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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Winter 2015
Peer Advisor Availability

Professional Development Peer:
Shawn Warner-Garcia
Mon: 10 a.m. to noon
Wed: 10 a.m. to noon
Fri: 10 a.m. to noon

Diversity & Outreach Peer:

Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco
Tue: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Thu: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre
Mon: 1:30 to 4 p.m.
Tue: 9 to 11 a.m., 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Wed: 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Communications Peer:
Melissa Rapp
Mon: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thu: 1 to 3 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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A Valentine from the GradPost to You: Happy Doodle Day!

Credit: Lisa Slavid, PeadoodlesLisa Slavid says she has “always doodled in the margins of everything.” So when we requested her doodles for the pages of the GradPost as a Valentine’s Day gift to our graduate students, she was only too happy to oblige.

Slavid is the Coordinator of Organizational and Performance Management for Housing & Residential Services at UCSB. Her role involves strategic planning, leadership development, and best-practices research. She has worked in the field of Student Affairs and Housing & Residential Services at UCSB for two decades in a variety of roles, including Resident Director, Student Leadership Coordinator, and Coordinator of Strategic Initiatives. Her passion, she says, is to help people and organizations reach their highest potential.

This Student Affairs professional holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College (art, with a focus on oil painting and photography, was one of her majors there) and a master’s degree in Counseling from Santa Clara University. Slavid has also been a Semester at Sea sailor. She has traveled as a member of the staff on three academic voyages, twice as Dean of Students, and she sits on Semester at Sea’s board of trustees.

A Peadoodle created especially for UCSB graduate students by Lisa Slavid.While doodling has always been a part of her life, it was about five years ago that “the doodles wanted to be drawn front and center, and the ‘Peadoodles’ just started coming,” she said.

At first, Slavid’s whimsical creations were centered on puns about food. Now her artwork has been extended to include animals and inanimate objects.

In a 2012 interview with Semester at Sea, she talked about the hundreds of Peadoodles she has drawn. “Even in simplicity, there is a lot of complexity with these little guys,” she said.

“I keep them sweet, positive, and mostly innocent,” Slavid told the GradPost, “and I love that people send me suggestions as well.” Our suggestion for a (Pea)h.D.-related Peadoodle produced the one you see here, a labor of love from Slavid to UCSB graduate students. Some previously drawn Peadoodles with words of love and encouragement are also shown here.

You can enjoy more of Slavid’s “Peadoodles” at the Peadoodles Facebook page and on the Peadoodles blog. Semester at Sea also published a Q&A with Dean Slavid.

Happy Doodle Day, er, Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone from the GradPost … and from Lisa Slavid’s Peadoodles!

All Peadoodles by Lisa Slavid

Dean Lisa Slavid, right, enjoys a light-hearted moment with Quincy Goodwin, center, of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and Siettah Parks from the University of Wisconsin Madison, during a Fall 2012 Semester at Sea voyage. Credit: Melinda LaBrie, Semester at Sea


Registration Now Open for the 2015 Grad Slam Competition

UCSB's Grad Slam competition is back, and it's better than ever! Here's what you need to know and how you can sign up to participate in this year's competition, scheduled for April 6 to 17.

What is the Grad Slam?

Launched in 2013, Grad Slam is an award-winning campus-wide competition for the best three-minute research talk by a graduate student. Participants are judged on the basis of having a clear and effective presentation that is geared for a general university audience and has demonstrable intellectual significance.

Why should I compete?

For fortune and fame, of course! This year, we're giving away more than $13,000 in cash and prizes, including a Grand Prize of $5,000. Plus, the winner will get to compete in an inaugural UC-wide Grad Slam competition for the chance to win even more money!

I'm intrigued, but I need a snazzy video to entice me more.

Here you go!

I'm sold. Where do I sign up?

Glad you asked! Click here to fill out the registration form. The deadline to sign up is Friday, March 13. (Note: deadline extended from original date of March 6.)

OK, I signed up. Now what?

Check out the 2015 Grad Slam page here, and stay tuned to The GradPost for more information on workshops, resources, and more to help you craft and refine your presentation.


