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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Winter 2016
Peer Advisor Availability

Writing Peer
Kyle Crocco

Mon: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tue: 10 a.m.-noon
Wed: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Thu: 10 a.m.-noon

Funding Peer
Stephanie Griffin
Mon: 10 a.m.-noon
Wed: noon-2 p.m.

Diversity Peer
Ana Romero

Mon: noon-2 p.m.
Wed: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

The peers sometimes hold events or attend meetings during their regular office hours. To assure you connect with your Graduate Peer Advisor, we encourage you to contact them by email and make an appointment.

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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 

Friday
Jan222016

A ‘Reinvented’ UCSB Library Opens 

Presiding at the UCSB Library ribbon-cutting are, from left, University Librarian Denise Stephens; UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang; Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall; Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Marc Fisher; GSA President Aaron Jones; and Associated Students President Jimmy Villareal. Credit: Monie Photography

The newly completed work on the UC Santa Barbara Library is more than just a renovation of its outdated buildings. The project is a reinvention of what an academic library at a top-tier research institution aspires to be and can be.

That’s how university officials are describing the state-of-the-art project, which was first proposed two decades ago. Two years of construction culminated last week with a festive “Reinventing the Library” grand opening ceremony, featuring speakers, dancers, musicians, a ribbon-cutting, a photo booth, and an open house.

Highlights of the celebration include, clockwise from left, an address by University Librarian Denise Stephens (credit: Patricia Marroquin); patrons entering the new library (credit: Sonia Fernandez, Office of Public Affairs and Communications); and the structure brightly lit at night (credit: Monie Photography).Key features and major components of the UCSB Library project, designed by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, include:

  • A three-story building addition on the north side of the library for Special Research Collections, with state-of-the art technology for preservation; Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory; and 24-hour Learning Commons.
  • Complete renovation and seismic retrofit of the original two-story building to house the Art & Architecture Collection, plus additional study, gathering, collections, and exhibition spaces.
  • A new “Paseo,” or grand walkway, that connects all parts of the library as well as the east and west sides of campus, and serves as the library’s new entrance.
  • The addition of about 60,000 square feet and the renovation of about 92,000 square feet.
  • LEED Silver certification. Environmentally friendly features include recycled and regional building materials; reflective roof and ground; energy-efficient lighting; window filters; and water-saving steps such as low-flow faucets and drought-tolerant outdoor landscaping.
  • 20 percent more study space.
  • Expanded wireless access and more power outlets.
  • A sit-down eatery called the Summit Café.
  • Bright reading galleries.

GSA President Aaron Jones speaks at the ceremony. Credit: Monie PhotographyUniversity Librarian Denise Stephens told the GradPost that specific programs and areas will be of particular interest to grad students. “As both scholars and instructors,” she said, “graduate students will benefit from new library programs such as the Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory, which encourages and inspires data creation and analysis across all disciplines; a new Graduate Study that allows for quiet individual work; and group study areas throughout that allow for conversation and collaboration. We hope the new library, designed in part with feedback from graduate students, will serve their needs and allow them to engage with information in the most productive and meaningful ways – online or on site.”

Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti said the building, with its new spaces, has stirred enthusiasm on campus. “It is thrilling to have the beautiful new library open, to walk through its halls, and to see that it has already become a significant locus of student study and interaction,” she said. “I predict it will become iconic for the campus, exemplifying the collaborative and interdisciplinary interaction that is the hallmark of UC Santa Barbara. The new resources, such as the Collaboratory and the redesigned special collections, will both enhance and accelerate graduate research. I’ve been on campus for more than 25 years and I’ve never before had the feeling that a new building was such a source of excitement and renewal. I couldn’t be more pleased!”

The grand opening ceremony featured speeches by University Librarian Denise Stephens; Chancellor Henry T. Yang; Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall; GSA President Aaron Jones; and Associated Students President Jimmy Villareal; as well as performances and music by students from the UCSB Departments of Music, and Theater & Dance.

Guests at the library's Open House were treated to "UCSBreakin'," a break-dancing performance in the Courtyard. Credit: Monie Photography

College of Creative Studies Dean Bruce Tiffney was among those posing with Dr. Seuss books in the photo booth. Photo courtesy of UCSB Library“I think the library has always been the heart and soul of the university,” Danelle Moon, head of the library’s  Special Research Collections, said in an Office of Public Affairs and Communications video, posted below. “You can just see the excitement on the students’ faces coming in and oohing and ahhing over the new building – the architecture, the furniture. … It’s telling that the students are embracing the importance and the significance of the library and through their studies they are going to be documenting the significance of what libraries hold, which is the history of the world.”

For more information about the UCSB Library, including entrances; new spaces and places; the new Summit Café; and events and exhibitions, visit the “Reinvented UCSB Library” page. And you may view a fun gallery of Dr. Seuss-themed photo-booth images in this Flickr album.

Dancers from the Department of Theater & Dance perform "Four Birds" on the library's Paseo Bridge. Credit: Karen Lindell, UCSB Library

 

Tuesday
Jan192016

Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Computer Science Student Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney, a fifth-year Computer Science Ph.D. candidate focusing on Computer Vision, sat down and shared the unique journey of his path to and throughout graduate school.

Despite his many academic accomplishments (including receiving top honors at the Association for Computing Machinery Multimedia Open-Source Software Competition in Australia last October), Chris maintains a well-rounded life. When he’s not in the Four Eyes Lab, he can be found performing with the local Santa Barbara Improv Group, swimming, or volunteering his time in local and international communities.

Where did you grow up? Tell us a little about your family, childhood, and early education.

Chris SweeneyI grew up in Northern Virginia, near D.C.  I attended Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, where I began my love of computer science. I went to college at the University of Virginia, where I received a B.S. in Math and Computer Science. As an undergrad, I always knew what I wanted to study, and I’ve been following that path since then.

