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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Fall 2014
Peer Advisor Availability

Professional Development Peer:
Shawn Warner-Garcia
Tue: 10 a.m. to noon, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Thu: 10 a.m. to noon, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Diversity & Outreach Peer:

Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco
Wed: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thu: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre
Mon: 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Tue: 9 a.m. to noon, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Wed: 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Communications Peer:
Melissa Rapp
Wed: 9:45 to 11:45 a.m.
Thu: 1 to 5 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.


Campus Map


View UCSB Graduate Student Resources in a larger map


Comparing Streaming Video Services

For those of you who stream video legally, you may be wondering which service or services would be the best for putting off your 3 Rs: reading, research, and writing. Also, as an experienced Netflix binge watcher, I wondered if I was missing out on some better procrastination opportunities by just using one service to binge watch.

Here is what I learned.


YouTube LogoFor price, you can't beat the cost of free for YouTube. For yearly subscriptions, many services are comparable. For movie and TV rentals, most services that rent seem about the same, though Amazon seems to have a slight edge by a dollar for many.

Amazon: Amazon Prime Membership costs $99 for a yearly subscription. Amazon Instant movie rentals cost between $.99 and $3.99. TV shows $1.99.

HuluPlus: $7.99 a month, which will cost you $95.88 a year.

Itunes: $1.99 for a single TV episode or $4.99 for movie rentals.

Netflix: $7.99 a month, which costs you $95.88 a year.

Vudu: Movie rentals range between $.99 and $9.99.

YouTube: From free to paid subscription channels, which start at $.99 a month.


Netflix LogoFor sheer content, you can't beat YouTube. For recent network TV shows, HuluPlus is the place to go (except for CBS shows). For binge streaming, nothing beats Netflix these days. For movie rentals, many services seem equal.

Amazon: Less content than a Netflix yearly subscription, but lots of new movies for streaming rental. Some original content as well.

HuluPlus: Almost every recent TV episode you missed, plus some exclusive series. (Note: CBS shows are not available nor are original TV shows from HBO, Showtime, and Netflix.)

Itunes: Many recent TV shows and recent movies.

Netflix: A large number of, some say up to 30,000, films, TV shows, and original content, but films come and go and are often the less popular ones.

Vudu: Many recent films and some recent TV series.

YouTube: The most content of all services (basically every free video in the world), but few recent TV shows or movies.

Platforms and Devices

Amazon logoThe platform or device used to watch streaming video was an issue in the past, but now most services are set up on multiple platforms and devices. Itunes is the most limited, needing the Itunes specific software to function, and Netflix and YouTube are basically everywhere on every device and platform.

Amazon: Watch anywhere on most devices.

HuluPlus: You can use Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation or other connected device. Also available on tablets, phones, and hand-held gaming devices.

Itunes: Limited to devices that use Itunes.

Netflix: About everything can stream Netflix.

Vudu: Besides your computer, VUDU is available on virtually every internet-connected Blu-ray™ player and HDTV on the market, plus gaming consoles, Roku, and Google Chromecast and Nexus tablets.

YouTube: Pretty much everything is set up to watch YouTube these days.


After researching the services, I came up with two conclusions: the best service depends on what you want (e.g., price you want to pay, content you want to watch, platform you care to use) and to properly procrastinate you need a combination of two or more services that offer a subscription (for binge watching) and renting (to get the latest movies).

For more information, see these articles

Amazon Prime Versus Netflix Versus Hulu Plus: Which Should You Pay For?

Best Media Streaming Services

Streaming Video Services: How Do They Compare?

TV Streaming Head-to-Head: Netflix vs Hulu vs Amazon Prime


Predoctoral Application Writing Advice (Hertz, NSF, DOE, Ford)

Major predoctoral fellowship applications deadlines are coming up soon and for those of you who have not had time to attend a funding workshop, here are some writing tips from the experts. Please note, these fellowships are for U.S. citizens and residents only.

For examples of successful proposals, visit the Graduate Student Resource Center in 1215 Student Resource Building.