GSA Excellence in Teaching Award Nominations Now Open

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

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

Nominations will be accepted in four categories: 

Lecturers and Teaching Associates (all disciplines);

Teaching Assistants (Humanities and Fine Arts);

Teaching Assistants (Social Sciences);

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

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


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

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

About Our Faculty Panel

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


UCSB Is Recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, the First AAU Member to Achieve the Status

UC Santa Barbara earned yet another distinction this week when it was announced that the university has been designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) by the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities. The status is a recognition that at least 25% of the student body are Latinos. While three other UC campuses – Merced, Santa Cruz, and Riverside – already hold that designation, UCSB becomes the only HSI that is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), an elite group of 62 leading research universities in the U.S. and Canada.

As an HSI, the university is now eligible to compete for grants and funding for various initiatives, including the acquisition of lab and scientific equipment for teaching; development of faculty; and support services for all students.

Education Ph.D. student Priscilla Pereschica is doing her dissertation research on Hispanic-Serving Institutions.One UCSB graduate student who was happy to hear this news is Priscilla Pereschica, a fourth-year doctoral student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education whose emphasis is Educational Leadership and Organizations. The GradPost featured Priscilla in a Graduate Student in the Spotlight column in October 2014.

Priscilla, who also works on campus as a Conduct Officer in the Office of Judicial Affairs, grew up in the Central San Joaquin Valley. “As a first-generation college student, I faced barriers, lacked the appropriate knowledge and capital, and often navigated the process alone,” Priscilla told the GradPost. “My experiences influenced my research interests, and I wanted to understand how to increase degree completion rates for students of color and how institutions can best serve their underrepresented populations.”

Those dissertation research interests focus on Hispanic-Serving Institutions. “I got involved in HSI research through my former advisor, Patricia Marin. We are working on a research project that examines the perspectives of graduate students as their institution transforms into a Hispanic-Serving Institution,” she said. “For example, we sought to understand if this transformation has any meaning to them and if they thought that graduate students should have a role in this process. What’s interesting about our research is that the HSI definition is only contingent on the undergraduate student population, yet many of our graduate student participants believed that they could and should have a role in this process since they interact with undergraduate students in a number of capacities.”

"I want people to know that the Hispanic-Serving Institution status will benefit all students, and not just Latino students. This HSI status also means that UCSB is becoming a bit more diverse and accessible, and I look forward to seeing the continued growth of UCSB’s diversity."
– Education Ph.D. student Priscilla Pereschica

There are several reasons Priscilla is both proud and excited that UC Santa Barbara has become an HSI. “First, as a Latina, I believe this milestone highlights the fact that my community is enrolling in college at an increasing rate and, on top of that, we have an increasing number of Latinos enrolled in this top-tier research university," she said. "It’s not enough to just enroll more Latino students. We have to truly serve them and ensure that they are completing their degrees by providing the appropriate support and resources. It will be interesting to see how the university will transition with its new status and how our campus community will embrace it. I want people to know that the HSI status will benefit all students, and not just Latino students. This HSI status also means that UCSB is becoming a bit more diverse and accessible, and I look forward to seeing the continued growth of UCSB’s diversity. Another important piece of this milestone is that UCSB is the first member of the Association of American Universities, which is a select group of the top-tiered research universities, to become an HSI. The majority of HSIs are state colleges and community colleges, so UCSB is changing the landscape of what HSIs have historically been.”

Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti agrees with Priscilla that this designation ultimately is a benefit for all. “It is exciting to know that more and more students of Chicano/Latino backgrounds are gaining access to UCSB's cutting-edge research and faculty,” Dean Genetti said. “This will allow us to prepare many more students for graduate school and beyond, so we can develop all that untapped talent, diversify our perspectives, and increase Chicano/Latino impact on the state, the nation, and the world.”

For more information, read the Office of Public Affairs and Communications news release and a Los Angeles Times article.


Zach Rentz: GSA President and Change Agent

Zach RentzZach Rentz, 2014-2015 UCSB GSA President. Photo courtesy of Zach Rentz.Third year graduate student in Philosophy Zach Rentz is a change agent. He can be found making changes once a month when leading the Graduate Students Association meetings as the GSA President. If you haven’t talked to him yet, you probably should, because he’s been working to make your life better as a grad student and wants to hear what you have to say.

