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Monday, August 02, 2021
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Meet The Candidates

SA Election Profiles

Candidates for President

The President shall serve as the chief executive officer of the Student Association and has the ultimate responsibility for the enforcement of the constitution and bylaws of the Student Association. He or she also serves as the official representative of SA, both inside and outside of the UB community.

Name: Ted DiRienzo

Year: Junior

Major:Accounting, economics, and mathematics


Current SA Position: None

Extracurricular Activities/Relevant Experience: Master of Rituals for Alpha Kappa Psi, UB's co-ed professional business fraternity; longest tenured executive board position. Looks over risk management and is control of the pledge process. Sub-Board Ticket Office cashier.

Ted DiRienzo is an outsider who has tried to get involved with the Student Association since his freshman year, but he felt he was pushed to the side after every attempt because he didn't have connections within the organization. This spring, he is running with the MVP Party in hopes to change what he feels is the current "closed-off" culture surrounding SA.

"I think one of the best things [about me] is objectivity," DiRienzo said. "These [other candidates] have held SA positions before, whether it's within their clubs or different organizations, but [the MVP Party] is an entire platform of new people coming in with no prior misconceptions or no deals that have already been made - no conflicts of interest."

DiRienzo believes the current SA administration doesn't provide enough transparency - he wants to change that culture. He feels that even as a presidential candidate, he hasn't been able to get his financial questions answered; he wants students to be able to go up to the SA office and get any information they request.

"My grandfather always told me, 'Live your life so you'd be comfortable selling your family parrot to the neighbors,'" DiRienzo said.

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DiRienzo and his party also believe that the mandatory student activity fee is too high and underutilized; the MVP Party believes in "rewarding" students. It believes UB students are paying for resources that aren't used, and SA should give students what they want and deserve.

"I think we're doing a really bad job of utilizing our resources to entertain," DiRienzo said. "And I say that only because I look at schools like Penn State that have smaller budgets and smaller populations, but are able to do great things. This is the question: what would you do if you had $3.6 million?"

If elected, the MVP Party plans to turn Fall and Spring Fests into day-long festivals, with several headliners and many small acts. It plans on providing tickets to students for Sabres and Bills games on a monthly basis and also tickets to arts performances at Shea's Performing Arts Center and other local theaters.

DiRienzo and his party may not be the most well known names around SA, but he believes that is why his party stands out. He believes his party is for the students, unlike the other parties, which boast resumes filled with SA positions.

"The most effective leader isn't concerned with how much the people know him; I don't care how much people know me, that's not important," DiRienzo said. "The most effective leader cares about how much the leader knows about everyone else. And I feel like I've talked with a lot of the clubs, done a lot of research, worked with a lot of the clubs, been to a lot of their events, talked to people not involved in SA."

Name: Judy Mai


Major: Health and human services

Party: United

Current SA Position:Senior office personnel

Extracurricular Activities: Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance (LGBTA), UB Glee, Latin American Student Association (LASA)

Relevant Experience: LGBTA President, Undergraduate Adviser for UB Glee, LASA member, attended SUNY-Palooza 2012

Judy Mai has been involved in the Student Association since her freshman year, and this year she began working as senior office personnel within the organization. She, along with the help of the United Party, wants to change the divide between executive boards and the rest of SA.

"There isn't enough communication; there's not enough teamwork that's going on between the entire Student Association," Mai said. "We need to make sure we're talking to each other."

One of the things Mai and her running mates promise is that if elected, they will schedule office hours that coincide each week. This will allow clubs, staff members, and any undergraduate students that have questions to come up and have their voices heard.

"We want to make sure students know, yes, we are the executive board, but at the same time we are students," Mai said. "We are just like everyone else."

Mai also stressed that she does not want to raise the mandatory activity fee; rather, the United Party would work to budget SA's finances more effectively so that students get the most value for their money. Mai plans to advocate for clubs to achieve that goal.