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

I’m working in data visualization and computer vision. Specifically, I’m looking at 3D geometry from images for programs like CAD. This came by way of undergraduate research I participated in: large-scale image processing. As a Ph.D. student, I’m working on making large-scale Structure from Motion more accessible by developing 3D modeling software and sharing it on my software’s website. Some examples of models I’ve made with my software are below:

ColosseumA screenshot of a reconstructed model of the Colosseum in Rome, using Chris’s 3D modeling software. Credit: Chris Sweeney

DubrovnikA screenshot of a reconstructed model of Dubrovnik, a medieval city – better known as King’s Landing from Game of Thrones. Credit: Chris Sweeney

To create these 3D models, I have a script that crawls Flickr for landmarks (i.e., the most heavily photographed places in the world), then I take the images and run them through my software to recover full 3D models of the scenes.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

It’s been very rewarding. I’ve had several travel opportunities and internships. I’ve had three internships for Google Goggles, and from September 2014 through April 2015, I was a visiting student at ETH Zurich [Swiss Federal Institute of Technology] in Switzerland. I’ve also enjoyed meeting cool people from these experiences.

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

Funding can be a real struggle!

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.

Chris, center, accepting the top prize for Open-Source Software at the 2015 ACM Multimedia Conference in Brisbane, Australia. Photo courtesy of Chris SweeneyI’m having a hard time choosing between two big accomplishments: winning my Open-Source award, and my time as a visiting student to ETH Zurich. The Open-Source Software competition is sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery, and my Theia Open Source Library for 3D Modeling won first place this past fall. I’m proud of this award, as it’s a validation of both my own hard work and the general community’s commitment and contributions to open source.

Secondly, being a visiting student to ETH Zurich was incredible. Professionally, it was really neat to be invited to the top labs there. Personally, it was a challenge to be in a country whose language was German. Although the working language of the labs was English, I had to improve my German language skills to get by day-to-day.

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

I’m very self-motivated, which has helped me accomplish a lot during school. It also helps that I’m in an industry that’s currently seeing a boom, and many digital imaging ideas are now becoming tangible products.

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

Chris and his girlfriend enjoying the local fauna on a trip to Australia. Photo courtesy of Chris SweeneySome of my favorite hobbies include wine tasting along the Central Coast, playing soccer, and woodworking. So far, I’ve made desks and tables. I also like to travel, which is a benefit of grad school and the industry, since there are so many international and regional conferences.

Have you taken any other interesting international trips?

In college, I participated in Alternative Spring Breaks in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. These were week-long service trips in which we volunteered with local elementary schools. More recently, I traveled to Tamale, Ghana, with Community Water Solutions [now Saha Global]. Our team built a water purification center in town and taught local women how to run the facility and about sustainable leadership. We encouraged the women to charge a nominal fee for their work, which helped improve their economic standing.

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

I come from a big family – I’m one of five kids. I feel that families aren’t usually that big anymore, especially on the West Coast. People are usually surprised to hear how many siblings I have.

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

For a while, I’d hoped to stay in academia, ultimately as a tenured professor. However, recently I’ve felt a growing potential toward working for a tech company. I could see myself doing R&D work, for the right company. I’m starting my postdoc work in January at the University of Washington, so I’ll see where that takes me down the road.

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

Be open to talking about any problems you may be facing – whether it’s financial, research, or life in general. It’s important to communicate openly with your advisors, colleagues, and other faculty members.

Monday
Dec212015

The Top 15 GradPost Stories of 2015 

Each year, the GradPost reports on various lists and rankings for UC Santa Barbara. For example, there's the Leiden ranking (UCSB is No. 7 in the world this year); U.S. News & World Report's "Top 30 Public National Universities" (UCSB is No. 8); and Washington Monthly's list of "Top 100 National Universities" (UCSB is at No. 14). Now it's that time of the year again for the GradPost to present its list – of the Top 15 GradPost Stories of 2015.  

We examined the analytics for the GradPost from January 1 to December 15, 2015, to find out what clicked with our readers. Once again, such articles as graduate student profiles; student awards and achievements; the Grad Slam; and yes, those prestigious annual rankings reports, topped our list. Below are the GradPost’s Top 15 most-read stories originally published in 2015, followed by a list of five more noteworthy articles that just missed the list. (If you’re curious about past years, read our 2014 list and our 2013 list.)

The GradPost sends you all warm wishes for a joyous holiday season, and a safe and happy new year. We would like to remind you to please subscribe to us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, to keep up with the latest graduate student news and events.

***

Top 15 GradPost Stories Originally Published in 2015

1. 4 UCSB Students Chosen to Attend Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting This Summer in Germany, March 10
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/3/10/4-ucsb-phd-students-chosen-to-attend-lindau-nobel-laureate-m.html
Four UCSB Ph.D. students are among more than 670 young scientists from 88 countries selected to participate in the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on the picturesque island of Lindau in Germany, where they will have the opportunity to meet and mingle with 70 Nobel Laureates. The four – Stacy Copp of Physics; Matthew Gebbie and Gregory Su of Materials; and Nikki Marinsek of Dynamical Neuroscience – were selected in a highly competitive process. UCSB was 4-for-4 this year, with all of the university’s nominees named participants for the 2015 meeting. The GradPost interviewed the winners.

From left, UCSB Ph.D. students Stacy Copp, Nikki Marinsek, Matthew Gebbie, and Gregory Su.2. Making It Work: UCSB Graduate Student Parents in the Spotlight, January 12http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/1/12/making-it-work-ucsb-graduate-student-parents-in-the-spotligh.html
The GradPost interviewed four graduate students to ask them about the challenges, rewards, resources, and life as a parent in graduate school. The students interviewed are Natalie O’Connor Holdren, a Ph.D. student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education; Federico (Fede) Llach, a Ph.D. student in Music Composition; Phillip (Phill) Rogers, a Ph.D. student in Linguistics; and Derek Smith, a Ph.D. student in Mathematics.

Clockwise from top left: Derek’s daughter Myla running along Goleta Beach; Natalie helping daughter Liv feed giraffes at the Santa Barbara Zoo; Fede with Gaby and Carmen in their family student housing garden plot; Phill’s children Rosie and Isaac hanging out at a park

3. Getting to Know You: Introducing Our 2015 Incoming Graduate Student Cohort, September 21
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/9/21/getting-to-know-you-introducing-our-2015-incoming-graduate-s.html
In the fall, UCSB welcomed 841 new graduate students. The GradPost presented statistics about this new cohort, such as state and country of origin; ages of the oldest and youngest graduate students; and most popular disciplines. We asked some of our new grad students to tell us more about themselves, including what degrees they will be pursuing, favorite things to do, and what they are most looking forward to doing in graduate school. The eight new UCSB graduate students interviewed are: Amanda Kaczmarek (Psychological and Brain Sciences); Jenny Selvidge (Materials); Luke Rosedahl (Dynamical Neuroscience); Michelle Grue (Education); Petra Peršolja (Piano Performance); Rick Thomas (Environmental Science and Management); Shriniwas Patwardhan (Electrical and Computer Engineering); and Tara Clark (Education).

4. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Sara Sutherland Discusses Madagascar, Motherhood, and Motivation, March 23
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/3/23/graduate-student-in-the-spotlight-sara-sutherland-discusses.html
The Ph.D. student in Economics shares how studying in Madagascar fueled her fascination with conservation; why a boy named Jack motivates her; how she avoided a near disaster on a camping adventure in The Everglades; and more.

5. Mark Your Calendars With Events from the Graduate Division’s 2015-2016 Programming Preview, September 24
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/events/2015/9/24/mark-your-calendar-with-events-from-the-graduate-divisions-2.html
The GradPost offers a preview of the year’s programming by the Graduate Division. It’s packed with valuable, informational, and fun workshops, conferences, seminars, and other events. The programming includes workshops on grant writing, resume/CV writing, presentation skills, and funding; the Beyond Academia conference; and the Graduate Student Showcase and Grad Slam events.

6. Grad Slam Final Round for UCSB: The Right to Represent,
April 20
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/4/20/grad-slam-2015-final-round-for-ucsb-the-right-to-represent.html
After eight preliminary rounds and three semifinal rounds, it came down to this: UC Santa Barbara’s Finals round. Ten finalists competed, and the judges selected UCSB’s Champion (Daniel Hieber of Linguistics) and two runners-up (Abel Gustafson of Communication and Jessica Perkins of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management). We offer a recap.

The 10 finalists were acknowledged by the audience and Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti before they took questions. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

7. UCSB Ph.D. Students William Ryan and Stacy Copp Win Fiona Goodchild Award for Work as Mentors to Undergraduate Researchers, June 3
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/6/3/ucsb-phd-students-william-ryan-and-stacy-copp-win-fiona-good.html
Stacy Copp of Physics and William Ryan of Psychological and Brain Sciences are announced as the winners of the Fiona Goodchild Award for Excellence as a Graduate Student Mentor of Undergraduate Research. The GradPost interviewed Stacy and Will on topics related to their graduate education and their work as mentors.

8. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Selvi Ersoy Pursues Science ‘Theatrically,’ April 27
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/4/27/graduate-student-in-the-spotlight-selvi-ersoy-pursues-scienc.html
The multitalented Microbiology Ph.D. student and Grad Slam finalist discusses such topics as women in science; what it was like to compete in the Grad Slam; being an award-winning Teaching Assistant; and how her dancing, singing, and musical theater background helps her in her graduate education.

Abel competing at the AVP Manhattan Beach Open. Credit: Ed Chan9. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Abel Gustafson on Playing Like a Champion, May 24
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/5/24/graduate-student-in-the-spotlight-abel-gustafson-on-playing.html
The Communication graduate student placed runner-up in the 2015 Grad Slam for his three-minute talk on how Wikipedia can be used to help predict election outcomes. In this Spotlight, he discusses what graduate life has been like for him; his research on social behavior and influence; and his involvement in a pro beach volleyball tour, among other issues.

10. Fellowship and Grant Money: What’s Taxable? January 14
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/funds/2015/1/14/fellowship-and-grant-money-whats-taxable.html
Kyle Crocco offers some valuable resources and tax tips for students regarding tuition, fellowships, and grants.

11. UC Santa Barbara Ranked No. 7 in the World in Leiden Ranking of Impact in the Sciences, May 22
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/5/22/uc-santa-barbara-ranked-no-7-in-the-world-in-leiden-ranking.html
In Leiden University’s annual rankings of the 750 best major universities in the world in terms of impact in the sciences, UCSB was listed at No. 7, rising one spot from last year. The GradPost interviewed a few graduate students to get their reactions to this prestigious honor.

Karly Miller at Big Sur. Photo courtesy of Karly Miller12. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Karly Miller, Fulbright Scholar, Shows the Power of Listening, May 8
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/5/8/graduate-student-in-the-spotlight-karly-miller-fulbright-sch.html
The Marine Science Ph.D. student, water scuba instructor, and Fulbright Scholar talks about her lifelong passion for the ocean and her research and experiences in such places as Ecuador, New Zealand, and Peru.

13. 4 UCSB Graduate Students Win 2014-2015 Academic Senate Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards,
April 24
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/4/24/4-ucsb-graduate-students-win-2014-2015-academic-senate-outst.html
The recipients of the Academic Senate’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards – Mario Galicia Jr. (Education), Keith Avery (Computer Science), Selvi Ersoy (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology), and Jeremy Chow (English) – talk about what the award means to them.

14. Ph.D. Candidate Mario Galicia Jr.: Coming ‘Full Circle’ as UCSB Graduate Division’s 2015 Commencement Student Speaker, May 28
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/5/28/phd-candidate-mario-galicia-jr-coming-full-circle-as-ucsb-gr.html
The Graduate Division’s 2015 Commencement student speaker discusses why UCSB is such a special place for him; gives thanks to those who have influenced him along the way; and offers a preview of his Commencement message.

15. UCSB Graduate Division Debuts Graduate Education Magazine, May 29
http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/headlines/2015/5/29/ucsb-graduate-division-debuts-graduate-education-magazine.html
The Graduate Division’s inaugural Graduate Education magazine showcases the “spirited and creative thinkers” who make up UC Santa Barbara’s graduate student body. The issue contains nearly a dozen articles on current graduate students, accomplished alums, exceptional programs, and one very special donor, philanthropist Michael Towbes.

***

5 More Stories That Just Missed the Top 15 List

16. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Levi Maaia and the 'Maker' Culture, July 29

Credit: Patricia Marroquin17. UCSB Grad Students React to Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Ruling: One Big Step, but More Work to Do, June 26

18. UCSB Is Ranked No. 8 on List of Top 50 Best Value Graduate Engineering Programs of 2016, October 9

19. Workshop on Interviews and Negotiating a Job Offer, January 7 (Note: The recap of this event may be read here: http://gradpost.ucsb.edu/career/2015/1/23/event-recap-interviews-and-negotiating-a-job-offer.html)

20. UCSB Climbs to No. 8 on U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 List of ‘Top 30 Public National Universities,’ September 9

Wednesday
Dec092015

From 'Broken' to 'New Beginning': Ph.D. Student Mario Galicia Reflects on His Beloved Tragedy-Stricken San Bernardino

Mario Galicia Jr. Credit: Patricia MarroquinExactly one week ago tragedy struck my hometown of San Bernardino. I wish to first send out my condolences to the families, loved ones, and all others affected by the recent disaster out of San Bernardino. Losing someone we know and love is never an easy thing. Having lost several family members and friends to various forms of gun violence, I am sensitive to what some of those grieving are going through.

