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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Summer 2014
(Email for availability)

Professional Development Peer:
Shawn Warner-Garcia

Diversity & Outreach Peer:
Hala Sun

Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco

Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre

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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Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Grad Slam Winner James Allen

Graduate Student Spotlight logoJames Allen, a first-year Ph.D. student in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science (IGPMS), is conducting research that has the potential to transform how ocean ecosystems are studied. James is using satellites rather than boats to collect data about phytoplankton in the ocean. He hopes to use his research to examine how the ocean is changing as a result of climate change.

James' passion for sharing his research with a wider audience is inspiring. Not only did he win the Grand Prize after competing in three grueling rounds of the 2014 Grad Slam, he also hopes to be the next Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson.

James has a Bachelor of Science degree in Geoscience - Meteorology from the University of Tennessee at Martin. Read on to learn more about his research and grad school experiences.

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

James AllenJames AllenMy research involves using satellites to measure the optical properties of the ocean. By looking at how light scatters and gets absorbed in the surface of the ocean, I hope to be able to more accurately measure the relative abundance of differing sizes of phytoplankton. With this information, we can more effectively measure how entire marine ecosystems are changing over time, how the ocean’s ability to export carbon from the atmosphere to depth is changing, and, ultimately, the ocean’s role in climate change for the future.

I’ve always been interested in weather and climate, and becoming a meteorology major as an undergrad really sparked my interest in climate change science. The idea of using satellites and remote sensing to do science and measure global changes blew my mind! I knew that would be how I wanted to contribute to our understanding of Earth’s changing climate. An internship doing research at NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program convinced me that I wanted to be a part of the amazing science that was happening in oceanography. Now, instead of looking up at the sky to forecast the weather, I’m looking down at the water to measure the changing ocean, and I couldn’t be happier.

What was it like to participate in the Grad Slam?

James Allen grad slam winnerGraduate Division Dean Carol Genetti with the Grad Slam 2014 winners: James Allen, center, grand prize winner; and runners-up Damien Kudela and Deborah Barany. Credit: Patricia MarroquinThe Grad Slam was an amazing experience! One of my goals in life is to be able to educate the public about climate change while showing them just how awesome science can be, and the Grad Slam was the perfect opportunity to learn many outreach skills. Every step of the way, from the public speaking workshops beforehand, to each progressive round, many experienced people were there to guide me and help me become a better presenter.

Talking to the public is completely different from talking to a lab group, especially with a three-minute time limit. It involves a fine balance of getting your ideas out there, keeping them relevant and interesting, and all the while making sure everything is clear and concise. You learn a lot about yourself, too; we all have our strengths when it comes to presenting, and there are many paths we can take to play to these strengths to make an effective presentation. There were many amazing talks all throughout Grad Slam, and each person had their own style that showed that they had an idea, and they wanted to communicate it to as many people as possible.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

James Allen conducting researchJames collecting water samples in a Niskin bottle on the R/V Shearwater out in the Santa Barbara Channel.I feel like I’m really in my element here. There’s so much great work being done by people that are really passionate about what they do. It’s fun to be able to talk to other grad students across a wide variety of fields that are exploring and searching for answers to problems that you’ve never even thought about before.

I’m also surrounded by great mentors and friends! I’m lucky to have such a great advisor, Dr. David Siegel, who really pushes me to be the best scientist I can be. I’m very grateful for the fact that I’m housed in both Marine Science and Geography, so I’ve made a lot of friends in both areas that have made adjusting to grad life very easy.

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

I’m hugely interested in doing outreach and getting the public more interested in science. I always say that I want to be the next James Hansen, Bill Nye, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, but maybe I can be cheesy and say that I want to be so good at what I do that someone in the future can say, “I want to be the next James Allen."

James showing off a lab coat.I have an insatiable curiosity to learn more about the world around me, and if I can spark that interest in more people, I feel like I can say I’ve done my job. There is so much out there that we haven’t even begun to think about, and everyone has the potential to become an explorer in their own right and bring new perspectives to the table. We just need more people to spark that curiosity and help people realize that science is a way to open doors to the world around them.

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and describe why.

It might not seem very big here, but it would probably be the fact that I was able to TA for the first time. I’ve never been able to formally run my own sections before, and it was really exciting to be able to get up in front of a classroom and help teach really interesting topics in my field to students. I was so nervous at first, but by the end of the quarter, I was pretty comfortable with it. I spent a lot of time working getting my lectures set up, and it may have cut into my research time a bit (sorry, Dave!), but it was totally worth it, and I’m really happy that I was able to do it. I’m excited to be able to TA again soon!