Mai has served as LGBTA president for two years, and she has been a member of LGBTA, UB Glee, and LASA for all three years she's been at the university. She also was chosen as the undergraduate student adviser for UB Glee because of the work she's done with LGBTA.

Mai believes that her experience with such diverse clubs is what sets her apart from other candidates; she believes she is personable and able to talk to people about their issues. She wants to make the voices of clubs heard, as they are the basis of SA. She wants students to come to UB not only to go to class, but also to benefit from the student experience.

"Something that holds dear to my and Darwinson's hearts [are] the clubs," Mai said. "That's where we came from. We want to make sure students know that there are clubs out there, and it's something that has helped benefit our experience here at UB. We want to reach out to as many people as possible."

Name: Travis Nemmer

Year: Junior

Major: Classics, history, and political science

Party: Reason

Current SA Position: Former Elections and Credentials Chair (had to resign due to participation in election)

Extracurricular activities:College Republicans, SA Senate, Sub-Board I, United Nations, Student Alliance, Credentialing Committee of the New York State Federation of College Republicans, UB Mock Trial

Relevant Experience:Vice President of College Republicans, Recording Secretary of SA Senate, Parliamentarian of SA Senate, Assistant Elections and Credentials Chair, Sub-Board I Board of Directors Member, President of United Nations Student Alliance, Parliamentarian and head of the Credentialing Committee of the New York State Federation of College Republicans, Vice President and Captain of UB's Mock Trial team

Travis Nemmer has been involved with the Student Association since the first semester of his freshman year, and he believes his extensive r?(c)sum?(c) puts him at the front of this year's election race.

"I was asked to run by a number of students," Nemmer said. "I definitely wouldn't have given up what's a pretty good job of running elections to be in the election. But a lot of people said, 'Travis, you're really one of the only people who are qualified to run. You're the only person with an extensive enough r?(c)sum?(c).' Honestly, I saw that it was only Judy Mai running, and I thought, I've got to step up and fight this."

Nemmer has been involved with SA at the club and legislative level, and he also has established connections to SUNY representatives in Albany - something he believes gives him the ability to be a coherent voice for students' rights.

Nemmer, along with the rest of the Reason Party, wants to restore students' confidence in SA. He hopes to use every possible outlet on campus to communicate with the undergraduate population - something he believes hasn't been done by the current administration. He wants to rebuild the department of Student Affairs, the first department that was established in SA. This will bolster student advocacy, which he thinks has been lacking.

"There's no more cooperative relationships between SA and the students anymore," Nemmer said. "It's them either giving mandates or ignoring student mandates."

The Reason Party also will cut SA staff bonuses and stipends for cell phone bills immediately, if elected. This cut will save SA $50,000 right off the bat, according to Nemmer.

He also plans to eliminate the event planner positions and let clubs - who would normally do so anyway - plan events. He plans to reward clubs for success and eliminate the current "2-2-2" program; clubs will be rewarded for their efforts to promote themselves, rather than SA as a whole.

"Revitalizing and reforming has to be the first order of the day," Nemmer said. "Otherwise you, me, and the other candidates are just wasting our time."


Candidates for Vice President

The Vice President both directs and assists the Student Association's recognized clubs and student organizations. The Vice President advises and oversees the needs of these organizations.

Name: Darwinson Valdez

Year: Junior

Major: Dual Major in Political Science and Philosophy

Party: United

Current SA Position:Senate Chair

Extracurricular activities: Mock Trial club, Bible Study, PODER Latinos Unidos, Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity

Relevant Experience: SA Student Assembly, SA Senator, treasurer and president of PODER: Latinos Unidos, treasurer of Lamba Sigma Upsilon Kyodrowe Chapter

Darwinson Valdez has been involved in the Student Association since his freshman year, and he says he has always asked himself the question: "How can I change, and make SA better?"