I never thought that my experience with losing loved ones to gun violence would be relevant to my existence as a student at UC Santa Barbara, until we experienced our own mass shooting in Isla Vista in May 2014. At that time, I found myself consoling students in my classes – much as I had been consoled in my time of grief – by offering a space for these students to express their grief. As a university representative I also suggested additional resources available to help them through their process. Over the past year and a half I have tried to make peace with the fact that regardless of where my family and I choose to live in the U.S., we will more than likely have to deal with some type of gun violence affecting our community.

Last Wednesday while playing with my children, I couldn’t shake the thought of calling my mom. My mother and I speak regularly on the phone, and now that my children are old enough to communicate, they also get on the phone and chat with their "Nana" for a little while. So, as I strategized my day to figure out a good time to call mom, I began receiving text messages, emails, and social media alerts regarding a mass shooting that had occurred in my hometown of San Bernardino. My heart sank as my thoughts turned to the family members and friends who live in San Bernardino. I immediately called my mother but was unable to get through to her. I decided to try her back in a couple of minutes; I figured she might be on the line with someone else, checking in on her as well.

Mario Galicia Jr. in his senior year of high school in San Bernardino. Photo courtesy of Mario GaliciaSoon after, when various reports stated that the gunmen involved in the mass shooting were on the loose, my anxiety rose. I picked up my phone and kept dialing until I was finally able to get through to my mom. She explained to me that they were all OK. They were a little frightened, and confused, about what was going on, and why. My mother explained to me that all of the local government buildings and schools had been placed under "lockdown," including a school one of my nephews attends. I later spoke with him and he told me that nothing traumatic had occurred. Most people on campus, he said, were just following the news – online or through social media.

I’m relieved that my family is safe, but my heart still aches. It aches because as a human being, I can’t help but empathize with someone else who has experienced a loss of life. It seems that my whole life I have been dealing with death as well. Prior to moving to San Bernardino, my family and I lived in a southern section of the Rampart District in Los Angeles. All I can really remember about our neighborhood was the violence. I remember the violence, either associated with drugs, gangs, or police brutality. Matter of fact, one of the main reasons our family moved out of Los Angeles was due to this violence. As a result, I was raised in San Bernardino from the time I was in second grade.

Although once popularly known as the site of the first McDonald’s restaurant and where Taco Bell’s founder opened his first fast-food stand, in addition to being home to the Little League Western Regional tournament, San Bernardino today struggles to move past its 2012 bankruptcy. Its residents struggle to find hope, motivation, and inspiration – in anything – to help them get through the day.

Mario Galicia Jr. played in the Little League in San Bernardino in the 8th grade. Photo courtesy of Mario GaliciaOver the last 6 months, the Los Angeles Times has published three articles detailing some of these conditions: "Broken City," (June 14); "No Room at the Inn for Innocence," (July 22); and the latest, "San Bernardino: Broken" (November 6).

As someone who grew up in a working-class household, I understand the financial difficulties that many families face in San Bernardino today. Struggling to find where one might get their next meal, struggling to find stable housing, stable employment, stable relationships. Always struggling.

An important question still exists: "What is going to be done to help San Bernardino move forward?" San Bernardino, like many other working-class cities, needs help. San Bernardino needs other communities to open their hearts and offer their support (emotional and fiscal). We need to rally behind San Bernardino, use this tragedy to bring some much-needed national attention to other social issues that have long plagued the residents of this once-thriving Inland Empire community. The residents of San Bernardino need more investment toward creating, and sustaining, permanent employment opportunities for its residents. They also need better funding for their public schools and after-school programs. Children need to feel like their communities believe in them and their futures. Parents need to feel like they can provide for their children.

One way to show our youth that we believe in them is by investing in their futures. Many civic leaders (Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Paolo Freire, Carter G. Woodson, Cesar Chavez, Malala Yousafzai, to name a few) have long argued that literacy is the key to freedom: physical or otherwise. I believe that much like the Phoenix, San Bernardino will rise from its ashes to forge a "new beginning." I believe it will do so because the people of San Bernardino have the heart and the resilience to do so. I send my love and warm wishes, from one SB to another SB.

***

Editor's Note: Teaching Assistant Mario Galicia Jr. is a Ph.D. candidate in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. He was the 2015 Graduate Division Commencement student speaker and previously was the Graduate Division's Diversity and Outreach Peer Advisor.

Monday
Nov162015

California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education a Huge Success at UCSB

About 1,300 students attended the California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education and its accompanying recruitment fair on UC Santa Barbara's Sciences Lawn. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

On Saturday, November 7, thousands descended upon the UC Santa Barbara campus as the university hosted the biannual California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education. About 220 private and public universities from throughout the nation joined more than 1,000 undergraduate and master's students in an all-day event designed to recruit students from underrepresented backgrounds (low-income, first-generation college students; and African-American, American Indian, Latino, Filipino, Pacific Islander, and Asian American students in non-professional degree programs) to doctoral-level study. The majority of the student participants in the Forum, now in its 25th year, were members of the University of California and California State University system.

Recruiters from Mills College, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and Kansas State University speak with students about graduate education opportunities on their campuses. Credit: Patricia MarroquinAfter a welcome by UCSB Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti, UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang kicked off the plenary session, held on the Sciences Lawn, with his own welcome and a personal testimony of the importance of diversity in graduate education. Following Chancellor Yang was keynote speaker Dr. Victor Rios. Dr. Rios provided a riveting account of his rise from a marginalized graduate student at UC Berkeley to his current position of full professor and educational ambassador to the White House. Rios emphasized the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity and the trend in higher education to diversify both student and faculty populations – a trend that students in attendance were encouraged to take advantage of by pursuing a graduate education.

