outcome of that effort led to an impressive participation of union members across all divide in the election process. Although, I lost that election to a longtime student labor activist, popular and, likeable contender, however, the margin of loss is very instructive and speaks much to my organizing skills.

For me, it was not a total lost, it turned out to be a very rewarding experience as I gained many new friends, built bridges across many divides, and re-awaken the spirit of labor activism in many GEO members.

My commitment to our local union GEO UAU 2232 remain unwavering and stronger even now. I envision a new approach to student’s labor activism, I envision a responsive and pro-active union, one that is admired and respected, and I’ll reach-out to all strata of student population to solicit for more participation and involvements in GEO activities, as a firm believer in the “power of large numbers” for effective advocacy.

If elected as your Mobilization Coordinator, I promise to leverage on this experiences by rallying the greatest membership and community support for all the activities of our great Union.

I humbly request for your vote, and hope you’ll vote for me for the position of the GEO Mobilization Coordinator so that together we can make our Union great.

Thank you for your vote!


Damola Oduwale

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