Valdez credits his desire to run from his experience as Senate Chair for the 2011-2012 academic year. He saw clubs come in and out of Senate meetings requesting needed funds, and not having those requests met.

"Coming from the clubs and being involved in more than one club, I know what it takes from different councils...and how to benefit each council," Valdez said. "That motivated me to say, 'Why not help the students if I think I'm qualified for it?'"

Valdez believes his experience as Senate Chair qualifies him for the position because he understands how each club works differently.

The biggest problem within SA is the lack of communication between e-board members (outside the treasurer) and the club, Valdez said.

"Some of the Student Association clubs don't even know who the SA staff [is]," Valdez said.

He wants to make sure clubs know who is on the SA's e-board. He plans on having each of the e-board members split up and attend club meetings so the clubs recognize their faces, and are made aware of what the e-board can do for them.

Valdez commends the work current Vice President Meghan McMonagle has done with the approval of temp clubs. But he feels she doesn't have a strong enough presence in the office.

Valdez stressed the importance of the vice president being more involved within SA, giving the example of the communication between vice president and the treasurer.

"Finance is the biggest problem with the clubs," Valdez said. "If you're the vice president, you want to know what the problem is, because if I know what the club's problem is I could talk to [the treasurer], and I can tell [him or her] this is the problem [and ask], 'What is the solution you have for this club?'"

Valdez hopes to end the divide that he feels currently exists between the SA and its clubs; his main objective is to "improve life for the clubs."

Name: Adam Zimnicki

Year: Senior

Major: Business management and computer science

Current SA position:SISH Coordinator

Extracurricular activities:Ultimate Frisbee, Strategist and Role Player Association, SARPA

Relevant Experience:SA Senator, Strategist and Role Player Association Vice President, SARPA's e-board (UBCon 2011 organizer), created position of Temporary Club Liaisons, Senate's Alcohol Committee, Senate's Finance Committee, Assistant at Office of Student Life

Adam Zimnicki said his time spent as Special Interests and Special Hobbies (SISH) Club Coordinator, during which he managed the largest and most diverse SA club council, was the reason for his choice to run for vice president.

While Zimnicki feels he has been able to help the certain clubs under his councils, he cites the reason he joined SA was to help clubs as a whole, something that the vice president is responsible for.

As SISH Coordinator, he began to understand the difficulties clubs face - like dealing with the finance department, completing requirements, or being disappointed with Fall Fest. His solution is returning SA back to its roots.

"I can make a stand for this," Zimnicki said. "I want to make sure that not only does SA redevelop itself into what it was - which is an advocacy group - it's a student government first."

Zimnicki explained that the reason SA came to exist was "by the clubs, pretty much for the clubs." He wants to advocate not only for students, but for the clubs and organizations within the university as well.

He believes he has improved clubs' experience in SA through his working with them as SISH Coordinator and his creation of the Temporary Club Liaison position.

"I have experience with the clubs, [and] I have Senate experience," Zimnicki said. "I have the drive, the will and the want to help these clubs succeed."

Zimnicki feels SA's communication with clubs is "minimal at best." He wants clubs to feel like the SA office is club members' second home and a place open to all students. He thinks communication is key, and wants it to be "10 times better" than what it is right now. He wants to create an assistant coordinator position, so clubs have another person to reach out to when they need assistance.

The current e-board members lack the ability to communicate and are unable to maintain a respectful and mature environment, Zimnicki said. He admitted he and presidential candidate Travis Nemmer have budded heads throughout the campaign, but said they're always able to work through it. He thinks they can keep up a level of maturity he thinks past e-boards have failed to achieve.

Zimnicki believes that current Vice President Meghan McMonagle has struggled with communication this past academic year. He said he holds himself to a high standard.

Business major Kaitlin Leden is running for Vice President for the MVP Party, but she was not able to meet with The Spectrum's editorial board.