Following the morning plenary session, students attended informational workshops held in nearby classrooms. Topics included how to finance graduate education; how to write a winning statement of purpose; demystifying the GRE; the relationship of the master’s degree to the Ph.D.; how to prepare for the GRE; and the role of undergraduate research in graduate admissions.

The main event of the day was the recruiter fair held from noon to 3 p.m., also on the Sciences Lawn. This is where all 215 universities set up tables with representatives to promote and share information on graduate programs to potential students.

Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! Actually, nothing scary here. These are just some of the college and university mascots and freebies displayed at recruiter booths at the California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education on Nov. 7 at UC Santa Barbara. Credit: Patricia MarroquinAdditional workshop sessions on the aforementioned topics were held in the afternoon for students interested in attending more than one session. The Forum concluded with discipline-based workshops. Disciplines included social sciences, engineering and computer science, behavioral science, physical sciences and math, business and management, life science, education, health and human services, fine arts, and humanities.

Several students from UCSB's McNair Scholars Program participated in the recruiter fair alongside visiting students from across California. They spoke of the importance of the Forum to them.

“The Forum provided the route for me to explore my future," said Buki Akinyemi, UCSB McNair Junior Scholar and a biopsychology major. "Talking to different graduate program reps about their experiences in grad school and struggles to success made me want to achieve that high level as well. The future is looking pretty promising as the faces of higher ed are changing to look more like me.”

Joshua Hudson, UCSB McNair Junior Scholar and a Sociology and Global Studies double major, also praised the Forum: “The Diversity Forum impacted me a lot because it showed me that people from underrepresented communities – including myself – have the opportunity to go further into higher education and make a difference in academia.”

UC Irvine Ph.D. students, from left, Sean Drake and Soledad Mochel, spoke about the keys to success and survival in graduate school during a Forum workshop. Credit: Patricia MarroquinFor Victoria Melgarejo, UCSB McNair Junior Scholar and a Linguistics and Spanish double major, the event "made me realize how important it is for students of color to be represented, not only in graduate school, but later in academia.”

And Ema Angeles, a UCSB McNair Junior Scholar and Anthropology major, called the Forum "a great experience that helped me answer questions, meet with graduate schools, and feel prepared to move onto the next step in my education. It was great to realize the diversity that is about to enter academia.”

A large event of this magnitude required support from university leadership. Chancellor Yang, the UCSB Graduate Division, and McNair Scholars Program were key in the coordination and implementation of the Diversity Forum. In addition to university leadership, more than 150 UCSB student volunteers helped with various logistical issues during the day. The Graduate Division would like to give a special thanks to these volunteers, who helped to make the event a success. For a snapshot of the day's events, view the video below.

“The Forum provided the route for me to explore my future. Talking to different graduate program reps about their experiences in grad school and struggles to success made me want to achieve that high level as well. The future is looking pretty promising as the faces of higher ed are changing to look more like me.”
– Buki Akinyemi, UCSB McNair Junior Scholar and a biopsychology major

 

Thursday
Nov122015

Shawn Warner-Garcia Named Professional Development Program Coordinator for UCSB Graduate Division

Shawn Warner-GarciaShawn Warner-Garcia, previously the GradPost’s and Graduate Student Resource Center’s Professional Development Peer Advisor, has been named Professional Development Program Coordinator for the UCSB Graduate Division.

Warner-Garcia, a linguist by trade who has worked for many years in job training and program management, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Linguistics Department. Her research focuses on the discourses of sexual ethics among Baptists in America.

Warner-Garcia joined the Graduate Student Resource Center as Professional Development Peer Advisor in the summer of 2014. In that role, reporting to Graduate Division Director of Graduate Student Professional Development Robert Hamm, she provided support for large events such as the New Graduate Student Orientation, fall fellowship receptions, the Grad Slam, and the Beyond Academia conference. She has also offered workshops of her own (writing CVs and cover letters, the Versatile Ph.D., and maintaining one’s digital reputation) and conducted one-on-one advising. She has worked with Academic Services Director Rickie Smith on the quarterly dissertation and thesis filing workshops and helped Director of Admissions and Outreach Walter Boggan with his summer research scholars.

Shawn Warner-Garcia presents a workshop to summer scholars in July 2015. Credit: Patricia Marroquin“Shawn does a lot for the Graduate Division and our students,” said Hamm. “I have no doubt that she will be instrumental in growing the services and trainings we offer through the Graduate Student Resource Center.”

As the Professional Development Program Coordinator, Warner-Garcia will continue to provide workshops and advising to help graduate students identify and achieve their professional goals. She will also continue to report to Dr. Hamm.

“I hope to continue and expand professional development programming for graduate students,” she said. “There are three areas that I am particularly committed to: (1) ensuring that graduate students feel supported and prepared to pursue a variety of career options after graduate school; (2) improving the visibility and accessibility of the Graduate Division’s professional development resources to graduate students; and (3) expanding resources available for targeted populations of graduate students, including new students, student parents, and underrepresented students.”

Shawn Warner-Garcia, right, attended a fall fellowship reception in October 2015 with colleagues Don Lubach, Associate Dean of Students, and Lana Smith-Hale, Graduate Career Consultant. Credit: Patricia MarroquinWarner-Garcia says she has learned a lot in her previous role, and looks forward to future opportunities that her new role affords. “Working at the Graduate Division, first as a student employee and now as a staff person, has already opened up a lot of doors for me,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about the administrative side of the university, and I’ve been able to develop skills in event management, advising, marketing, and many other areas that will serve me well within or outside of academia. Plus, getting to work with graduate students is immensely rewarding because I get to know some truly brilliant individuals and hopefully play a small part in helping them find success and fulfillment both in grad school and afterward.”

Warner-Garcia, her husband Jonathan, and 2-year-old son Austin have lived in Storke Family Student Housing for the last two and a half years. “It has been an amazingly supportive community for us!” she said. “We have made great friends and have been integrated into the campus and surrounding community in really enriching ways.”

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Language and Linguistics from Baylor University and a master’s degree in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. Warner-Garcia has worked as a job training specialist at Goodwill and as the program coordinator for the SKILLS academic outreach program at UCSB. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, reading, traveling, and watching football.

“One of my favorite things about working in the university administration is the camaraderie and collaboration,” Warner-Garcia says. “There is a growing groundswell of support for graduate students across the UCSB campus, and lots of people are brainstorming to find new and better ways to help graduate students. I’m really looking forward to being a part of that movement.”

