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Entries in graduate students (20)

Monday
Feb222016

Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Jacob Barrett on Chemistry & Batman 

Working in lab: Using a routine technique called gas chromatography- flame Ionization detection (GC-FID) to identify the components in liquid mixturesJacob Barrett, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, shares a little bit about his upbringing, his research, and lessons we can all learn from his mentor, Batman. Jacob, a native of Los Angeles, earned a B.A. in Chemistry with distinction from Sonoma State University. He grew up with his mother, Tranita Barrett, his father, Barry Katz, and Renee Green, his older sister. 

Is there any particular event(s) that had a big impact or influence on you? 

A particular event I wouldn't say, but I really love museums. One of them in particular is the La Brea Tar Pits, which I try to go to every time I am in Los Angeles. It's an exhibit of extinct mammals that have been dug up from bitumen, which is a natural asphalt pit. I was excited to go there. I thought that one day I was going to be a paleontologist, but it also sort of contributed to my interest in animal life and earth's natural cycles. 

Tell us a little about your research and what you plan to achieve with that.

Basically, what I try and do is use a catalyst to convert wood into chemicals. Traditionally, these chemicals are derived from petroleum. The overarching goal of my research is to replace specific petrochemicals. The ones that I look at are high-value aromatic compounds. I would like to found a company based on garbage collection and utilization. Instead of throwing our waste into a landfill, we can find different ways to transform it into something useful. Specifically, I want to take green waste and make it into fuels and chemicals instead of just composting it, which is what most garbage collection agencies do now. 

What do you wish you had known before you started grad school? 

I wish I had known how easily you can burn out. I understand now that your mental and emotional health is so important for your success in grad school. 

Emre Discekici and I ready to hit Wildcat!

What has been a source of motivation for you in graduate studies?

The way it was explained to me by my undergraduate advisor Dr. Carmen Works, she really had a good impression on me, was that "you get to choose what you do." I really liked that aspect of it. The more education you get, the more freedom you have in what you do with the rest of you life. I kind of liked that, and that's what really drew me towards coming to graduate school versus going and working as a lab technician. 

What keeps you going now that you are in graduate school?

Well, definitely the friends that I have made here keep me going. I mean the first person I got to know well was Emre Discekici, a fellow grad student. My girlfriend Sabrina is immensely important to me. And my roommate Jordan is also really important. I live with a group of people, Michael and Sam, who are also in the Chemistry Department and we can just unwind together and we are not all stressed all the time.  

Who are your hero(oes) and/or mentors and why? 

He probably does not know who I am because he only met me once, Harry Gray is a professor at Cal Tech. I met him during a poster session for a conference. He was talking to me about my research, and I was answering his questions and discussing different experiments that he thought I should try. Basically, he was like "so you are going to apply to grad school, right?" I told him I was thinking about it, but I didn't have the grades for that. He told me that I should apply to grad school, for sure. Coming from the keynote speaker of a conference, that was just really inspiring, and so I feel like he is one of my heroes. 

Credit: DC Comics

I would really like to be like my undergrad advisor because she was such a good mentor. We do have a professional relationship, but she also has been good at managing a friendship with me. So, I really try to emulate her as a mentor with students that I work with.

You do know that my other hero is Batman? Well, Batman has completely dedicated himself to an idea, and, especially in some of the comics, he comes to a point where he realizes that what he was working on was not enough and he take it a step further. Basically, Batman's dedication is what inspires me about him the most. Batman does not let physical or mental boundaries affect him, and I wish I was capable of that. 

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.

Hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park during the CSU LSAMP Project NUTria research visit in Costa Rica 2012

When I was in undergrad, I was part of Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation(LSAMP). Sonoma State does not have a very large minority population, so I ended up being one of the first students selected to go on one of the study abroad programs. It was a CSU-wide thing, and I went to Costa Rica for a summer project. After I graduated, I found out that they had nominated me for the PROUD Award, which is a CSU-wide award. You get selected from the different CSU campuses to be in this program. It was really cool. Still talking to Dr. Sam Brannen, my scholarship advisor from LSAMP, and talking to my academic advisor as well, it's crazy to see just how much they appreciated what I was doing and really I was appreciating them for giving me all these opportunities. It was a really nice symbiotic relationship between us. 

What do you do to relax? Favorite places?

I really like going to the beach and looking out at the ocean. I enjoy walking in nature. Going on hikes. I enjoy playing sports. Noodle City is by far my favorite place here. I really like Wildcat. 

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? 

Most people don't know that I had a Bar Mitzvah and that I am Jewish. My mother is Creole and my father is an all-American Jewish man. To appreciate what's it like to be Black and Jewish, see video below. 

What do you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?

In five years, I hope to be running my own garbage and recycling company. Ten years from now? I am not sure. I really do enjoy teaching, so it might be nice at some point to be a professor. I definitely want to own a home and maybe have some kids. 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students?

You can find research that you like, but do you get along with your advisor and do you get along with the people in your group? If you can't do those things, then you are going to have a miserable time. 

Yosemite Summer 2015 trip with UCSB and new friends. #yesnewfriends 

Wednesday
Apr082015

Grad Slam Round 6 Recap: Hope, Humanity, and Greatness

Haddy Kreie answers a question from the audience while the other Round 6 contestants look on. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Here’s what you missed on Wednesday afternoon’s Grad Slam Round 6 in the McCune conference room. Eight of UCSB’s best and brightest talked about hope, humanity, and greatness in the fields of education, psychology, anthropology, theatre and dance, engineering, and biology – and they did it in only three minutes each! 

Round 6 presenters included, clockwise from top left: Lauren Smyth; Haddy Kreie; Ana Elisa Garcia-Vedrenne; and Mario Galicia. Credit: Patricia MarroquinThe presenters and their topics:

  • Mario Galicia, Education: “'Pushed Out’ and ‘Pulled In’: Institutional Bridging for Marginalized Students”
  • Ana Elisa Garcia-Vedrenne, Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology: “Snail Parasites and Warrior Worms” 
  • Haddy Kreie, Theater and Dance: “Is Blackness Trauma?: Racial Discourse, Trauma Theory, and Vodun Aesthetics”
  • Joshua Kuntzman, Education: “Do You See Why I Love This Subject?': Educational Dialog and the Importance of Real Human Teachers”
  • Sabrina Liu, Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology: “The Power of Hope: First-Year Students' Adjustment to College Amidst Tragedy”
  • Lakshmanan Nataraj, Electrical and Computer Engineering: “Photographing Computer Programs to Identify Malicious Software”
  • Lauren Smyth, Anthropology: “Aspiring Towards Greatness: (Re)Presenting Muslim Identity in the American Urban Environment”
  • Erik Spickard, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology: “Gonads to Guts: Reprogramming an Organ in the Nematode C. elegans”

And the Round 6 winners are ...