I wanted to interview Zach Rentz for a while because he has been working to change things at UCSB in all the ways it needs to be changed. He wants to increase funding for grads, provide affordable housing for them, and create a community spirit.

Zach sees the world a little differently than you and I. Maybe he sees things differently because he grew up on the East Coast, outside of Philadelphia. Or maybe he sees things differently because he was influenced by the writings of Moses Maimonides and has a degree in Philosophy from Dartmouth. Or maybe he see things differently because he knows how to effectively challenge and question things after earning a law degree at Duke and working to help people on the Duke Law Innocence Project. Or maybe that’s just the way Zach is: a guy who likes to make the world better around him. I don’t know. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

I met with Zach on a cool but sunny afternoon at the GSA lounge. We sat outside on the patio and talked about everything from why he came back to school, to what he is trying to accomplish with the GSA, and to how he is a fan of the band Phish.

You already had a law career. Why did you come back to school?

Grad Student Spotlight logoI practiced law for four years in Philadelphia, working at two different firms. I was a corporate and securities lawyer focused on mergers and acquisitions, stock and debt offerings, and private equity fund formation. I also did pro bono work with respect to both animal law and civil forfeiture actions. But I wasn’t getting the intellectual stimulation I was looking for from legal work, and I decided to return to my passion: philosophy.

What are you researching for your degree?

I’m researching David Hume, and in particular, his work on time and infinity. I’m also interested in philosophical issues pertaining to the reform of America’s drug and sentencing laws. Lastly, I am interested in the metaphysics of Jewish Mysticism, and in particular, the thought of the Chabad masters.

Why did you get involved in the GSA and what do you hope to achieve?

Zach and Emma 1Zach and GSA’s Vice President of Internal Affairs, Emma Levine, tabling at San Clemente’s welcome event for grad students. Photo courtesy of Zach RentzI got involved with GSA because I saw lots of ways that the UCSB grad student experience could be improved and made richer and I wanted to do my part. My number one goal this year has been to alleviate the great financial burden faced by UCSB’s grad students, when it comes to things like housing, healthcare, and general support. Additionally, I am working to increase the amount of social offerings put forth by GSA to help strengthen the graduate student community and provide the grads with more opportunities to socialize and engage intellectually.

I see you and the GSA are doing a lot of new things this year. Can you give me a preview of what we can look forward to?

We’ve been working on housing for one. We have an incredible graduate school here but it’s very expensive to live in Santa Barbara and one idea we’ve come up with is to move the grad student community from San Clemente to Santa Ynez.  This is a long-term proposition, but if it makes sense, it could dramatically decrease the rent paid by graduate students in University housing.

Zach and Emma at Joshua TreeZach and his girlfriend Emma Levine, a 4th year Music Ph.D. student at UCSB, watching the sunset in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo courtesy of Zach RentzWe also want to provide more social venues for grad students. There are not a lot of central locations on or off campus for grad students to get together and to talk or exchange ideas. Thanks to the Alumni Association, we are starting “Moshertime” this quarter. Once a month, and hopefully moving towards a weekly gathering, graduate students will have the opportunity to get together socially on the roof deck of the Mosher Alumni House.

We are also working on increasing professional development and networking opportunities for grad students. We want to promote networking between graduate students and alumni in their chosen fields, whether academic or non-academic. We also want to give grad students the opportunity to mentor UCSB undergraduates by connecting them with undergrads that are interested in pursuing academic research or graduate school

That’s a lot you’re working on. What do you do to relax?

I like to read philosophy, religion, and history and to hang out with my friends. I really enjoy being part of the Santa Barbara community and I try to take advantage of all that it has to offer. I also love to go to the Santa Barbara Bowl to see live music. It’s one of the most beautiful venues I have ever seen.

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

Zach at Phish concertZach with some old friends at Phish’s October 21, 2014 show at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Photo courtesy of Zach Rentz.Probably, that I followed the band Phish around after my senior year of college. I’ve seen them 48 times now.

You’ve been a grad student three years, what piece of advice would you give to incoming students?