You may contact Warner-Garcia via email at shawn.warner-garcia@graddiv.ucsb.edu or phone, 805-893-4649. For more information on graduate student professional development, view the Graduate Division’s Career and Professional Development page.

Wednesday
Nov042015

Graduate Alumnus in the Spotlight: Museum Curator Michael Darling Is a ‘Rock Star’ in Chicago

Dr. Michael Darling at the "David Bowie Is" exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2014.Michael Darling believes that graduate students should take control of their destinies and “make things happen rather than waiting for an opportunity to fall into their lap.” Throughout his life, this Art and Architectural History M.A. (1992) and Ph.D. (1997) alumnus of UC Santa Barbara has adhered to this philosophy, doing what he could to make himself stand out.

And stand out he has. Dr. Darling, 47, is the James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago, a role he has held since July 2010. The Chicago Tribune listed him among “Chicagoans of the Year 2014,” calling Darling a “rock star” for taking a gamble and securing the highly successful “David Bowie Is” exhibition for its only U.S. stop. Chicago magazine followed up in 2015, placing Darling at No. 93 on “The Power 100,” its list of Chicagoans who have the most clout. “Snagging the blockbuster” Bowie retrospective, the magazine said, is “a testament to this curator’s international reputation.” Darling shared the Power 100 list with luminaries such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and filmmaker/philanthropist George Lucas.

Far from the Windy City and his future rock star persona, Darling grew up in the Los Angeles County coastal city of Long Beach. Michael was artistically inclined but “never very talented from a technical standpoint,” he said, and his “true epiphany” came in middle school when he came across Picasso and Kandinsky in a textbook. He and his parents and two younger brothers enjoyed water-based activities of all kinds, including boating, surfing, and water skiing; and Michael competed on his high school’s water polo and swim teams. With relatives living in Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez, Michael and his family spent a lot of time in the Santa Barbara area even before he came to grad school at UCSB.

Michael Darling, right, and friend Joe Scott took to the waves in San Onofre in the early 1990s. “Checking out the waves at Rincon on the way up was always a milestone on those road trips!” he recalled.

Stanford University, taking notice of his water polo talents, recruited him to play there. So Darling and three other close friends who were water polo and swimming standouts headed to Palo Alto for their undergraduate studies.

Darling earned his bachelor’s degree in Art History from Stanford in 1990. He wanted to pursue a graduate degree, but didn’t know exactly what area of art history to study.

“My interests were quite wide and varied,” Darling recalled. “UCSB had one of the most diverse and large art history faculties around at that time, with professors teaching in many different disciplines, so that was attractive to me and even suggested by one of my art history advisors at Stanford. It was also the era of multiculturalism, so I was exploring and getting to understand that at the time as well, which made UCSB a good fit.”

Darling’s doctoral dissertation at UCSB was on the furniture of 20th century American designer George Nelson.

“I was going around to a lot of rummage sales and garage sales in Santa Barbara during those days, and discovering mid-century furniture (Montecito was a fabulous hunting ground for this material). ... At the time there was very little on George Nelson, who was a contemporary of Charles and Ray Eames. I felt I could fill a void in that area by writing on Nelson, and luckily I had two advisors, David Gebhard and C. Edson Armi, who did not feel that furniture design was an inferior art and that it was worthy of scholarly study.”

Narrowing his research, Darling decided to “focus on the work that George Nelson did with domestic spaces, which coincided with a modernizing of the American home after World War II and was a pretty fascinating sociological period as well.”

During the time of his graduate studies and shortly thereafter, Darling worked in many art-related roles: security guard at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; researcher at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles; and even an art critic, first for small art magazines, then for Santa Barbara publications, and eventually gaining his own columns in the L.A. Reader and L.A. Weekly.

Darling said he loved critiquing art, one of his extracurricular activities while a grad student at UCSB. “As a critic with a byline, I felt like a full contributor to culture. I saw an ad in this little West Coast magazine called ArtWeek and I sent in a few of my grad school essays. After writing several columns there, I sent my tear sheets to the Santa Barbara Independent and magazines like Flash Art and Art Issues, and then things started taking off. It wasn’t a lot of extra work. I was interested in exhibitions happening in Santa Barbara and L.A., and it was a way to engage with them. It was weird being a critic, and sometimes uncomfortable, and I even got hate mail, once getting mean posters put up all over Santa Barbara about me!”

Darling ended up working for eight years at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), where he was Associate Curator. From that job, he moved to Seattle, where he served as the Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) from 2006 to 2010, before heading to Chicago’s MCA. He and his sons Max, 16, and Theo, 11, live in Evanston, Illinois.

In an interview, we learned more about this multifaceted man. He talked about his appreciation for libraries; the importance of internships; what he likes most and least about his job; the value of a Ph.D.; and more.

What was graduate student life like for you at UCSB? What kind of a student were you here, and how did you manage a work-life balance while in grad school?

I was able to primarily concentrate on my studies during my time at UCSB, so I remember spending a lot of time in the library, which has really served me well in my subsequent career. It was a true luxury to work in a good art library where I could just pull books off the shelf at random and explore. That broadened my knowledge base a lot and I find that I have a wider frame of view on art than many of my peers because of this freedom. I have always been good, however, at maintaining a balance between work (or school) and my personal life and was able to find plenty of time to be with friends or be in nature or see movies during that period, which I did a lot. I also met my wife during my first few days of school at UCSB (she was also an art history grad student) so it was an important time for me personally too. I like to think I was a serious student, but I must say that I also always had one eye on life beyond school, so I was doing extracurricular things when I was in Santa Barbara such as writing art criticism. I was also curating independently at places like the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum [today the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara] and a little independent space in Santa Barbara called Spanish Box. I think I knew at the time that my degree was just one aspect of my professional development and I needed to work on other things at the same time if I wanted to find my way into a museum job.

What was your first job out of graduate school?