Judges’ Selections: Joshua Kuntzman and Erik Spickard

People’s Choice: Lakshamanan Nataraj and Sabrina Liu

Ryan’s Selections:

  • Most Depressing Flow Chart in an Opening Slide: Mario Galicia
  • Most Convincing Reason to Never, Ever, Ever Get in the Ocean Again: Ana Elisa Garcia-Vedrenne
  • Best Breakdown and Explanation of a Theory: Haddy Kreie
  • Most References to School of Rock: Joshua Kuntzman
  • Best Use of “First World Problems” Meme: Sabrina Liu
  • Most Pictures of the Statue of Liberty: Lakshmanan Nataraj
  • Best Scarf: Lauren Smyth
  • Best Pronunciation of "Transorganogenesis": Erik Spickard

Joshua, Erik, Lakshamanan, and Sabrina will advance to the Semifinals next week.

The winners of Grad Slam Round 6 are, from left, Erik Spickard (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology); Sabrina Liu (Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology); Lakshamanan Nataraj (Electrical and Computer Engineering); and Joshua Kuntzman (Education). Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Friday
Feb132015

Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Jessica Bradshaw


Jessica enjoys the outdoors.Fifth-year doctoral candidate Jessica Bradshaw is using her research to make a difference in the lives of people of all ages. Jessica is a student of the UC system, having finished her BA in cognitive science at UC San Diego in 2007, and her MA in counseling psychology at UC Santa Barbara in 2012. Now a doctoral candidate working through her predoctoral clinical internship at Rady Children’s Hospital through the UCSB/VA Internship Program, Jessica plans to use the knowledge learned pursuing her Clinical Counseling and School Psychology degree to better understand the subtle signs of autism in young children.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Orange County but grew up in Corona, California (repping the IE!). I have spent most of my life in Southern California, aside from a brief East Coast tour I did for three years before graduate school. After undergrad I moved to Connecticut to do research at the Yale Child Study Center. It was a great experience and I encourage all Californians to get a taste of something different before settling in the best state in the country (California, of course).

Tell us a little about your research and how you came to choose the topic.

My research aims to identify discernable behavioral characteristics of autism spectrum disorder and map the corresponding neurological mechanisms at the earliest possible age. [In 2013, Jessica was among a UCSB contingent that traveled to Sacramento to meet with state legislators to discuss the value and impact of UC research.] Autism spectrum disorder is a social disability that is typically diagnosed between 3 and 5 years of age, yet behavioral intervention techniques for infants as young as six months of age have been suggested. Early behavioral intervention, and correspondingly early identification, is critical for optimal outcome. The first step in understanding developmental psychopathology is to map a particular behavioral or neurological construct in typical development. Stemming from this perspective, my dissertation investigated clinical correlates of social smiling in 6- to 9-month-old typically developing infants.

Another aspect of my research is early intervention. In collaboration with Dr. Lynn Koegel and the Koegel Autism Center, we have investigated the use of Pivotal Response Treatment for infants exhibiting symptoms of autism spectrum disorder as young as six months of age.Jessica, center, with advisors and fellow graduate students at the APA conference in Hawaii.

The development of autism spectrum disorder in the infant and toddler period has been an interest of mine since my undergraduate work at UCSD. My interests stem from a general interest in developmental psychology, cognitive science, and social neuroscience, as well as a keen appreciation of clinical psychological and the necessity to translate basic science findings for clinical use in diagnostics and intervention. It is a fascinating venture to pinpoint symptoms of ASD years before the hallmark symptoms of the disorder appear.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

Any graduate student will attest to the fact that grad school is a rocky ride. In clinical psychology the journey is also personal. We have to watch ourselves do psychotherapy on film in front of a group of other students and our supervisor – learning can’t get more terrifying than that!

I was fortunate enough to receive a predoctoral fellowship from the Autism Science Foundation, which helped set the stage for my own independent research. This fellowship allowed me to focus on my research without having to TA or work on other projects.

What do you like most about grad school and what do you like least?

Relationships. The personal and professional relationships I have built with friends and colleagues have been invaluable to my graduate experience. I would not have made it through graduate school without my friends and family. My cohort has been there for me in personal crises, and our discussions have helped me grow as a researcher. I have also so enjoyed collaborating with other graduate students and labs on research. Psychology is much more collaborative than some other fields and intellectual discussion, collaborative projects, and cross-disciplinary ventures have been a huge part of my professional development.

I always say that clinical psychology is like doing two graduate programs. One minute I am coding infant smiling frame-by-frame in the lab, the next I am doing therapy in juvenile hall with adolescents struggling with gang involvement and drugs. Although I love both clinical work and research, it can be exhausting!

Jessica, left, enjoys a summer concert with two of her fellow grad students.What has been a source of motivation or drive for you in your graduate studies?

My motivation is twofold. First, helping the families. The stress of some families with children with ASD and other special needs is unimaginable. The overarching goal of my research is to improve quality of life for everyone affected by autism. Second, I have always been motivated to learn more in order to answer the important questions. Actually, even coming up with the important questions can be a challenge.

Who are your heroes and/or mentors and why?

I have learned so much from all of my mentors: Fred Shic and Kasia Chawarska at Yale, and Bob and Lynn Koegel at UCSB. Fred and Kasia took a chance on me when they let me enter the world of autism research as a young, naïve student fresh out of undergrad. I still have not stopped learning from them. My graduate advisors, Bob and Lynn, trusted my research ideas and supported me, both personally and professionally, to the end.

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I think I am most proud of the services I have been able to provide for families and the local community. As a clinical researcher, the majority of my work has been interacting with parents of infants and toddlers. I am proud of each thank you letter and holiday card I receive from my families.  

Jessica, left, loves to travel with friends to conferences in places like Madrid, Spain.

What do you do to relax? Any hobbies, collections, pastimes, favorite places to go, favorite things to do?

Good food and good beer are guaranteed to put a smile on my face. Live music and records are my favorite hobbies. Rock climbing used to be a big part of my life and is something I am always trying to do more of.

What do you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?

I hope to be on faculty somewhere continuing autism research, but that’s a boring answer. How about…I hope to be making enough money to go to as many concerts as I want, to taste as much local beer as I can, and to have a really cute dog (preferably a pug).

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

Complain less! Venting can be therapeutic, but also toxic. So vent as you need to, but too much negativity can be counterproductive. 

Friday
Feb062015

GSA Excellence in Teaching Award Nominations Now Open

It's February at UCSB, which means that UCSB's Graduate Student Association wants to honor the "Titans of Teaching" in our community. Toward that end, they are now accepting nominations for the GSA's Excellence in Teaching Award.

Anyone on campus can nominate a teaching assistant or teaching associate for this award. Last year, over one hundred eligible nominees were submitted. To be eligible, a Teaching Assistant or Teaching Associate must have taught at least one quarter during Spring 2014, Summer 2014, Fall 2014, or Winter 2014. Former award winners are ineligible.