You should treat grad school like it’s a job. Act professionally and treat your weekdays like a standard workday where you are at your desk by 8 or 9 AM and put in eight hours of work. You should also spend time with faculty and other grad students. Some grad students tend to isolate themselves in their office or lab, and they miss out on the intellectual discourse that is a very important part of graduate school. I’d also suggest setting aside time to determine your goals for each year of your program. Figure out when you want to apply for certain funding opportunities, what you need to do to advance to candidacy, and begin putting together materials related to the job market.


What is the one thing you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?

I want to be a faculty member in a philosophy department. I love my research and I love teaching.  I cannot imagine a more fulfilling career than having the opportunity to professionally pursue my passion.


Making It Work: UCSB Graduate Student Parents in the Spotlight

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

Being in graduate school is hard. Being a parent in graduate school is even harder. Many graduate students balance the competing priorities of school and family (and sometimes also a job), and there are as many different approaches as there are people. In this Spotlight article, we talk to four graduate students about being a student parent, what campus resources they couldn’t live without, and what makes them proud.


Natalie with husband Dare, daughter Liv, and dog CricketNatalie O’Connor Holdren is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. Growing up in San Diego, she enjoyed attending concerts and music festivals, soaking up the California sun, and ballet dancing. Her father is a Samoan fire knife dancer, and she started Polynesian dancing when she was just two years old. Since she was a teenager, Natalie has worked with individuals with significant disabilities, and this work has led her to focus her research on improving reading outcomes for individuals with disabilities by embedding engagement strategies into instruction. Natalie’s husband, Dare, has been teaching for over 15 years and is currently a history teacher at San Marcos High School. Their daughter, Liv, is 18 months old and loves reading books, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and music.


Fede with Gaby and Carmen in their garden plot Federico (Fede) Llach is a fourth-year doctoral student in Music Composition who grew up outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the youngest of four boys. While he was more exposed to soccer than music as a kid, he picked up guitar in high school and his love for music flourished. He currently composes contemporary new music written for orchestral instruments, which is rooted in the tradition of classical music but with a more modern aesthetic. He has also created composition software that analyzes sound frequencies and converts them into musical notation. His wife, Gaby, runs her own business where she produces and designs original live action and motion graphics media. They have a 9-month-old daughter, Carmen.


Phill and Christa at their weddingPhillip (Phill) Rogers is a first-year Ph.D. student in Linguistics who originally hails from Northeast Ohio. He is interested in all aspects of language structure, and he plans on taking his first trip to the field in the summer of 2015 to document and describe a previously undocumented language. His wife, Christa, is a medical transcriptionist and also a talented guitarist, singer, and songwriter. They have two kids: Isaac Tomás is 4 years old, loves animals (especially whales and sharks), and wants to be an astronaut. NoaRose Estér is 2 years old and she’s not sure what she wants to do when she grows up, but Phill says it will probably involve bossing somebody around!


Derek and his daughter Myla watching the Santa Barbara Fiesta parade Derek Smith is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in Mathematics who was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Growing up, Derek's father – a skilled instrumentation technician – would entertain and educate Derek and his siblings with scientific demonstrations and explanations. At UCSB, Derek studies partial differential equations, a branch of calculus developed in conjunction with physics and engineering. He is interested in using Fourier analysis to solve these equations, which arise as models for physical phenomenon such as electromagnetism, gravitation, and fluid flow. His wife, Lisa, enjoys traveling and live music, and their daughter, Myla, is 18 months old and loves swimming, the beach, dancing, and music. Derek and Lisa are also expecting a second daughter in February!

What has graduate student life been like for you as someone with kids?

Phill’s son Isaac finds an interesting book at the bookstore

Phill: It’s challenging, of course, but also extremely rewarding. Kids have a way of bringing you back to reality – in the best way – after spending the day thinking about very abstract ideas. I try to be a professional all day at school, so it’s refreshing to come home to silly kids who have no expectation other than for me to be just as silly.