I got a job working as a security guard at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art after I finished my master’s and before I started on my Ph.D. I wanted to make sure I knew what I wanted to concentrate on before I started so I could be focused. It was an important job for realizing the various layers to a museum, both from an organizational standpoint and from a visitor standpoint. Most guards in museums are very interesting and accomplished people but perhaps are working in creative fields where it is a way of putting food on the table and allowing them to pursue other less lucrative passions but still working in an artistic environment. But when I was really done with school, post-Ph.D., I got a job as a researcher at the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A. I had wanted to work there since I was an undergrad and it was like the holy grail. I went against my personality type (at the time) and went up to a MOCA curator at an art opening and introduced myself and told her I admired her work. I think I asked if I could take her for coffee some time and learn more about how she was able to do what she did. That led to her offering me a part-time position, which grew and grew into an eight-year run at MOCA. That experience has led me to offer similar advice to other aspiring curators to approach the people they admire and ask for help or advice.

Before you graduated from Stanford, you did summer museum internships in Long Beach. It was there that you discovered the job of “curator,” a job you hadn’t known existed. What did you do in those internships, and would you recommend that grad students do them as a way to explore career options?

Yes, I think internships are important windows onto potential future job options. I did research and worked with artists and thought it was the best job in the world to think about art all day. I see internships here at the MCA leading to real jobs all the time, and in a way my research position at MOCA was just the same, a foot in the door and an opportunity to prove yourself.

Curator Michael Darling at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.Describe your current job.

I am in charge of all programming at the museum, which ranges from exhibitions to talks and performances. Of course, I have amazing people working for me who help create these things and I don’t do it all myself, but it is fun to have a hand in shaping the overall tenor of the program. I also oversee the growth of the museum’s collection and personally curate exhibitions too. It involves a lot of coordination between departments and keeping on top of projects happening simultaneously, from logistics to visionary things and also fundraising to support the programs. It is an extremely busy job, but very rewarding too. I also travel a lot to see art all over the world, as I feel I am expected to be on top of all kinds of developments occurring all over. I try to keep a normal day to 9-5, but it is a pretty social position and there are often dinners and lectures and events I need to go to in a given week.

What exactly does a “museum curator” do?

The basic job is organizing exhibitions. But that also includes writing the books that go with them, writing grants that support them, asking for money from patrons to fund them, writing the interpretive materials that explain them, and doing interviews and tours that help to bring them to life.

What do you like most about your job and what do you like least?

I like the travel the most because I learn so much and find time to think more expansively, but I also like travel the least because I fall behind on email and miss my family and it can be quite lonely at times.

You grew up in California, moved to Seattle, and now live in the Chicago area. How important is it for students to be open and willing to move away for their career?

I think it is important to get different experiences and perspectives, both in an academic and a work environment. I know it has been really beneficial for me to consider how art works in such different contexts and also how different each of the museums I have worked in are. On the other hand, I do worry about the loss of depth of connections that results from moving around. I don’t feel I got to know Seattle and its community as much as I did L.A. from only being there four years, and as a result, I don’t think I was able to contribute as much as I would have liked.

Do you have any advice for graduate students while they are in school? 

One thing I see when I am hiring people, especially for entry-level positions or fellowships, is that the competition is really fierce and a lot of people have the same degrees. I often look to see what self-directed work the candidate has done in their field, where they are showing that they are trying to take control of their destiny and make things happen rather than waiting for an opportunity to fall into their lap. I guess I base that on what I was able to do to make myself stand out but it also bespeaks a desire and commitment that makes me want to hire them.

Do you have any advice for graduate students as they explore career options and/or do job interviews?

I think sensing someone’s passion and curiosity is a very persuasive thing to find in an interview and having a broad world-view that shows you are a well-rounded person. Read the newspaper every day! Or better yet, multiple newspapers!

How do you think your doctoral studies prepared you for your non-academic career? What skills, knowledge, and education gained in graduate school have helped you throughout your career?

When I started at MOCA, I was the only person in the whole building with a Ph.D. It seemed like overkill, but it did help my resume stand out. When I went to the Seattle Art Museum, a few curators had Ph.D.’s, but it was still unusual, and when I came to the MCA I was again the only person in the whole building with a Ph.D., but that has since changed and now there are several people here with them. The field is changing and the competition is such that a Ph.D. helps you to stand out in a sea of M.A.s. We have Ph.D.s here at the MCA who edit books and who devise interpretation strategies and who do archival research, so there are jobs beyond curating where it is applicable. I know that all that time I spent in the stacks, which only a Ph.D. can provide, has given me a breadth and depth of knowledge that can’t be matched by an M.A. in museum studies.

Do you have any suggestions for the UCSB educational system (or universities in general) on how to better prepare our grad students for careers?

Michael Darling with octogenarian Mexican contemporary artist Eduardo Terrazas in Mexico City in February 2015.I haven’t been too close to the university system in a long time, but I do sense that the attitude that Ph.D.s were only to pursue academic work has loosened considerably. I felt I had to keep my museum interests as a dirty little secret. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with the changing nature of tenure and employment in academia and the growing number of grads who want to put their degrees to use. I think being open to the various applications of a grad degree is something that would be good for universities to consider and would ultimately lead to a wider impact for their respective fields.

What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishments and/or something you are the most proud of professionally and personally?

Personally, it is being a father; professionally, it may be the Isa “Genzken Retrospective” I organized for the MCA and with MOMA New York and the Dallas Museum of Art, or the “Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949-78” exhibition I did at the Seattle Art Museum.

You were written about a lot when you secured the Bowie exhibition (which ran through January 4, 2015). Can you briefly discuss this and how it came about?

We just hit it at the right time, and picked the right project. I heard about it and contacted the V&A [Victoria and Albert Museum] in London and as it turned out we were the first American museum to approach them and they didn’t have much of a tour at all. I negotiated that we would be the first American venue and it turned out we were the only American venue and then our team here made the most of that. It looked like a big coup but it was a pretty banal transaction. It ended up being the most well-attended show in MCA history, drawing 200,000 people.

Who has been and/or is a hero, mentor, role model, or inspiration to you?

I have had a lot of great female curator role models that have given me big breaks in my career, including Josine Ianco-Starrels for my first internship, Elizabeth Smith for giving me a chance at MOCA, Mimi Gates for hiring me in Seattle, and then Madeleine Grynsztejn for tapping me to come to the MCA. All have been enormously influential on me. Paul Schimmel at MOCA is another one, however, who I learned a lot from and who I think about a lot as an example.

What do you do for fun and relaxation?

Michael Darling enjoyed scuba diving in Kauai, Hawaii, in June 2015.I love the water, and here in the Chicago area love to go to the beach at Lake Michigan. I have been trying to sail on the lake as much as possible. I also like food a lot and exploring new restaurants and cuisines. I do both with my kids, which is a lot of fun.