Nominations will be accepted in four categories: 

Lecturers and Teaching Associates (all disciplines);

Teaching Assistants (Humanities and Fine Arts);

Teaching Assistants (Social Sciences);

Teaching Assistants (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

Nominations are due by Friday, March 27 at 5 p.m. To nominate someone, fill out the nomination form. For any questions, please visit the GSA's ETA webpage, or contact Alex Pucher, the VP of Academic Affairs, at vpacademic@ucsbgsa.org.

Friday
Feb062015

The Doctor Is In (Feb. 2015 Edition): Academic Publishing

Source image credit: statue-of-libertyWelcome to the February 2015 edition of The Doctor Is In, a recurring column on The GradPost where UCSB faculty answer graduate students' questions about life in academia. In this installment, three members of our faculty panel answer your questions about the academic publishing process, including how much you should publish as a grad student and how to deal with the rigors of peer review.


About Our Faculty Panel

Richard ChurchDr. Richard Church is a Professor of Geography. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Systems Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University and has published over 180 papers and research reports in a variety of fields. He specializes in the analysis of problems defined over space and time, including logistics and transportation, location theory, water resource, urban and environmental systems.

 

John MajewskiDr. John Majewski is the Interim Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts as well as a Professor of History. He holds a Ph.D. in American History from UCLA. His areas of specialization include American economic, social, and legal history, Southern history, and the U.S. Civil War. Dr. Majewski is the author of two books as well as numerous articles, reviews, and book chapters. He also regularly reviews manuscripts for various journals and university presses. He earned the UCSB Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award in 2003.

 

Leila RuppDr. Leila Rupp is the Associate Dean of Social Sciences and Professor of Feminist Studies. She holds a Ph.D. in Modern European and Modern American History from Bryn Mawr College. She specializes in women’s movements, sexualities, and transnational history. Dr. Rupp has authored or co-authored half a dozen books and published numerous articles, book chapters, and other essays. She served as editor for the Journal of Women’s History and continues to serve on the editorial board for several journals. She earned the UCSB Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award in 2008 and is currently serving as the Graduate Advisor for the Department of Feminist Studies.

 

Q: What is the ideal publishing timeline for a graduate student?

Dr. Majewski: I am most familiar with the humanities and social sciences, and in those disciplines, the most likely time to begin publishing is after completion of the Ph.D. qualifying exams. Students who have taken their exams have mastered key works in their field, know the questions they want to pursue, and have begun to embark on dissertation research and writing. Publishing is especially helpful at the dissertation stage because you will get useful feedback and establish a sense of engagement with scholars in your field. It will become clearer to you what arguments other scholars find compelling, and what arguments need more work. Publishing at the dissertation stage also helps you establish a scholarly identity. You are essentially alerting others in your field about the questions you find compelling.

Dr. Rupp: The answer to this question varies tremendously depending on discipline: whether the discipline values books vs. articles, how much and what kind of research is necessary to publish, whether one publishes alone or with an advisor, and so on. I will start by saying the obvious: you have to have something worth publishing first, so do not feel pressured to publish until that is the case. Once something is in print under your name, it is there forever.

For the rest, I will answer based on my experience in the fields of history and feminist studies. A first publication can be based on an M.A. thesis, or it can be a first product of dissertation research. I have always encouraged my graduate students to publish their M.A. theses in some form. In my department, the M.A. thesis is designed to become an article: it is roughly 30 pages and is based on original research. It has none of the extended literature review or discussion of methodology found in an unrevised thesis or dissertation. I also encourage my students to think of some part of the dissertation that can be published as a article before completing the dissertation. This announces to the world (or, more realistically, scholars interested in your field) that you are working on this topic. So, an article early on (but not too early) and at least one on the dissertation topic pre-defense is, in my opinion, ideal.

Dr. Church: There is no one answer that fits all of the circumstances that come to mind in a publishing timeline. The answer to this will vary significantly across disciplines as well as what type of job a graduate student intends to seek after graduation.

For example, in the humanities, the notable accomplishment is the development of a dissertation and the possibility of transitioning this to a book. However, in the sciences, individuals often need to develop a sizable number of published papers as a graduate student or maybe while doing a post-doc if they are seeking a university post.

In fact, the dissertation in the sciences is often arranged in such a manner that it is comprised of chapters that are stand-alone papers that have been submitted for review. Universities look closely at the publication record when selecting possible candidates, while private corporations look more at courses, research results, etc. Since the real answer to this is discipline-specific and job-specific, I would recommend that a graduate student talk to their advisor, their department’s graduate advisor, and their committee members as to a potential target number of publications and a timeline.   

Q: How does one deal with the peer review process, including rejection and critical feedback?

Dr. Rupp: First of all, think of the review process as an incredible privilege: scholars outside your committee are reading your work, taking it seriously, and suggesting ways to improve it. No matter how long we’ve been publishing, we tend to have a cycle of reactions to critical peer reviews. At first reading, there’s a certain amount of outrage and denial. So it’s good to put the reviews aside after reading them, think about them, and come back to them in a few days.

Let your advisor and other committee members read the reviews and ask for their reactions. Then sit down and outline what you agree with and what you do not. Give yourself plenty of time to revise, assuming you have the opportunity to revise and resubmit. Take everything seriously, and write a very careful memo describing what you have done and what you have not done and why. This is critical and is almost as important as the revisions themselves.

If your article is rejected, do not give up. Some of the best articles have been rejected by more than one journal. Take the comments to heart, revise, and send somewhere else. I repeat, do not give up unless your advisor thinks it is hopeless. If you start early enough, you can begin with the best journal that is appropriate and move down from there. I just received an email from one of my students who received her Ph.D. in the spring. Her article based on her M.A. thesis was finally accepted after more than one rejection (and many revisions) over the last 5 or 6 years.

Dr. Church: Never take a critical review personally. Life is too short to harbor such feelings. Almost everyone has received a note indicating that their paper has been rejected or needs major revision.

Early in my career, I experienced a reviewer who wrote that my paper was a complete waste. Another reviewer gave me a half thumbs-up for the same paper, but wrote that I needed to make some revisions. The editor was more inclined to side with the first reviewer and to reject the paper. I modestly revised this manuscript and resubmitted it with a long explanation as to why it needed a second look. It was accepted, and not long after it was published someone wrote me and told me it was one of the best papers on the subject they had read.

The take-away here is that reviews are not always accurate, but often have good suggestions as to how the paper can be improved. They can also raise concerns that you hadn’t addressed in the paper and a revision gives you the opportunity to correct this omission. This often results in a clear pathway to a published paper when such issues are addressed. If I had taken criticism personally, perhaps I wouldn’t have revised and resubmitted. If you experience a negative review, I recommend that after reading it, you set it aside for a few days. Picking it up a few days later, you might look at the review from a more objective viewpoint, rather than taking it personally.

Dr. Majewski: Rejection goes hand and hand with publishing. The more prestigious and established a journal, the greater the chance of rejection. (Not getting rejected, in fact, may be a problem as it might be a sign that you are not taking enough risks.) Let’s face it, rejection stings. After all the hard work and creative energy that goes into an original piece of scholarship, it is hard to see it criticized and rejected.