Natalie: When I made the decision to have a baby during my doctoral program, people told me I was nuts and warned me about how stressed and busy my life would become. The reality is that being a public school teacher was about a hundred times more difficult than being a doctoral student (so far, I should say), and at least as a pregnant graduate student I could use the restroom whenever I wanted (you don’t have that luxury as a classroom teacher). Overall, it has been a wonderful experience. I feel incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to pursue work that I love with colleagues and mentors who work hard but also value family and balance. I also have been very fortunate to have my daughter at the Orfalea Family Children’s Center. Her teachers are wonderful, the program is fantastic and she absolutely loves it there.

Fede: It has been very busy! We are very grateful that UCSB has some reimbursement for child care expenses, but of course child care is still very expensive. Taking care of a child while in graduate school is a lot of work, and my time is split between working and taking care of my daughter. I have become much sharper and able to get things done in less time because I focus more and work faster. At the same time, being a parent is so fulfilling because you have this type of love that you hadn’t felt before that, in a way, gives you superpowers to face challenges. It’s also been great for us to live in family student housing because our neighbors are our friends and we can swap child care with them.

Derek: I didn’t begin graduate school with children. As a returning student, I struggled the first two years trying to sit through classes. I was used to a 9-to-5 work schedule and self-paced learning. We waited to have children until I found an advisor and a routine that more closely approximated what I had in previous jobs. I now treat my research as a job. My schedule is now a little more crazy, but the biggest change has been to my social life!

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

Natalie and family in Pitigliano, Italy

Derek: That classes would be taken so seriously. I’m not such a fan.

Phill: I wish I had known what I wanted to do specifically in Linguistics. That’s pretty unrealistic when I consider the roundabout way in which I discovered this discipline, but the point remains. I’m extremely excited with what lies ahead, but I might have been closer to graduation – and therefore closer to settling down more permanently on behalf of my family – if I knew what I was doing when I started.

Natalie: I wish I had known about the magic of the crockpot. I feel like once I became a mom, I was initiated into a secret society of crockpot users. I wish someone had let me in on the secret sooner.


What types of unique challenges have you faced in your professional and/or personal life and how did you overcome them?

Phill’s daughter Rosie climbing at a local playground in Santa Barbara Natalie: When faced with a challenge (and I’ve had my share), I always think back to a lecture I had in Health Psychology as an undergraduate at UCSB by Dr. Jim Blascovich. His research on challenge versus threat appraisals has stuck with me and reminds me to see adversity as a challenge to take on instead of a threat to be immobilized by.

Derek: I’ve been lucky that my biggest challenge has been internal. I have had a hard time choosing what to pursue among my many interests. I think it may be genetic – in fact, my grandfather’s headstone says, “I wasn’t finished yet.” I overcame this by mistakenly choosing a career that I couldn’t simply quit: I joined the military. I’m not really sure anymore why I joined, but the experience of deciding that I had made the wrong choice of profession has definitely shaped my outlook on life.

Phill: If I’m being honest, I have to say my life has been marked more by blessings than by any extraordinary challenges. There was a point during my MA degree that I was working full time, enrolled full time, and supporting my family. When there is that much to do, you just find a way to do it. I have to give my wife a lot of the credit for her role during this time. For me, having something as important as family that demanded my time was a perpetual reminder to make the most of every minute at school and work.

Fede: One challenge for me is that I am a performer as well as a composer, and it’s sometimes hard to balance both activities. I have to figure out how to balance multiple projects at once without one taking over the other. It’s related to time-management but also organization and artistic focus. I’ve gained some experience on how the creative process works and how to prioritize certain projects over others. Especially after my daughter was born, I learned that it is important that I use this time well.

What types of resources for family students have you found helpful?

Natalie and Liv

Fede: Everyone needs to know about the child care reimbursement program and GSA child care grant. Living in family student housing makes a big difference because you are surrounded by people living in the same situation as you and you can share experiences.

Phill: Well, I’m sure glad that we have family housing. Santa Barbara is more than just a little expensive, and family housing is an affordable option that surrounds us with similar families. I’m also grateful for the child care grants offered through the GSA and the UC Student-Workers Union. These funds are pretty easy to acquire!

Derek: Living in student family housing. Although we have lived here since I began graduate school, I didn’t take the time to get to know my neighbors until after I had a child. Talking with other student parents puts your own daily stresses into perspective. It’s also nice to have a playground and friends a few feet from your front door.