Candidates for Treasurer

The treasurer is the chief controller of the Student Association's multi-million dollar budget. He or she is in the president's cabinet, is Chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee, and is a voting member of the Emergency Powers Council. The treasurer is responsible for the disbursement of the SA budget and revenue. The treasurer must also keep a strict inventory, as well as communicate with Treasurers of all SA-funded groups to inform them of any changes.

Name:Justin Neuwirt


Major:Finance and management information systems


Current SA position:SUNY Delegate

Extracurricular activities:President of Zeta Beta Tau

Relevant experience: Co-founder of Zeta Beta Tau - worked closely with the treasurer in the beginning when the fraternity had no funding. Led fraternity in finding ways to make money, like collecting a mandatory fee from his brothers and working to budget those fees, eventually being promoted to president. Interned at Gerstein Fisher and Associates for three years.

Justin Neuwirt is bringing his educational background as a finance major, as well as his work experience as a financial planner, to run for treasurer of the Student Association.

"The SA has close to $4 million in its budget," Neuwirt said. "Should it really be trusted to a student who has never learned about finance, who has never taken an accounting class, doesn't understand what a general ledger looks like, and doesn't understand what a statement of cash flows looks like?"

Neuwirt has interned at Gerstein Fisher and Associates, a financial planning firm in New York City, managing people's money, helping out in the operations department, and sitting in on client meetings.

Neuwirt used all of his financial experiences in founding his fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau. He worked closely with the treasurer at the time to fundraise, implement a mandatory fee from his brothers, and budget those fees in order to establish the fraternity.

Neuwirt said he would have no bias toward any club, as he is not involved in any, if he were elected as a SUNY delegate.

"The treasurer shouldn't show any favoritism toward any clubs, and as a person who is not in clubs, I don't have any interests in favoring any of them because they're all separate entities to me and all independent," Neuwirt said. "I think I could provide a good outside view and help everybody rather than be one-sided toward this side or the other side."

Neuwirt was initially going to run for president, but saw himself as a better fit for the treasurer position.

He believes the biggest issue that the SA will face next year is establishing a better relationship between clubs' executive boards and the SA's executive board. Neuwirt plans on doing that by maintaining consistent office hours for club members to meet with him.

Name:Ayyaz Tufail


Major: Mechanical engineering


Current SA position:None

Extracurricular activities: President of Muslim Student Association (MSA)

Relevant experience: Fundraised over 90 percent of MSA's budget, worked at World Link Solutions, helped raise over $80,000 for a non-affiliated UB fundraiser. Gained analytical skills as an engineering major.

Ayyaz Tufail may be a mechanical engineering major, but he believes he has the best administrative and financial skills to be the SA treasurer for next year.

"I believe that the SA treasurer position does not only require the understanding of the numbers or the bookkeeping, but at the same time you have to have the administrative skills, the financial skills to balance out the budget, and the analytical skills to fulfill the vision for the organization," Tufail said.

As president of the MSA, one of the biggest clubs on campus, Tufail has hosted about 45 events this year, and he's fundraised about $11,000 - more than 90 percent of the club's budget. Tufail is expecting to raise another $7,000, which will be more than 100 percent of MSA's budget.

"I kept telling myself, we're one of the biggest clubs, what do the smaller clubs have to go through if one of the biggest clubs cannot get things done on time?" Tufail said. "Something had to be done."

Tufail doesn't see just one major problem with the SA, but different problems on its "macro" and "micro" levels.

On the micro level, Tufail is unsatisfied with the turnaround time it takes for purchase orders and reimbursements.

He said it takes too much time for clubs to get a purchase order (PO) approved. PO approvals currently take five days, and Tufail has made a plan so they will only take three.

Similarly, Tufail thinks reimbursements take too long, and he plans on making them take two weeks instead of four.

At the macro level, Tufail thinks the SA's biggest problem is its deficit, which is currently about $300,000.

"They collect about $3.5 million, and they spend about 3.8 million," Tufail said. "That $300,000 is the deficit. I want to make sure that if I collect $3.5 million, I spend $3.5 million, or less than that."