Don't lose confidence and don't get defensive. Remember that everybody has faced rejection at one time or another, so carefully listen to criticism, and use it to improve your work. Most reviewers will give you honest feedback, while a few reviewers will be biased, ideological, or other variants of unfair. Even if you believe a review is unfair, it is important not to take it personally, and try to find a nugget or two of good advice. And remember, there are always other journals, other outlets, and other reviewers.

Q: In order to get a good academic job, how much do I need to publish by the time I graduate?

Dr. Majewski: There is no one publishing formula for the job market. I have seen superb job candidates with multiple publications as graduate students, and I have also seen superb candidates with only a publication or two. In traditional book disciplines, a brilliantly conceived dissertation will likely count far more than articles, while in the sciences and social sciences, publishing early and often in journals is a marker of success. One strategy that often works is to have one really good “flagship” article placed in a strong journal. That article can demonstrate the importance of your research agenda and can be the basis of your job talks and elevator speeches for the job market. In general, it is better to publish fewer high-quality pieces than to have a profusion of lower-quality articles that don’t quite have the same scholarly impact.

Dr. Rupp: It is not really a question of how much. How much is enough varies by discipline, but in every discipline a book is not just a book and an article is not just an article. The quality of your work and the quality of the venue makes an enormous amount of difference. Some publication is increasingly essential in every field. The goal I set for my students, as noted above, is at least one article, preferably in a well-ranked journal in the field, based on the dissertation research, and one other based on other work (MA thesis, seminar paper).

One thing to keep in mind in book disciplines is that publishers do not want you to have published too many articles based on the dissertation, since then they worry that no one will buy the book. So it is possible to publish too much as a graduate student. When looking at a book manuscript, editors will want to know how chapters differ from articles you have published. If you want and need to publish a book, keep this in mind. And don’t forget, an article in the top journal in your field has the potential to get you farther than a long list of publications (such as encyclopedia entries, book reviews) that, at some universities, are considered more “service” than scholarship.

I encourage my students to think of the dissertation as a first draft of a book manuscript, and I have had students publish books with relatively minor revision. In disciplines and at universities that require a book for tenure, hiring committees will want to be able to see that a book is within reach before the tenure clock runs out.

Dr. Church: There is no fixed number in most professions. There are a number of factors that are often considered: quality of journals, the fit of the journals within your field, impact factors, numbers of papers, etc. For example, to many people, an article in Science, or Nature trumps several articles in other journals. Having half a dozen articles published and several underway is a good first start in many professions. It is best to discuss this with your advisor. One last note, things have changed considerably, where 30 years ago many people started an academic job with one or two papers; now, the needed number in most fields in getting an academic appointment is 4 to 5 times this amount or even more if a post doc is the norm. This trend is likely to continue.


Got a question for our expert advisors?
Email Shawn Warner-Garcia, Graduate Division’s Professional Development Peer, to submit your query.

Tuesday
Dec092014

The Doctor Is In: December 2014 Edition

Source image credit: statue-of-libertyWelcome to the December 2014 edition of The Doctor Is In, a recurring column on The GradPost where UCSB faculty answer graduate students' questions about life in academia. In this installment, three members of our outstanding faculty panel answer your questions about seeking out a mentor and balancing competing priorities.

About Our Faculty Panel

Miroslava Chavez-GarciaDr. Miroslava Chávez-García is Professor and Vice-Chair of the Chicana & Chicano Studies Department at UCSB. She received her Ph.D. in History from UCLA and is the author of the book "States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California's Juvenile Justice System" as well as articles on gender, patriarchy, and the law in 19th century California. She organizes and leads professional development workshops for UCSB and the Ford Foundation and is particularly passionate about helping scholars of color navigate academia.



Aaron EttenbergDr. Aaron Ettenberg is a Professor in the Psychological & Brain Sciences Department at UCSB. He received his Ph.D. in Psychopharmacology from McGill University and conducts research on the neurobiology of reinforcement and motivation with particular interest in the neural basis of drug abuse. He is a recipient of the UCSB Distinguished Teaching Award and the UCSB Graduate Mentor Award.

 

 

 
Susannah ScottDr. Susannah Scott is a Professor at UCSB with a joint appointment in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry and Biochemistry. She received her Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Iowa State University and is currently the director the NSF-sponsored Partnership for International Research and Education in Electron Chemistry and Catalysis at Interfaces, a collaborative research program involving UCSB and several prominent catalysis research groups in China. She was also recently named to the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Sustainable Catalytic Processing.

 

Q: How should graduate students ask a faculty member to be their mentor, especially if that person is not his/her academic advisor?

Dr. Scott: A graduate student’s thesis advisor expects to play a mentoring role throughout the entire arc of the thesis project and beyond. At the same time, many graduate students do not take full advantage of the mentoring opportunities that this relationship offers. A thesis advisor may assume that a student who doesn’t ask for help is not looking for advice. You should meet with your advisor regularly (e.g., every week or two), and these meetings are often student-initiated. The faculty member will be most receptive if you come well-prepared to meetings: be prompt, organize and bring your materials, and make a copy to leave with your advisor.

Asking a faculty member who is not your thesis advisor requires a little more planning. You can approach someone a few minutes before or after a class and break the ice by asking a casual (not too personal) question. Most professors are willing to chat with a student who appears thoughtful and interested. If the conversation requires more than a few minutes, you can say, “Would you mind if I contact you for more advice later?” and follow the cues that you receive.

Most likely, the faculty member will ask you to stop by her or his office or to send an email requesting an appointment. It’s best to spread your requests over time; if you bring a long list of questions that requires a considerable time commitment to answer all at once, you will likely scare your prospective mentor off. It is a relationship to build slowly, so be prepared to start small. Once you get to know each other, longer conversations will happen naturally and will not feel burdensome to either party.

Dr. Chávez-García: I would approach potential mentors as I would approach potential advisors: ask myself tough questions, do my homework, and then approach them. First, I would ask myself why it is I want a mentor when I already have an advisor? In most cases, they are the same person but not always, as mentors fulfill professional as well as personal needs.

To me, a mentor is someone who listens attentively, responds promptly, and provides practical answers to your questions and concerns. A mentor is also someone who guides and protects you for selfless reasons – not because they seek personal gain or self-promotion but because they want to promote you and your work. A mentor can be a role model – someone you wish to emulate – but they can also come from a different space or place (or career). As such, you shouldn’t limit yourself to one mentor. Rather, seek two or three who can provide you with a wide variety of insight on academia, including keys to publishing, the job market, expanding professional networks, and raising a family.

Second, I would ask myself why that individual? Is the choice based on what you heard or what you know? In other words, do your research, read their work, and identify common interests. Once you’re certain that they are the “one,” make an appointment and bring with you a set of prepared questions and list of common areas of interests and experience. Be prepared to discuss expectations (with permission, you might even contact their students for input). Professors want to engage in intellectually stimulating conversations.