Natalie: PEP (Postpartum Education for Parents) gave me access to other new moms, which has been really nice. I’ve also really benefitted from parent groups on Facebook (such as UCSB Graduate Students with Children, Santa Barbara Swap, my PEP page, Nanny Phonebook, etc.). We’re also part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library funded by United Way, which my daughter loves.


Fede (far left with the upright bass) performing with his ensemble group Now Hear

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.

Fede: I’m very proud that a piece of music I composed was played by the National Symphony of Argentina. It was a big push in my career. Being a composer is a very uncertain career, but being able to come to UCSB and forming my ensemble called Now Hear Ensemble is something that makes me very proud.

Derek: When I took a job in Santa Barbara in 2007 after leaving the Air Force, I heard about the Pier to Peak half marathon and talked about attempting it for years. I finally signed up in 2013 with a few friends from my department and completed it a second time last year. It’s very rewarding to run to the top of a mountain!

Natalie: Aside from raising a pretty awesome child, I would have to say the recognition I have received for teaching has meant the most to me. My last year as a special education teacher, I received the Thomas Haring Distinguished Educator Award and the Bialis Family Foundation Mentor Teacher Award. Then, in my first years as a graduate student, I was nominated for the GSA Excellence in Teaching Award and the Academic Senate Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. As someone who is passionate about education and impacting future educators, this recognition has meant the world to me. As a side note, it was also funny to realize that when I transitioned from teaching K-12 to teaching at the university, I also transitioned from a special educator to a general educator, a move I had said I’d never make.

Phill: I’m proud of my wife. Please, let me explain. She’s way out of my league, so it took the best sales pitch of my life to get her to fall for me. And she puts up with my shortcomings every day, in addition to doing all the amazing things she does to provide for the kids and me. I would be far worse off without her, and I don’t thank her enough for that. So the accomplishment is really hers, but I am very proud to call her my wife.

What do you do to relax? What makes you happy?

Phill’s daughter Rosie giving puppy dog eyes to the camera

Natalie: Acupuncture and yoga are my go-to ways to relax. I also frequent Evan’s Relaxing Station for Chinese Acupressure Massage. Love that place. Some of my favorite things to do are participating in Polynesian dancing and events, date nights, relaxing with the family on the couch, kayaking, seeing live music, designing succulent arrangements, cake decorating, crafting, and family fun in the great outdoors. I collect Dia de los Muertos art and antique books about Polynesia. Things that make me happy: the field I work in, being married to someone who cares about his work as much as I do, hugs from my daughter, and traveling.

Phill: On a daily basis, I love to lie on the living room floor and let my kids climb on my back. They think I make a great jungle gym, and I don’t mind the unorthodox massage! I’m also a big fan of naps, going to new parks with the family, and watching college football games.

Derek: Running. I spend the time with Myla. We head to either Goleta Beach or the Ellwood butterfly preserve. I get a workout and she runs around and splashes her feet in the water. I also enjoy making music, even if I don’t have the time now to make a serious effort.

Fede: It makes me very happy spending time with my family and watching my daughter grow and sharing that with my wife. Parenting is a ton of work, but it fulfills me in a way that is very intense. Lately, we’ve started a garden plot at the Family Housing gardens, and this is a relaxing way to spend time together as a family. I still love to play soccer and that helps me release energy and have fun.

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

Natalie's daughter Liv does her touchdown pose Natalie: As much as I joke about hating sports, I currently have a fantasy football team that I am very invested in. This is probably a positive development for my acceptance in the family since my husband has been a football coach for many years, my daughter’s name means ‘defense’ in Norse, and one of her favorite exclamations is "touchdown!"

Fede: I learned to skateboard at the age of 30 when I came here to UCSB. I’m also a decent juggler.

Derek: Many people don’t know that I served in the Air Force as a weather officer.

Phill: I – more precisely, my wife and I – have another little one on the way! I don’t always start a PhD program; but when I do, I prefer to do it with a newborn!


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

Fede and family at a recent wedding

Fede : I wish to continue my career in academia teaching music and also collaborating on compositions with other music groups. Also, I would hope to be able to continue with my performance projects such as my ensemble. I would like to see that become a self-sustaining group.