For STEM fellowships

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program ($32,000 stipend for 3 years and $12,000 cost of education allowance; deadlines vary between Oct. 29 and Nov. 4)

National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship ($31,000 average stipend for 3 years and full tuition and fees; deadline Dec. 12)

Hertz Foundation Physical, Biological, and Engineering Sciences Fellowship ($32,000 to $38,000 9-month personal stipend, $5,000 extra for students with dependents, and full tuition; deadline, Oct. 31)

  • Follow the guidelines. If you use the wrong font size or go over the word count, the online application program may reject your application. Don't wait until the last minute to submit your application in case you encounter any technical difficulties.
  • Respond explicitly to the prompts and questions. If you are applying to the NSF GRFP, explicitly describe the broader impact of your research and your intellectual merit. Don't hide this information in your essay so the reviewers have to search for it. 
  • Be realistic. For the NSF GRFP, create a research proposal that is something you can complete during the next three years of graduate school. Don't be over-ambitious to the point that reviewers will think that your chances of completing the research project are slim.
  • Look at successful models. Visit the Graduate Student Resource Center in 1215 Student Resource Building to see the library of accepted fellowship proposals. If there are students in your department who are recipients of the fellowship that you are applying to, ask these students if they will share their applications and advice with you.
  • Make the essays easy to read. The reviewers often read 40 to 75 applications in a 2- to 3-day period. Use white space. Use headings and subheadings to guide the reader. Make sure each paragraph has a thesis statement. Don't use technical jargon.
  • Prove why you deserve the award. You are asking the organization to invest in you as a person. Show them what makes you the perfect person for carrying out the research project that you described in your proposal. Show that you are an innovative individual and a leader (or potential leader) in your field.
  • Future plans. It's OK to write about future plans, but be honest.
  • Publications. If you don't have any publications, share that you have papers that have been submitted for review or that you have significant research results and will be submitting a paper about the results soon. If you have not yet done anything related to "Broader Impacts," write about your future plans.
  • Recommendations. Make sure your letters of recommendation are personalized and tailored to you. Ask people who know you well to write your letters of recommendation. Provide your recommenders with your resume/CV, essays, and bullet points of things that you'd like them to discuss in your recommendation. 
  • Get feedback. Ask your advisor, other faculty, and peers to read your essays and provide feedback.
  • Don't be disappointed if you don't win the first time. It is very hard to write a good research proposal. Only a small percentage of students (10%) win the NSF GFRP fellowship. Keep applying and use the feedback from the reviewers to improve your next application.
  • If you get rejected, keep applying. The feedback that you receive from the reviewers will help you build a stronger application the next time you apply.
  • It's not impossible. About 125 students have NSF fellowships at UCSB.

Ford Foundation Fellowship

(For underrepresented students or students studying underrepresented people in almost all fields. See list. Provides three years of a $24,000 stipend, which must be used within five years; deadline: Nov. 19).

  • Be passionate. It's important to follow the application guidelines and adhere to the formula for writing the essays. However, the reviewers read multiple essays that look the same. Find a way to catch the reviewers' attention and sustain it throughout your essay. Use a hook. Show your passion. Share what makes you and your research different. Write a memorable story for your essay. Think about how the reviewers will remember you after reading your essays and use this to craft your narrative.
  • Write a well-crafted research statement. If you are applying to the dissertation fellowship, make sure that your dissertation proposal has a hypothesis (quantitative studies), a strong overarching research question, and a well-articulated key research problem that you will address. Make sure to justify the methods that you will be using to collect and analyze the data.
  • Don't write a "boo-hoo" personal statement. The personal statement is not a place to share a sob story. Instead, share how the obstacles you've faced have influenced or transformed who you are.
  • Look at successful models. Deconstruct what these models have in common. Use these models to guide your writing. You can find successful application models in the Graduate Student Resource Center Fellowship Proposal Library in 1215 Student Resource Building.
  • Cite foundational texts and primary sources to show that you have done a literature review and have an understanding of how your research will impact your field. Acknowledge that you are not the first person to ever do this type of research. Reviewers dislike it when applicants write that they will be exploring a topic that has never been researched or studied, unless you truly have found that one thing that no one else has researched.
  • Future. Explicitly state how useful the fellowship will be to you (e.g,. Will the fellowship give you more time to focus on data collection and analysis?). Show how the fellowship will be pivotal for completing your milestones or dissertation or obtaining a post-doc position.
  • Get feedback on your essays from your advisor, other faculty, peers, and fellowship recipients (the Ford Foundation posts a list of previous winners).
  • Recommenders. Make sure to get a high quality letter of recommendation. Send your letter writers bullet points of key topics to include in the letter. Make sure that your recommendation writers can provide high quality letters that are tailored to you.
  • Keep on applying and use the feedback from reviewers to improve your application each year.