Finally, remember, these are long-term relationships that need cultivation but, ultimately, cannot be forced. In my experience, they have grown naturally from having similar work ethics, personalities, and goals.

Dr. Ettenberg: One can have multiple mentors – people whose guidance, advice, and support help promote one’s career – without jeopardizing one’s relationship with an academic advisor (who presumably is also a mentor). The easiest way to proceed is to ensure that potential mentors are members of one’s dissertation committee. In this scenario, you should discuss potential committee members with your advisor, who will have valuable input on who would be a good match for your project. Then make an appointment or drop by the prospective committee member’s office (don't do the request over email!) and present the invitation with an explanation of why you and your advisor think that the person would be a good mentor.

If, however, this question is referring to a situation where the academic advisor is not in fact the best match for you, then the matter becomes much more delicate. In that scenario, you should have a prospective faculty member in mind and confidentially bring the name to the department chair, who can provide input and advise you on department policies about such matters.

Keep in mind that such changes are easier early in your graduate career but are much more complicated down the line after the current advisor has already invested time, energy, and sometimes money in support of your career. Assuming that there are no obstacles identified by the chair, then you should – again, confidentially – approach the prospective new advisor and explain why he/she is being asked about assuming this new role.

Only after a suitable replacement advisor has agreed to serve in that capacity should you then have an open and honest discussion with your current advisor. Most professors I know would be understanding in this situation, and while they may not think that the move is a good one, they would not be vindictive or prevent you from making the requested change.

Q: How can one balance professional and/or creative pursuits along with graduate coursework and research?

Dr. Chávez-García: When I hear the word “balance” associated with academic life, I often cringe. I say this because, as we all know, what balance means to one person is sheer madness to another. I think what we really mean to say is “priorities,” that is, how do we prioritize our responsibilities as well as our desires? (We cannot forget to consider those things that keep us sane, energized, and motivated to do our work.)

I believe that prioritizing our professional and personal lives involves establishing short- and long-term goals and figuring out which ones are most important. As new students, we know that developing an original research project is at the top but we should also realize that creating a strong curriculum vitae and building a professional network are equally important.

Establish your goals on a yearly basis and break those down into smaller segments so that you know what your goals are for each month and/or week. Admittedly I don’t do this as often as I’d like, but I generally have a sense of what I want to achieve and what is expected of me.

Of course, we – especially as women and people of color – often run into the pressure of being asked to participate on some committee or event because of the need to appear to be inclusive across race, ethnicity, and gender. (In such cases, my suggestion is to be selective when you say “yes” and feel confident that you can say “no” by responding that you would be delighted to participate if you didn’t already have x, y, and/or z going on. Tell them, too, to ask you at another time so that you don’t burn any bridges.) There are ways to say no while still appearing collegial.

Dr. Scott: There is no doubt that graduate courses and original research are both intellectually demanding and very time-consuming for most people. These also often count as professional and/or creative pursuits. Doing them well requires a major investment of your energy and a substantial amount of inspiration, but they don’t (and shouldn’t) have to occupy all of your waking hours.

Most people find that they need to take periodic breaks from intense work in order to function at their best. Often a change in the type of pursuit can be just as effective at helping you to recharge. You will sometimes find that solutions to academic problems emerge while your brain is working on them in “background mode,” precisely because you are focused on something else.

Instead of feeling guilty about taking breaks, view them as necessary to your creativity. When I was a graduate student, I rehearsed with an orchestra (for no credit towards my Ph.D.), just because I liked to concentrate really hard on something that had nothing to do with my research several times a week. Your resume will also benefit from showing that you have broader interests than just your work.

You should check that you are using time off to recharge, and not just to avoid doing work that you dislike. The length of time you need depends on you, but a good strategy is to assess your productivity and recognize when it starts to decline.

You should also check in regularly with yourself and your advisor to make sure you are making good progress. Your research advisor should not count the hours that you put in at the lab or the library, if you are advancing steadily towards your research goals.


Got a question for our expert advisors? Email Shawn Warner-Garcia, Graduate Division’s Professional Development Peer, to submit your query.

Thursday
Nov062014

The Doctor Is In: November 2014 Edition

Source image credit: statue-of-libertyWelcome to the inaugural edition of The Doctor Is In, a recurring column on The GradPost where UCSB faculty answer graduate students' questions about life in academia. In this installment, three members of our outstanding faculty panel answer your questions about balancing competing priorities, the hardest part about writing a dissertation, and bouncing back from setbacks and disappointments.

About Our Faculty Panel

Miroslava Chavez-GarciaDr. Miroslava Chávez-García is Professor and Vice-Chair of the Chicana & Chicano Studies Department at UCSB. She received her Ph.D. in History from UCLA and is the author of the book "States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California's Juvenile Justice System" as well as articles on gender, patriarchy, and the law in 19th century California. She organizes and leads professional development workshops for UCSB and the Ford Foundation and is particularly passionate about helping scholars of color navigate academia.


Merith CosdenDr. Merith Cosden is a Professor and Interim Dean of the Givertz Graduate School of Education at UCSB. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of New Mexico and conducts research on drug courts and intervention for individuals with substance abuse and mental health problems in the criminal justice system. She is a recipient of the UCSB Graduate Mentor Award and the Santa Barbara Psychological Association Legacy Award.


Aaron EttenbergDr. Aaron Ettenberg is a Professor in the Psychological & Brain Sciences Department at UCSB. He received his Ph.D. in Psychopharmacology from McGill University and conducts research on the neurobiology of reinforcement and motivation with particular interest in the neural basis of drug abuse. He is a recipient of the UCSB Distinguished Teaching Award and the UCSB Graduate Mentor Award.

 

 

Q: How can one balance professional and/or creative pursuits along with graduate coursework and research?

Dr. Ettenberg: Graduate students work hard, there’s no question about that! However, most graduate students have no sense of how much heavier the workload will be if they succeed and get a job in the private or academic sector post-graduation. So if you think you are working hard now as a graduate student, you should know that the load gets only heavier and the hill significantly steeper as you begin life in the “real” world after UCSB.

All that simply means that there’s no better time than now, when you are still in graduate school, to learn how to successfully juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities – indeed, your success in learning to presently meet this challenge will make your path far easier down the road. So what to do? How to begin? You could actually hire a career coach or consultant (for a considerable fee); this is someone who gets paid to help executives handle time management challenges. But here’s a sneak peak at their approach – and with no payment required!

First, you have to sit down with a pen and paper and calendar and identify the various tasks and responsibilities that are on your desk, including upcoming items that you know will soon arrive on that desk. Literally mark down what needs to be accomplished over the next week or month or quarter. Get organized! Then, identify realistic deadlines by which each task needs to be completed. Finally, look at your schedule and – again realistically – allocate time in your day or week or month for successfully meeting each deadline. Then stick to your plan!