Phill: I hope – more or less realistically – to be in a tenure-track position, living with my still-growing family in a somewhat rural home, reasonably close to our family and friends.

Derek: Either pursuing an academic career or, failing that, returning to software development. Since I will no longer be changing diapers, I plan to build a home recording studio and take up drumming again.

Natalie: I hope to be improving the lives of individuals with disabilities through my research and teaching and enjoying every day as it comes.

Do you have any advice for current grad students with children?

Derek: Choose wisely. Your courses, your extracurriculars, your hobbies, your career path, etc. You don’t want an impedance mismatch in your life. I realize now that I felt out of place as a military officer because my values did not align with the organization. I came to loathe many aspects of the job. The types of professional occupations one trains for in graduate school tend to demand a similar melding of personal and work life (perhaps to a lesser degree than the military). If you’re having trouble carving out the right balance, step back and determine the cause.

Fede: Enjoy your kid because the time goes by very fast.

Natalie: Laugh often.

Phill: Use it to your advantage. It’s not hard to feel overwhelmed or frustrated, and for those emotions to spill out at home. Instead, remember all the things kids represent: an excuse to put aside work to refresh the mind, a responsibility to be proud of, and a model of the unbridled enthusiasm toward life that we all had as kids and that most would give almost anything to reclaim.


Derek’s wife Lisa and daughter Myla at Alice Keck Memorial Gardens


Reminder: Special Election for Vice President of Student Affairs Happening This Tuesday, Jan. 13

The UCSB Graduate Students Association (GSA) will be holding a special election for the GSA Vice President of Student Affairs (VPSA) at its next assembly meeting on Tuesday, January 13, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the GSA Lounge. The VPSA is primarily responsible for serving as GSA's chief representative to the Gaucho Student Health Insurance committee to advocate on behalf of the needs of graduate students. Additionally, the VPSA advocates for graduate students in the realm of student affairs and also leads GSA's committee to select the Dixon-Levy Service Award. For the complete job description, please click here.
If you are interested in running for the position, you will need to attend the assembly meeting, where nominations will be taken from the floor. Each nominee will then make a presentation discussing why he or she is running for office, his or her qualifications for office, and goals if elected. Graduate students present at the meeting will then have the opportunity to ask questions.
If you are interested in running, or have any questions, please contact GSA President Zach Rentz.


Call for Design Submissions: Official Logo for 2015 UCSB Grad Slam

UCSB's Graduate Division invites all graduate students to participate in a design competition to create the official logo for the 2015 Grad Slam (April 6-17). The visually compelling design should include the following elements in a prominent, readable font: “Grad Slam 2015,” “UC Santa Barbara” (or “UCSB”), and “3rdAnnual.” The winning design will be used on a tee-shirt received by all Grad Slam participants and promotional materials for the competition (posters, program, the GradPost, etc.). Submissions will be accepted now through Friday, Feb. 27.

Entering its third year, the Grad Slam is a campus-wide competition for the best three-minute talk by a graduate student. In three minutes, students must encapsulate the central points of their research and convey them in a clear, direct, and interesting manner. Students gain experience constructing a tight professional presentation and delivering it with confidence. They also have the opportunity to practice sharing their ideas with a wider audience, an important professional skill for communicating with employers, granting agencies, investors, CEOs, reporters, policy makers, and others. Last year, more than 70 students from nearly 40 disciplines competed, and we are planning for an even bigger and better competition for 2015.

Prize: The winning designer will receive $250.

Designs should be submitted as a PDF by email to Robert Hamm no later than Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.


Peer Advisors' Office Hours for Winter 2015

The Graduate Division's Peer Advisors are here to help you! Each peer keeps office hours in the Graduate Student Resource Center, which is located in the Student Resource Building, Room 1215.


Professional Development Peer, Shawn Warner-Garcia

Monday: 10 a.m. to noon
Wednesday: 10 a.m. to noon
Friday: 10 a.m. to noon

Funding Peer, Kyle Crocco
Tuesday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Writing Peer, Ryan Dippre
Monday: 1:30 to 4 p.m.
Tuesday: 9 to 11 a.m., 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday: 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Communications Peer, Melissa Rapp
Monday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thursday: 1 to 3 p.m.

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