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Election 2020 – Vote!

The Graduate Student Senate elections for the academic year 2020-2021 starts on Monday, March 23, 2020 and concludes on 5 PM Friday, April 3, 2020.


  • You MUST be logged into your VolMail account in order to vote. You may only vote once. 
  • If the above link doesn’t work, try
  • You can read more about the candidates below. Each candidate has a photograph, an introduction video, their leadership experience, and statement of intent listed on this page.

View Q&A Videos from Candidates! 


Candidates for President

Austin Boyd

PhD student, Educational Psychology and Counseling Department
Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement

Video Transcript: My name is Austin Boyd and I am running for president of the graduate student sente. I’m sorry this has to be a video instead of in person, but given everything that’s going on right now, this is our safest and easiest option. A little about me, I’m a second year PhD student in the educational psychology and counseling department studying evaluation, statistics, and measurement. As some of you might also know I’m currently the chair of the legislative steering committee for the GSS. As a member of the executive committee this year, I’ve worked closely with the president and vice president to help improve our bylaws and constitution and hope to continue this progress next year as well. As an executive team we made it our goal to improve the transition between leadership each year so that the GSS can continue to make steady progress with each new executive team. By fortifying these building blocks that make up our organization, we can continue to influence the university policies and political decisions to best enhance and provide the most effective quality of life for current and future students. Thanks for listening, and please be safe during these difficult times.

Leadership Experience:

  • Legislative Steering Committee Chair for GSS
  • ESM Student Representative for EPC department
  • Graduate and Undergraduate TA
  • First author on a number of papers, presentations, and research projects
  • Substitute teacher in Title I elementary school

Statement of Intent:

The Graduate Student Senate, while a long standing segment of the university’s student government, is a newly independent body. As such, there are still many areas upon which we can improve and relationships which we need to build in order to successfully represent the graduate students here at UT. It has been made apparent by the senate’s actions that we have the power to enact university-wide change. However, the Constitution and By-Laws, which are the building blocks of our organization, are not quite where they need to be in order to support such actions and change. I want to serve as the GSS president so that I can not only continue to help improve the university for its current and future students, but also to improve our own organization, so that we can continue to enact powerful, positive change.


Ally Boyér-Sprouse

Masters Candidate in the College of Communication & Information
Graduate Research Assistant for the Graduate School

Video Transcript: Hi guys! My name is Alyssa Boyer-Sprouse, but I go by Ally so you can just call me that instead. I am currently a masters candidate in the College of Communication and Information- my “concentration” is advertising. I’m a creative designer and I hope to one day design for a big company in New York City or another big city like that, although I am a small town girl. I’m actually from this little town in Florida called Cocoa Beach. Hopefully you’ve been there, if not you should! If you take a little look behind me that’s what my quarantine looks like right now. It’s pretty good to be home with family right now. I wish and hope for all of you watching this, wherever you are, that you’re in the same boat- with family or loved ones trying to figure out this new normal for all of us, I know it’s crazy. It’s kind of hard to even be thinking about next semester getting back to UT, but I’m trying to be confident in the fact that we’re going to see each other again and that’s also why I’m running for GSS President. A lot of things are changing right now and I think it’s the perfect time when we’re changing over leadership to put some new ideas into office. I think I am the person that can do that for you guys, and I know that we’re going to have a Q&A session coming up in the next few days and I hope to be able to answer any questions that you might have for me then. Right now I just want you to know that I’m energetic and bubbly, and I can definitely bring that to the table as GSS President next semester, as well as I have a bunch of creative ideas of how to include graduate students around campus. I want us as a community to be noticed and recognized. I know there are some needs that aren’t necessarily being addressed right now for graduate students whether that be financially, academically, or about specific programs like professional development. I really want to have a hand in developing that for next year, so I guess for the time being that’s a little bit about me and I look forward to hearing your questions soon. Take care.

Leadership Experience:

  • Freshman Class President, SGA
  • Junior Class Senator, SGA
  • President, National Honor Society
  • Captain of undergraduate swim team
  • Editor-in-Chief of student publication, “Put Simply”
Statement of Intent:
As President, I would like to find myself engaged with all of my classmates in order to create a successful and inclusive atmosphere in which every person can flourish both academically and socially. By electing me, you would be electing someone experienced with student-run government as well as someone with a collaborative work style. You would be electing somebody who strives for excellence and kindness in everything she does. I want the Student Senate to succeed and be a positive organization that brings about positive change at the college. Moreover, I want to be a person with whom graduate students can come to with issues, ideas, or general concerns regarding the direction in which our university’s policy may be going.

Candidate for Vice President

Shahram Hatefi Hesari

Ph.D. Student and Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant,
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department
The Tennessee Governor’s School for the Sciences & Engineering Teaching Assistant

Leadership Experience:

  • GSS executive member (Technology officer)
  • EECS department Senator
  • Graduate Teaching and Research assistant
  • Governor’s schools teaching assistant
  • CURENT’s Mentor of young scholars

Statement of Intent:

My name is Shahram Hatefi Hesari and I am a third-year Ph.D. student at the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department. Since 2017 I have been a research and teaching assistant at EECS department. Besides, I have served as a teaching assistant at Tennessee Governor’s School for Sciences and Engineering and mentoring young scholars in the Center for Ultra-wide Area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT). Since 2019 I have been EECS department senator and simultaneously technology officer in graduate student senate (GSS). I strongly believe that at the University of Tennessee, we are part of a big family who care about each other, no matter what field and level we study. Since starting my graduate program, I have always thought about how as a grad student I can help my community to create a successful and inclusive atmosphere in which everyone can flourish both academically and socially. In 2019 I had a chance to be part of GSS as EECS department senator and get familiar with GSS activity. A little bit later I was elected as technology officer and became a GSS executive member. Serve as an executive member, rings the bell that there is a number of areas upon which we can improve the quality of service and GSS as one of the most important organizations at the University of Tennessee, where is the best place for students who really care about their university and friends. For me as someone who always strives for excellence in everything, serve as GSS vice president is a great opportunity that I can dedicate part of my time to my community. I am always open to talk with all students who may need help from GSS and it is my pleasure to be part of an organization that I believe is the heart of the graduate school and truly established to serve our graduate student. I hope by electing me as vice president I can continue my service to our graduate students.