Information from this article was originally published in two previous application workshop recaps written by Torrey Trust.


Hertz Graduate Fellowship Award Deadline, Friday, Oct. 31

Hertz LogoThe deadline for the Hertz Graduate Fellowship Award for 2015-2015 is Friday, Oct. 31. The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation provide unique financial and fellowship support to the nation’s most remarkable PhD students in the physical, biological, and engineering sciences. Fellowships are free of most traditional restrictions.

Hertz Graduate Fellowship Award

Deadline: Friday, Oct. 31

Eligibility: U.S. citizens and permanent residents. College seniors pursuing PhD study or graduate students.

Fields: Applied physical, biological, and engineering sciences. See list.

Support: Five years, between $32,000-$38,000, and full tuition at participating schools.


Coastal Fund: Major and Minor Grant Funding Deadline, Nov. 14

Coastal Fund LogoIf you are looking for funding for your environmental project or campaign for the UCSB campus, then you're in luck. The major and minor grant funding cycle deadline has been changed to Nov. 14 for both grants.

The Coastal Fund (CF) was created by UCSB students to preserve and enhance the ecological integrity of the coastal habitats at the University. Therefore, funded projects should either seek to preserve, restore, or research the coastal environment.

Coastal Fund: Major and Minor Grants

Deadline: Nov. 14

Eligibility: Applications are welcomed from public and private entities seeking to carry out the proposed project within the shoreline of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Support: Minor Grant is for $1,000 or less and a Major Grant is for $1,000 or more, based on the budget.

To Apply: You will need a budget, timeline, project proposal, and a support letter if you are a graduate student. See their application page for more information.


Trader Joe's: Best and Worst Deals

Trader Joe's LogoIf you're a single graduate student, Trader Joe's is a great place to shop for food and goodies. The staff are really friendly, always ready to chat with you while you're checking out, and the prices you find are reasonable compared to the competition.

Yet, not everything is a great deal. So here is a list of some of the best and worst deals you can find at Trader Joe's, plus a list of the top five most popular items in 2013 (for more, see links at the end of the article).

Best Deals

Beer, Wine, and Spirits: A staple for getting students through graduate school and dissertation writing and at good prices. They also have plenty of local micro brews, which are a plus in my book (my book is on beer, by the way).

Cheese: A wide selection of specialty cheeses for the discerning cheese connoisseur at reasonable rates.

Frozen Meals: Tasty meals for one that cost you less than the competition.

Nuts and Seeds: For nut lovers, they have all they types of nuts and seeds you could possibly want, plus trail mix for you outdoor enthusiasts.

Olive Oil: For you cooking aficionados (you know who you are, and you should invite me over for dinner), they have a nice selection at a good price.

Worst Deals

Conventional Fresh Fruit and Vegetables: Full disclosure, your funding peer buys these because they are conveniently packed and sorted so I can grab and go. However, for your foodies this limits your ability to pick and choose the best produce or to purchase the exact amount you want.

Frozen Fruit: Sold in small packages so you'll end up paying more.

Meat and Seafood: Meat can be overpriced compared to competitors and the source of seafood is not always available.

Most Popular

  1. Triple Ginger Snaps
  2. Speculoos Cookie Butter
  3. Joe Joe's Cookies (All varieties)
  4. Reduced Guilt Chunky Guacamole
  5. Charles Shaw Wines (All varieties)

For more information on best and worst deals and popular items see

The 7 Best Things to Buy at Trader Joe's

The 4 Worst Things to Buy at Trader Joe's

The Best and Worst Deals at Trader Joe's

Best and Worst Buys at Trader Joe's

A Stunning Look at the 17 Most Popular Items at Trader Joe's


Retirement Savings or Student Loan Payments: What to Do?

IndecisiveIndecisive? Credit: openclipart.comAs a graduate student, you are probably thinking more about finishing that dissertation chapter than about saving for your retirement. Retirement is far away, you're still young, and that dissertation chapter isn't going to write itself. But once you graduate, you will get old and you will want to have money saved so you won't have to eat cat food.

The question then is how will you save for retirement when you have that pesky student loan to pay off?

