Nine graduate and professional students announced their candidacy for GPSA leadership positions, stepping up to the plate for a tenure rife with budget concerns and cutbacks.

The GPSA Elections Committee met Thursday to begin coordinating for the debates, the first of which will take place March 23.

“I get the feeling it is going to be a high turnout year,” GPSA member Michael Verrilli said. “A diverse cross section of the school is being represented by the candidates, so a large portion of the graduate community will likely participate.”

GPSA presidential candidates include Patricia Roybal Caballero, Jacob R. Candelaria, Joseph Dworak and Katie Richardson. GPSA Council Chair candidates are Radi Abouelhassan, Sarah Coffey, Shannon Crowley, Victor Lopez and Megan O’Laughlin.

Council Chair candidate Shannon Crowley said the number of candidates for both the GPSA President and Council Chair election is encouraging.

“I believe that the number of interested candidates proves that more people are wanting to be involved in GPSA,” she said. “More interest is a wonderful accomplishment for any organization, but in GPSA it means that more graduate and professional students desire the same goal — a cohesive voice.”

Sarah Coffey, Council Chair candidate, said she is excited for the election process to begin.

“I am looking forward to the upcoming GPSA council chair election,” she said. “I have been involved with the UNM community for several years and am hoping to continue serving in GPSA.”

GPSA will place a full-page advertisement in the Daily Lobo when students return from spring break, Elections Committee chair Matthew Rush said.

“One of our hopes is that everyone is fully aware of the process and know that the elections are going on,” he said. “We really worked to get word out and make sure people know about the debates and the candidates.”

Presidential candidate Joseph Dworak said the next GPSA president will have their work cut out, due to University budget cuts.

“The entire University community is being forced to tighten their budgets and GPSA should be no different,” he said.

The general election will be held through electronic voting from April 4th to April 7th.