In my own personal experience, you can no longer afford to simply deal with just one thing at a time; there are simply too many things that require your attention. If you are the kind of person that leaves everything to the last moment, then you will eventually begin dropping the ball and letting things pile up and inevitably fall through the cracks (pick your metaphor). Yes, it will seem strange and a bit of a pain at the start, but once you get into the habit of successfully organizing and managing your time, of looking ahead and planning for what’s to come and not just what’s directly in front of you, then you will find that you are not only accomplishing more and being more efficient, but remarkably you will also find that you have actually freed up more time for activities that you want to do and not just have to do.

Dr. Cosden: My advice is twofold. First, tell yourself that graduate school is not a normal time in your life; it is five or six years devoted to your training. Thus, you may not have as much time as you would like or that you will have in the future for other activities. Second, do spend time with friends, especially those that understand your pressures and availabilities. Make fellow students your friends and not your competitors, and you will have them now and for years to come. For the important people in your life who are not students, help them understand what it means to be on a strange quarter schedule. Enjoy time with them when it fits the quarter, and work harder when you have obligations and deadlines without feeling stressed or getting behind in your work.  

Q: What was the biggest hurdle you faced writing your dissertation and how did you overcome it?

Dr. Chávez-García: That’s an easy answer – writing. In graduate school, writing was extremely difficult for me because I came to it with weak writing skills. As an immigrant and native Spanish-speaker from a low-income, working class background, I was far removed from writing intelligently, much less academically. And, even though I attended a prestigious public undergraduate institution, I received little one-on-one instruction. I simply fell through the cracks, as many do in the 30,000+ student body populations.

When I got to graduate school, little did I know that my writing was indeed poor. Fortunately, a professor suggested I take a basic course at a community college, a suggestion that alerted me to the gravity of the situation. I was even more fortunate in my third year of graduate school when my advisor took me under his wing and taught me nearly everything I needed to know about writing. It was a painful process, but writing well enough to be understood by a general audience was (and remains) a priceless gift.

As an Assistant Professor, I improved my writing by strengthening the mechanics of the process, enabling me to publish a first book. It was not until I was an Associate Professor working on a second book that I developed a style that allowed me to engage a wider audience. And, I must admit, I actually enjoyed the process, even though it was difficult. But before I began writing, I made up my mind that I wanted “regular” people – not just academics – to read my book. To learn new writing techniques, I read many books (mostly historical fiction) by authors I sought to emulate as well as books and journals on the process of scholarly and popular writing. I even joined Writer’s Digest. Through that process, I produced a study that I know has been read by more people than the first. I hope to make my new project – a family history – even more widely accessible.

Today, I continue to polish my writing by attending writing workshops, circulating preliminary work to colleagues, and submitting articles to journals for publication. And, I would add, writing for blogs and similar online spaces also enhances the fluidity that should (but often does not) come with writing. Rejection notices – while painful (I’ve learned to contain the pain, something you’ll learn over the years) – provide a useful opportunity to expand your lexicon and style. I also recommend organizing or participating in peer-based writing groups, which I only recently attended since graduate school, and found it immensely energizing and rewarding. Writing is a lonely and difficult process and, as I often say, the main reason why people don’t finish their Ph.Ds. and why associate professors don’t advance to full professors, but you can find ways to change that without heading down an abyss.

Dr. Ettenberg: This one is simple – the biggest hurdle I faced in writing my dissertation was Time – and more specifically, my inadequate estimation of how much time would be required to complete the task. And I can honestly tell you that in my 32 years of mentoring graduate students here at UCSB, that hurdle is as relevant today as it was back in the Pleistocene Age when I was writing my own dissertation in 1980. Truly every one of the 16 doctoral students that I have mentored during my tenure here has underestimated (admittedly to varying degrees) the amount of time it took to complete the writing of their dissertation. The need for multiple drafts, incorporating the comments of one’s advisor and committee members, the time it takes to check references, footnotes and citations, of ensuring that the document is carefully edited for grammatical and spelling errors, etc. is well in excess of what you will think it will take to complete these tasks.

And of course the driving force here cannot be a campus deadline for dissertation submission – you, the student, need to make certain that you give yourself (and your committee) sufficient time to read, evaluate and edit the document before it is ready for final submission.  The argument that “the committee has to read this by next week or I won't be able to graduate at the end of fall quarter” is, quite frankly, not the committee’s problem, it is the student’s problem. So give yourself ample time to complete the component tasks required for dissertation submission, and then double that number and you will better approximate how long it will actually take. (And no, I am not kidding!)

Now of course the time required to write a dissertation does vary by discipline and by graduate student within each discipline, so the best advice I can give you is to sit down with your advisor and identify a realistic timetable for the various steps that you will need to take in order to accomplish your goal. You can start with a campus submission deadline and then work backward…. how long does the committee need to read the thesis, how long will you need to complete changes/edits required by the committee, how long will it take to complete the first draft of each chapter, etc. Then take your timeline and run it by your advisor for a reality check. And then take his/her advice about any changes (usually lengthening) to your proposed timeline. Your advisor has much more experience about such matters than you do! Do not fool yourself into thinking that if you lock yourself in a room and work through without resting that you will be able to complete this in less time than your advisor proposes – you won’t! And if by some chance you will, then it is highly likely that the quality of your product will not be up to the standards that your advisor, the committee, or even yourself would like to see.

Q: How do you recommend bouncing back from a setback or disappointment in graduate school (such as taking an incomplete in a class, failing to get published or accepted to a conference, or missing a milestone deadline)?

Dr. Cosden: Evaluation is not just part of a graduate student’s plight. As faculty members, we are often evaluated professionally – in terms of our publications, presentations, teaching, and promotions. Thus, learning to deal with negative feedback is important for one’s long-term career. When receiving a negative review of one’s research or failure to get a paper accepted, my recommendation is to be sad and angry for a while and then to see how the feedback makes sense. We tend to get so close to our work that we are not able to evaluate it effectively ourselves. It is sometimes the case that we do not express our ideas as clearly as needed. A lot of the feedback we receive is useful, and the rest you can ignore.

Taking an incomplete or missing a milestone represent a different type of setback. One of the hardest things for graduate students to learn is how to organize their time and establish realistic goals. In my experience, almost all graduate students underestimate the time required for their dissertations. You need to give yourself enough time to accomplish each task. This means devoting the time needed to your graduate student requirements as well as setting realistic timelines for your work.

Got a question for our expert panel? Submit your query to Shawn Warner-Garcia, the Graduate Division’s Professional Development Peer Advisor.

Monday
Oct202014

Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Education Ph.D. Student Priscilla Pereschica

Wherever she is – in class, on the soccer field, or at work in UCSB's Judicial Affairs office – you can bet that Priscilla Pereschica will be working hard at whatever she's doing, and that she'll be doing it well. Priscilla is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, with an emphasis on Educational Leadership and Organizations (ELO). A 2009 graduate of Fresno State, Priscilla currently works in Judicial Affairs, where she helps students navigate the judicial process. She is also an avid soccer fan, and has experience with both indoor and outdoor soccer. 