The Wrong Way: The mistake is to concentrate all your extra money on paying off your student debt before you start saving for retirement, or even saving at all. Putting off your retirement saving for too long can leave you with too little money come retirement. It's also a stupid financial strategy, since saving gets you free money. When you save your money in a 401K, you pay less taxes on your 401K money and when you save your money in an interest-bearing account, you get the miracle of compound interest.

The Right Way: Strike a balance between paying off your debt and investing in your retirement. Use automatic debiting to both invest in your retirement funds and to pay off your student debt. That way you don't have to think about it. The amounts you choose to pay off your student loan or to invest in retirement can vary depending on your situation and the interest rate of your student loans. For example, if you have high interest loans you may wish to devote more to paying off that debt.

For more information on this topic, see these articles:

Prepaying Student Loans May Mean Less Money in Retirement

Pay Off Student Loans or Save for Retirement?

What's On First: Paying Off Student Loans or Saving for Retirement?


Grad Students, Don't Make These Five Money Mistakes

BudgetBudget. Credit: openclipart.comWe all make money mistakes. Here are five you should try to avoid as a graduate student.

1. Spending More Than You Earn. Sounds simple to avoid, but that's how we end up in debt. Solution: Make a budget based on your resources and, most importantly, follow it. For graduate students, you might also add, don't borrow more in student loans than you can pay back. The guiding rule is not to borrow more than the total amount you will earn your first year of a job in your field.

2. Living In A Place You Can't Afford. This one might be a little difficult in Santa Barbara with the high rents and low vacancy rates. The general rule for expenses is not to spend more than one-third of what you earn on housing (rent, utilities, mortgage, etc.). For Santa Barbara, search for a cheaper place to live or live with roommates. After you graduate, choose a place within your budget.

3. Not Saving. This might be difficult to do as a graduate student on a stretched budget, but you can always find ways to save $50 a month if you budget and know your expenses. Use automatic savings so you don't even have to think about it. This is an important habit to learn for retirement savings and for emergencies.

4. Not Having an Emergency Fund. Bad things happen to good graduate students, like losing funding or medical emergencies, and they always tend to be expensive. which is why you should have an emergency fund. This is much easier if you are automatically saving every month. The guiding rule for emergency funds is to have enough to pay for three months of living expenses.

5. Buying An Expensive Car. Cars are a necessity for most people in the U.S., but new cars are expensive and a high car payment can make your financial life more difficult, such as paying off your student loan, or even paying rent. Consider buying a used car. The overall price is lower and 2- and 3-year-old cars are often the best values for your money.

For more information, see these articles:

10 Stupidest Money Mistakes

5 Stupid Money Mistakes We Make In Our 20s

7 Money Mistakes You Shouldn't Make In Your 30s

The 13 Biggest Money Mistakes People Make


How to Find the Right Bank for You

Love and moneyCredit: Kyle CroccoFinding the right bank is not like falling in love. There is no love at first sight. No rom-com kisses in the rain. There are, however, a lot of one night stands that you end up regretting. And regretting. And regretting...

Finding the right bank is more like an arranged marriage. You need to shop around and consider all their qualities (and relations) because the bank you choose today is probably the bank you're going to have for most of your life.

But how do you find the bank that is right for you?

Five Things to Consider

  • Location and ATM access: Is the bank close to where you work, live, go to school so you can drop by when you need to? Do they have ATMs in many locations, so you don't have to pay more fees?
  • Offerings: Does this bank offer credit cards, checking accounts with interest, investment options, etc. or just one service that you need?
  • Fees and minimum deposits: Do you need to have a high minimum deposit to maintain account? Do you have monthly fees charged on your account? Are there lots of nuisance fees for customer service or overdrawing your account?
  • Online options: Does the bank offer access to your money online so you can transfer money, pay bills, invest while sitting around in your underwear?
  • Hours and customer service: If you need to talk to someone in person, do they have convenient hours, and friendly and knowledgeable staff?

Bank Vs. Credit Union

FDIC LogoShould you choose a bank or a credit union and what's the difference anyway?

Banks: tend to be national, are insured by the FDIC, have more locations, and greater access. They also tend to pay lower interest rates on savings and charge higher interest rates on loans.

You can use the site to compare banks all over the United States as well as Santa Barbara. For interest checking accounts in Santa Barbara, Charles Schwab Bank currently looks like one of the best deals.