What is something very few people know about you or that would surprise people about you?

That I have a secret passion and growing knowledge about vintage Italian sports cars, even though I don’t own one myself.

What’s on your bucket list of things to do that you haven’t done?

I’d like to check off more countries in the world to travel to. Travel is one of my favorite things. ... On a quick count, I think I have been to 22 countries. Strangely, I have never been to Portugal, which I would like to see, and I think it is about time I find a way to visit South Korea, India, and Vietnam.

***

More on Dr. Michael Darling:

Fear No Art Chicago’s video interview with Dr. Michael Darling, 2011

Q&A: Michael Darling talks about curating “David Bowie Is,” TimeOut Chicago

New Curator Is Chosen for MCA, New York Times

Friday
Oct302015

Check Out the Graduate Division's New Career and Professional Development Pages

The Graduate Division has recently revamped its Career and Professional Development web pages, and there are now even more resources and information to help you identify and pursue your professional goals.

Headlining the new Career and Professional Development section is the Graduate Student Resource Center, where you can find out about the programming and support available to you to help you succeed in grad school.

Click above to check out the new home page for Career and Professional Development

The new section also houses eight topical pages that feature on-campus and external resources. Click on an icon below to explore more about that page.

 

Thursday
Oct292015

Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Alex Kulick on Community, Autonomy, and Activism

"Grad school is 'real life,' and our happiness, fulfillment, and health during graduate school are just as important as the long-term gains we can attain from our studies and work."

Alex KulickThis is the advice that Alex Kulick, a second-year Ph.D. student in UCSB's Sociology Department, says he would give to fellow graduate students. Alex, a native of Michigan, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women's Studies from the University of Michigan and now serves as the graduate assistant at UCSB's Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. He sat down with us to answer some questions about his community-based research, his biggest challenge in grad school, and who his hero is.

Tell us a little about your childhood and upbringing.

I grew up living with my parents and brother, and I was connected to a supportive and loving extended family and community. Growing up as a queer young person certainly posed some challenges for me – especially socially – but after coming out in high school, I was lucky enough to find a strong LGBTQ community through a local community-based teen center.

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

The process of coming out as queer has been hugely influential on my life, values, and work. While the process of self-discovery and self-expression has certainly been important within this, I think that it’s been more so the strength, diversity, compassion, and love of LGBTQ communities into which I have grown and developed. This has been the most key in helping me to critically examine and improve my relationships with myself, others, and the communities in which I live.

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

My research focuses on processes, potentials, and challenges of collective social change efforts, with a particular emphasis on the leadership and strengths of queer and LGBT communities. I am currently working on a few different projects: one is examining the discursive strategies used in same-sex marriage advocacy; the second is examining the experiences of LGBTQ college students nationwide; and the third is documenting and analyzing the creative strategies of queer youth advocates in Michigan. This work has grown from my experiences as an activist and organizer with LGBTQ communities, including my belief in and commitment to the mutually beneficial relationships among academics, intellectuals, organizers, and activists.

Alex, second from right, presented research findings with queer youth leaders at a social work conference in Chicago.What has graduate student life been like for you?

Grad school has been full of surprises! Going from working full time in southeast Michigan to living and being a graduate student in Santa Barbara has been a culture shock in more ways than one. While this has certainly been trying at times, it has also allowed me to put in the time and work into readjusting my expectations for work, school, life, and – of course – balance.

What do you wish you had known before you started grad school? What do you like most about grad school and what do you like least?

I think the biggest surprise and challenge of graduate school has been a combination of learning to pace myself and developing strategies to sustain a healthy and fulfilling life while being a graduate student. Although I knew going in that grad school would be a place of intellectual challenges and professional growth, I was less prepared for the emotional, mental, and physical adjustments it would take.

I am incredibly grateful for the amount of autonomy and independence I have as a grad student, both in shaping the trajectory of my graduate studies, as well as in day-to-day life.

On the flip side, the ambiguity and lack of structure that comes with this autonomy is also my least favorite part of navigating grad life.

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

The strAlex, center, spoke at a University of Michigan community forum to address violence, incarceration, and the use of the death penalty.ongest source of motivation and drive have been my connections to family, community, and work outside of graduate school and academic life. The relationships I have in these spaces are really key in holding me accountable to the enormous privilege that being a graduate student affords. As well, these connections also help me continually feel grounded in the applications and implications of my research and writing.

Who is your hero and why?

One of my many (s)heroes is Adrienne Rich, the lesbian feminist poet and theorist. In particular, I love this passage from the convocation address she gave at Douglass College in 1977:

“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work. ... It means that we insist on a life of meaningful work, insist that work be as meaningful as love and friendship in our lives. It means, therefore, the courage to be ‘different’; not to be continuously available to others when we need time for ourselves and our work; to be able to demand of others – parents, friends, roommates, teachers, lovers, husbands, children – that they respect our sense of purpose and our integrity as persons.”

As well, I feel lucky and blessed to have a number of different mentors and co-mentors with whom I’m able to be vulnerable with my work, professional development, goals, dreams, strengths, and challenges. It’s been especially helpful for me to reach out to my peers, including other grad students, as co-mentors as we go through this journey together.

Alex introduced Dr. Angela Davis with other student activists at the University of Michigan.Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.

I think the accomplishment that I’ve been most proud and excited about recently has been learning to travel alone. Although embarking on journeys by myself is often scary, I’ve found that learning to be independent in this process of setting out has opened me up to a whole new set of experiences and people that I’m eternally grateful for. 

What are your favorite hobbies?

One of the great joys of my life is taking long drives, despite the ever-present guilt from the feeling of wasting time, money, and gas. I’ve also recently begun a meditation practice, which has immeasurably helped me cultivate a sense of peaceful, calm determination. And of course, Netflix. My favorite shows include (but are certainly not limited to) "Gilmore Girls," "Parks and Rec," "Steven Universe," and "Avatar: The Last Airbender."

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

I’ve seen every episode of "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Roseanne."

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

Following graduate school, I am hoping to be working in a position that enables me to engage with and balance research and writing, community work, teaching, and organizing. Although this setup could be ideally located in a university setting, I could also see myself doing non-profit work, consulting, and/or some combination of part-time work.

Alex, in back row middle, poses with the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity staff.