Where did you grow up?

I’m from the Central San Joaquin Valley, which is a predominantly agricultural region. It is sadly considered to be the 10th least educated metro area in the country. My grandparents, Ismael and Maria Bugarin and Ursulo and Esther Pereschica, left Mexico and moved to the United States to pursue better opportunities for themselves and their children. They ultimately settled in the Central Valley and worked as farmworkers. I really respect their decision to leave their country, to leave their families, and to work in a labor-intensive job in the grueling heat for an opportunity to achieve prosperity.

I come from a large and close-knit family. I’m the oldest of four children. I have one sister, Erika, and two brothers, Martin and Ysaiah. Erika works with special needs children, Martin is fixing up a 1967 Mustang, and Ysaiah will be going to the Marines Corps boot camp soon. My parents, Frank and Sandra, were quite young when they got married and when I was born. My parents made many sacrifices to support me and my siblings and worked two jobs at times. Although they did not attend college, they understood the importance of a college degree and they emphasized its importance to us at an early age. My parents have always been hard workers and had the entrepreneur spirit. They built and owned their homes, my mom owned her own business, and my dad purchased a small ranch and farmed it in addition to his full-time job. They achieved the “middle class dream” through a lot of hard work.

Is there any particular event or events that had a big impact or influence on you and helped shape who you are today?

As the oldest, a lot of family responsibilities fell upon me, and I helped care for my siblings when my parents worked. My mom would lovingly call me their “second mom.” This responsibility continued into college, and I coordinated my school and work schedules around my siblings’ schedules. Aside from my family responsibilities, I worked on average 25 hours a week and was a commuter student. With a combination of all of those factors, I was unable to fully integrate into college or participate in extracurricular activities; however, I made sure to focus on my classes because I wanted to attend grad school. I believe that my experiences helped me develop into the woman that I am today. My parents have done so much to provide for me and my siblings, so I was willing to help.

What research projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on two research projects. The first is a qualitative project that was started by my former advisor. We interviewed graduate students about their knowledge and experiences of attending an Emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). The second project is my own and it is quantitative. I’m examining survey data related to the academic integration experiences of Latino undergraduates at an Emerging HSI. I didn’t intend to do research within the HSI context, but I became very intrigued by the topic after getting involved in the first project. An HSI is an institution with a minimum of 25 percent enrollment of Latino undergraduates. Federal funding is available to these institutions and it may be spent on a variety of programs and projects. An Emerging HSI is an institution with a Latino undergraduate enrollment of 15 to 24 percent. UCSB is an Emerging HSI with a 24 percent enrollment of Latino undergraduates. I’m looking forward to UCSB’s transition into an HSI because I think it will be a momentous event in regard to Latinos' access to a research-intensive university. It’s exciting to do this research at the same time that UCSB is making this transition. I hope that there is a commitment to serving the students by ensuring that they are graduating and are encouraged to pursue opportunities beyond their bachelor’s degrees.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

I’ve enjoyed graduate school and have been involved on campus in multiple ways. I work in the Office of Judicial Affairs as a graduate student assistant and conduct officer. In my role, I help students navigate the university judicial process, investigate reports of student-involved academic and behavioral misconduct, and uphold the university’s policies and regulations. My boss, Stephan Franklin, has been very supportive of my professional development. I have received training on stalking, sexual assault, and restorative justice. I also serve as a hearing officer for Housing and Residential Life and have worked on an interdepartmental anti-couch burning campaign for the past two years. Our campaign has been successful and we have seen a decrease in the number of couch burnings in Isla Vista. I am proud to have co-coordinated a women’s self-defense training during the spring quarter and plan to coordinate a few more for this school year.

I am also one of the founding members of the UCSB Higher Education Action and Research Consortium (HEARC). HEARC was created by and is led by graduate students. Part of its purpose is to advance the dialogue and research of postsecondary issues. We meet several times during the quarter and invite faculty members, administrators, and researchers to discuss their research and work. We also provide professional development workshops for students. If you’re interested in attending one of our meetings or would like more information, please contact us at UCSB.HEARC@gmail.com or visit our Facebook page.

I am also a board member of LUNA (Latino/a UCSB Network Association). LUNA is newly established and it was created to promote the professional development of and the retention of UCSB Latino/a faculty and staff. I’m excited to be a member of this group and look forward to creating a stronger and more visible community. Access our Facebook page for more information about upcoming events and workshops.

Finally, I am also a member of several other UCSB groups: Professional Women’s Association, SRB Governance Board, and Security Camera Policy Committee. Graduate life has been busy both academically and professionally but I enjoy it. I have a great advisor, Professor Richard Duran, who has provided me with a lot of support and opportunities.

What has been a source of motivation or drive for you in your graduate studies?

I have personal and professional motivations, but my personal motivations drive me the most. I am motivated to succeed for my family. I am grateful for the sacrifices and opportunities that my grandparents and parents have given me, and I want to give back to them. My siblings, boyfriend Steven, and extended family are also very supportive and encouraging so they also add to my motivation. Additionally, my hard work and sacrifices will benefit my future family. Overall, I feel that my success and degrees are beyond me. When I achieve, they achieve. My degrees are their degrees.

Lastly, I am excited that my research will contribute to the growing research on HSIs and how they can better serve their students. I look forward to the professional opportunities that my degree and work will provide me.

Who are your heroes/mentors?

My heroes are my parents and grandparents. I value their faith, strong work ethic, perseverance, sacrifices, and love and commitment to their families. I admire how they live for others and not for themselves. They inspire me to embody these qualities and make me proud to be their daughter and granddaughter.

I consider Dr. David Schecter, who was my political science professor from Fresno State, to be my mentor. I’m very grateful for his help, wisdom, guidance, kindness, and support throughout the years. During my senior year at Fresno State, he helped me secure an internship in Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s office, which turned into a staff position. He also helped me navigate the graduate school application process and wrote me several recommendation letters. He has really helped me at critical points in my life and I’m thankful to have him as part of my support system.

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.

Overall, I’m proud of myself. I think I’m doing quite well considering that I’m a first-generation college student and from a small, agricultural, and undereducated area. I feel very blessed for the opportunities that have been bestowed upon me.

 

What do you do to relax?

I’m a firm believer in work-life balance, although I struggle to maintain that balance at times. Sometimes the grad student life makes it difficult to do but I think it’s important to strive for it. Some of the things that I like to do to relax are watch movies, hike, and go to the beach. I’m surprised by the number of people I’ve met who live here and don’t go to the beach. Take advantage of its tranquility. I also enjoy a night of dancing and having a drink or two. Even though I love spending time with others, I also value my alone time. I find peace and relaxation through solitude.

What is one thing (or more than one thing) that people would be surprised to know about you?