Credit Unions: tend to be local, are insured by the National Credit Union Administration, have fewer locations, less access, sometimes fewer options, but often pay higher interest rates on savings and charge lower interest rates on loans. Some you have to be part of a certain union to join, others are open to anyone who applies.

There is no tool that includes all local credit unions, but here is a list of rates for the national credit unions.

For more information see

CashCourse: Your Real-Life Money Guide (see Choosing The Right Bank Account for You)

Practical Money Skills For Life: Finding the right financial instituion


Simons Award for Graduate Students in Theoretical Computer Science

Man at computersCredit: openclipart.comThe Simons Foundation Division for Mathematics and Physical Sciences is offering awards to support graduate students studying theoretical computer science who have an outstanding track record of research accomplishments. The award is not intended to replace the regular academic-year support of these outstanding students, but rather to supplement their research through such things as equipment, travel, books, personal computer, and other supplies.

Awards will be based on the quality of the applicant’s research contributions, as outlined in the student’s list of publications and research statement, and on the strength of their letters of support.

Simons Award

Deadline: Feb. 12

Eligibility: A graduate student who has completed two, three or four years at a U.S. or Canadian institution of higher education at the time of the award start date and with a track record of outstanding results in theoretical computer science.

Support: A period of two years for up to $24,000 per year.

More Info: Read the call for applications.


Car Insurance: What it Means and How to Pay Less

If you're a thrifty graduate student, you probably want to save some money by reducing your car insurance payment, but you may be confused by all the insurance jargon and have no idea what steps to take to reduce the payment. Lucky for you, your funding peer gets paid to learn this stuff and clue you in.

So, let's start with the basics.

Types of Coverage

Car CollisionCar Collision. Credit. openclipart.comThere are three types of coverage: collision, comprehensive, and liability.

  • Collision: covers the cost of car repairs and/or replacement when you have a collision with another car.
  • Comprehensive: covers the cost of car repairs and/or replacement for damage caused by such things as nature, theft, fire, and vandalism.
  • Liability: covers the payment for bodily injury and property damage you cause to others from a collision.

To be fully insured, you must have all three types of coverage. However, not all states require the same amount of basic car insurance coverage. California requires that you have a minimum coverage of only liability insurance. But how much liability coverage should you have?

California Requirements for Car Insurance

Basic Coverage (Minimum required)

Liability Coverage Only

  •     $15,000/$30,000 Bodily Injury
  •     $5,000 Property Damage
  •     $2,000 Medical Payments
  •     $15,000/$30,000 Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist
  •     $3,500 Uninsured Motorist - Property Damage

Full Coverage

Collision, comprehensive, and liability.

  •     $100,000/$300,000 Bodily Injury
  •     $50,000 Property Damage
  •     $5,000 Medical Payments
  •     $30,000/$60,000 Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist - Bodily Injury
  •     $250 Comprehensive Deductible
  •     $500 Collision Deductible
  •     Waiver on Collision Deductible

How to reduce your insurance bill

Dog with broken legThis dog should have had car insurance. Credit. openclipart.comThe cost of your insurance will vary according to three factors: the type of coverage you choose or are required to have (liability, collision, and/or comprehensive), the insurance provider who offers the insurance, and the amount of your deductible.

What is a deductible? I'm glad you asked. Changing your deductible is one of the major ways of reducing (or increasing) your insurance bill.

Your deductible is the amount of money you pay for damages or liability before your insurance company pays any money. For example, if you have a $500 deductible for collision coverage and a $5,000 car repair bill, you pay $500 and the car insurance company pays $4,500. However, if you have a $300 car repair bill, then you pay $300 and the car insurance company pays nothing.

For insurance purposes, having a lower deductible amount (say $250) increases your insurance bill. On the other hand, having a higher deductible (say $1,000) lowers your insurance bill.

So to reduce your car insurance bill you should do one or more of the following:

  • Have a higher deductible (or choose only liability coverage). Keep in mind with a higher deductible you run the risk of paying more for repairs.
  • Compare providers to see who offers the best prices for your chosen type of coverage. Not all providers charge the same amounts for the same coverage.
  • Ask about discounts. Some providers offer discounts for such things as car safety features, being in the military, a high grade point average, etc..

For more information see

Cashcourse: Your Real Life Money Guide

California Department of Insurance