Tufail said he hopes to build on the work of current SA Treasurer Sikander Khan if he were elected.

"I do see a change in the finance policy this year, so there are certain things he could have done that he didn't do, but there are things that he's working on that would help SA in the future," Tufail said. "Currently, things are not up to my standards."

Accounting major Chang Zeng is running for treasurer for the MVP Party, but he was not able to meet with The Spectrum's editorial board.


Candidates for SUNY Delegate

Every year, UB undergraduates elect four SUNY delegates to act on the students' behalf in Albany. The four delegates travel to the state capitol to meet with members of the New York State Assembly and Senate, raising legislators' awareness of issues that matter to UB students. It is their job to effectively communicate with the undergraduate student body so it is well represented at the state level.


Ofir Yakobowicz

Freshman business marketing major

A marketing intern with the SA this year, Yakobowicz is also an active member of the Jewish Student Union and Hillel. At the beginning of the academic year, he organized a political party of freshmen to run for the Senate - a rare undertaking for newly arrived students from high school. They didn't win, but Yakobowicz's freshman status gives him much more time to make a large impact at UB.

Kaitesi Munroe

Junior political science major (double minor in African American studies and philosophy)

Munroe is the publicity coordinator for the Black Student Union and also an active member of the African Student Association, the Caribbean Student Association, the Minority Management Society and PODER Latinos Unidos. Also boasting an impressive community service r?(c)sum?(c), Munroe has pledged to advocate for increased aid to students in need of support.

Evelyn Romero

Sophomore international studies major

Romero - a member of the Latino American Student Association and the Filipino American Student Association, where she holds an internship - has extensive community service experience both at UB and elsewhere. For example, she worked with the now-famous Invisible Children group while she was in high school. She's said she would try to engage the SUNY system in the area of community service if she were elected.

Liz Quinn

Sophomore business marketing major

Quinn's fully loaded r?(c)sum?(c) includes the following positions and accomplishments: publicity coordinator of the Student Association, chair of numerous committees in the Delta Sigma Pi professional business fraternity, and a first-place finish in the PricewaterhouseCoopers national accounting competition. Her public speaking experience made her case for increased dining options on SUNY campuses very convincing.


Mira Pandya

Junior biological science major (pre-health concentration)

Pandya is the president of the Indian Student Association and a member of the Association of Pre-Medical Students, in addition to holding a job between Rachel's Mediterranean and Three Brother's Burgers in the Commons. Pandya promised to advocate for the needs of international students if she were elected as a SUNY Delegate, proposing an international students' committee within the SA.

Loren Fields

Junior psychology and occupational sciences major

Since her freshman year, Fields has been an involved sister in her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, where she's held a wide range of positions. She's also the SA's photographer, the president and secretary of the Clement Hall Residence Hall Association, and an employee at The Steer on Main Street. She wants to use the SUNY Delegate position to increase safety measures and student services in the area surrounding South Campus.

Peter Grassi

Junior political science major

Grassi is a head delegate at the United Nations Student Association, an award-winning member of UB's Mock Trial organization, a horn sergeant in the marching and pep bands, and a brother in Kappa Kappa Psi, a national honorary band fraternity. Grassi proved to be knowledgeable and well spoken on a number of topics pertaining to the SUNY Delegate position.

Jonathan Steffen

Fourth-year business major and music performance minor

Steffen has a long list of accomplishments and qualifications. For one, he's worked in the Office of Student Life for three years and counts UB Vice President Dennis Black as an official mentor. He's also been a Resident Advisor in the Governors Complex, an orientation leader, and a community assistant in the Flint Village Apartments. Steffen has pledged to reform UB's bussing system, among other things, if elected.

Business majors David Longhini, David Lee, Siddharth Singh, and Crystal Chen are running for SUNY Delegate for the MVP Party, but they were not able to meet with The Spectrum's editorial board.



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