I played soccer for 13 years consecutively, was captain of my high school varsity team, and played five seasons of indoor soccer after I graduated from college. Two of my indoor teams won the championship, and one of the championships was won in a penalty shootout! I played in an outdoor league this past summer and sprained my ankle. I plan to resume playing once it’s healed. Outdoor soccer and indoor soccer are uniquely different, but both are incredibly fun.

I’ve been taking self-defense classes this past year through the UCSB R.A.D. program (Rape Aggression Defense Program) and Santa Barbara Krav Maga. I find it empowering to learn how to defend myself and exhilarating to strike the pads. I’m proud to admit that I can deliver a good, strong kick, which I attribute to playing soccer for so many years. I highly recommend that women take a self-defense course. It’s important to train your body and mind in the event that these skills have to be used. I hope that doesn’t occur but it’s important to be prepared.

What do you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?

I hope to have a job in public policy so I can continue working on higher education issues. I want to contribute to the success of underrepresented students by promoting access, retention, and opportunities to attend graduate school. As you can tell, family is very important to me so creating my own, large family will also be a focus of mine.

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

Grad school can be overwhelming and stressful because of the amount of work it requires, and it’s even more stressful if you have other commitments, so I recommend maintaining a support system of family and friends and establishing a proper work-life balance. My other takeaways are (1) don’t neglect your physical and mental health, (2) take advantage of your opportunities or create new ones, and (3) enjoy the experience. We live each day once so make the most of it. 

Friday
Oct032014

New TAs Prepare for Their Students at Annual TA Orientation

New TAs gathered in Campbell Hall for Orientation. Credit: Patricia MarroquinIt’s a new school year at UC Santa Barbara, which brings with it many new students, both graduate and undergraduate. Many graduate students will be serving as Teaching Assistants across campus, some of them for the first time. To ease their transition to the front of the classroom, Instructional Development and the TA Development Program once again held their annual TA Orientation on Tuesday, September 30, at Campbell Hall. The orientation featured several speakers, including Chancellor Henry T. Yang, as well as a panel of experienced TAs. After the initial orientation, students were invited to participate in two rounds of workshop sessions with different topics of value to newly hired Teaching Assistants. 

The program kicked off with an introduction by Dr. Lisa Berry of Instructional Development. Dr. Berry told the students that the purpose of the orientation was to make them better prepared for teaching than they were at the start of the orientation. 

Chancellor Henry T. Yang spoke of the importance of humor in teaching. Credit: Patricia MarroquinShe then introduced Chancellor Yang, a recipient of 13 outstanding teaching awards throughout his career, who reminded the audience that they were now employed at one of the elite universities in the world, and that was, in part, because of the work that Teaching Assistants do in their classrooms each and every quarter. 

Chancellor Yang also gave students some tips for becoming a good teacher. He gave students some practical things to do, such as learning the names of their students, adding humor, trying tests before handing them out, and not lecturing to the blackboard. He also provided students with some concepts to keep in mind as they went about their teaching duties. He reminded them that lecturing is a dialogue, not a monologue; that students do not always know what questions they have, or even that they have them; and that students often mix emotional, social, and factual information when they are engaged in learning. He closed by asking students to help participate in the university’s attempts to change the culture of Isla Vista, a town still recovering from the horrific events of last spring.

Grad students grab some breakfast before heading off to breakout sessions. Credit: Patricia MarroquinChancellor Yang yielded the floor to several speakers who were focused on the legal responsibilities of TAs, beginning with Ko Kashiwazaki, the Assistant Director of Judicial Affairs. He reviewed issues of academic integrity, and discussed the role of the TA in maintaining the integrity of campus. He provided students with four tips for maintaining academic integrity in their courses: explain academic integrity clearly to students, be explicit in expectations, put those expectations in a syllabus, and save all documents and correspondence with students.

Carol Sauceda, the Senior Sexual Harassment Prevention and Diversity Education Analyst at UCSB, took the stage next. She informed students that, unbeknownst to them, their attractiveness level had increased since becoming a TA, and she outlined the university’s sexual harassment policy, complete with several examples.

Associate Dean of Students Angela Andrade and Dr. Jeanne Stanford, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, closed out the legal responsibilities segment with a discussion of the resources available on campus for distressed students, as well as available counseling services. They pointed out that “it’s really normal to go to therapy in California,” and encouraged students to go if they felt they needed to talk to someone. They also reviewed the Distressed Students Protocol. 

A panel of experienced graduate student TAs answered questions at the Orientation. They are, from left, Laura Hooton (History); John Kaminsky (Math); Maria Canto (Spanish & Portuguese); Emma McCullough (Music); and Emily Wilson (EEMB). Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Just before breaking out into individual workshop sessions, Dr. Berry brought a panel of experienced TAs on stage to answer any questions that new TAs might have. Laura Hooton, John Kaminsky, Emma McCullough, Maria Canto, and Emily Wilson shared their own experiences and beliefs about successful teaching. Building from the questions in the audience, they discussed knowing their students, learning students’ names, handling overloaded office hours, grading, and disrespectful students (not that we have any of those at UCSB!).

Dr. Berry brought the session to a close by presenting students with the many tools that Instructional Development offers Teaching Assistants on campus.

Monday
Sep152014

UCSB Makes List of 25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S.

Credit: Patricia MarroquinUCSB has continued to add to its list of honors with an acknowledgement on the list of The 25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S. Referencing the “natural beauty” of the campus, the well-rounded adventure programs, the active culture of campus, and the available relaxation tools offered, Greatist applauds UCSB for its all-encompassing efforts to ensure the mental and physical health of its students.

This most recent honor for UCSB is the latest in a long line of acknowledgements for its commitment to student health. UCSB has worked to make its beautiful scenery a useful tool in the busy life of a full-time student. The Labyrinth Trail on Lagoon Island, for example, allows students to both get away from the hectic world at the heart of campus and relax while also taking in the breathtaking beauty that campus has to offer. 

The beauty of campus is, of course, impossible to ignore, but UCSB has worked hard to offer more than just physical beauty to its students. UCSB’s residential dining, for example, has been working to provide students with “earth-friendly” dining for several years now. University-owned dining commons – Ortega, Carrillo, Portola, and De La Guerra – are open to graduate students both on- and off-campus.

In addition to the healthy eating options, the campus also offers mental health assistance through the Mental Health Peer Program, located in the Counseling and Psychological Services Center. The center holds de-stress workshops, and students can unwind in massage chairs, an alpha wave chamber, and a relaxation room.

The Health & Wellness program offers resources and events such as field trips and its quarterly Dog Therapy Day.

UCSB also provides its students with numerous opportunities for a valuable activity, exercise.  With intramurals, recreation program offerings, and the many exercise options offered on a daily basis at the Rec Cen, students have plenty of options for having an active, healthy lifestyle both on campus and off.

For the full list of healthiest colleges, read Greatist's "The 25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S."