What do you do to relax? Any hobbies, collections, pastimes, favorite places to go, favorite things to do? Along these same lines, what makes you happy?

James Allen and group on a hikeJames and some of his Geography cohort hiking in Santa Barbara.I love to explore new areas! I grew up in West Tennessee, so having mountains and ocean around me all the time is an entirely new experience. I really like hiking and backpacking, and there are a lot of great trails in this area that I look forward to exploring. I’m warming up to biking (here’s a secret: I just learned how to bike when I arrived here last summer!), and I can’t wait till I get good enough to try mountain biking, or at least try biking longer stretches on bike trails by the ocean. I also really love predicting the weather and forecasting for severe storms, but it’s pretty hard to do that for sunny Santa Barbara. Maybe the El Nino regime shift will change that later this year, and I can finally play around and dance in the rain again.

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

James Allen at a waterfall in Big SurJames at a waterfall in Big Sur.I hope to still be doing some great research with some added public outreach. Will I be teaching at a big university? Presenting at national lectures or in Congress? Talking on TV or the radio about the next big topics in science? Who knows. But I’m excited for whatever the future will bring!

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

There’s so much great advice in previous Spotlights that it’s difficult to come up with something new! I would definitely say that interdisciplinary work really has the potential for amazing research. Different fields have their own ways of looking at problems, and while you might not necessarily use their methods, sometimes a new perspective is all you need to get through a difficult block that’s holding you back! Also, it’s a really good excuse to meet some amazing people outside of your field and make some new friends!


‘We Do Not Walk Alone,’ UCSB Grad Alumna Capps Says In Leading Moment of Silence on House Floor

Rep. Lois Capps led a moment of silence on Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, Congresswoman and UCSB alumna Lois Capps (MA, 1990) of the 24th District led a moment of silence on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. “The nation stands with UCSB,” she said on her Facebook page.

“Together we have taken the first steps toward making sense of the senseless,” the congresswoman said on the House floor. “But it will be a long journey. We have many questions. And over the weeks and months ahead, perhaps more will be posed than we can answer. But we will work through it together. And while we all struggle to make sense of this tragedy, I want to thank you, my colleagues, and the communities across the nation for your prayers, your kind words, and your support. This act was fueled by hate. But in the wake of this tragedy, we as a nation have shown that in a dark time, we do not walk alone. We do not grieve alone. So we will not have to heal alone.”

View her speech and the moment of silence in the video below. View the congresswoman's news release here.


1,500 Proud Gauchos Take to the Water for Memorial Paddle Out

About 1,500 people turned out for a Memorial Paddle Out in honor of the six UCSB students: George Chen (Computer Science); Katherine Cooper (Art History & Classics); James Hong (Computer Engineering); Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez (Undeclared); David Wang (Computer Engineering); and Veronika Weiss (Financial Math and Statistics).

Enjoy this beautiful paddle out video and this second touching video as well.


IV Memorial Paddle Out from julia Olson on Vimeo.




20,000 Hearts Were United at Memorial Service to Honor Six UCSB Students

Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, made an impassioned plea to the crowd to take action against gun violence. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

It was a touching and emotional afternoon on Tuesday at the Memorial Service, “Our Hearts Are United,” in Harder Stadium. About 20,000 people came to pay their respects and honor six students struck down in the Isla Vista tragedy: George Chen (Computer Science); Katherine Cooper (Art History & Classics); James Hong (Computer Engineering); Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez (Undeclared); David Wang (Computer Engineering); and Veronika Weiss (Financial Math and Statistics). There were impassioned pleas, humorous recollections, tears, and laughter. Dignitaries, including UC President Janet Napolitano, UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, and UC Board of Regents Chairman Bruce D. Varner, spoke eloquently. Soothing and beautiful music was heard from the UCSB Young Artist String Quartet; Vocal Motion; and BFOM. The crowd – of all ages, ethnicities, and walks of life – was united in its grief.

To read more about this moving service, see the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications’ article, “We Remember Them.”

More than 20,000 people attended the Memorial Service on Tuesday. Photos by Patricia Marroquin

Scenes from the Memorial Service on Tuesday at Harder Stadium. Photos by Patricia Marroquin


A Recap of ‘Responding to the Isla Vista Tragedy: A Guidance Session for Teaching Assistants’

A message in chalk from concerned teaching assistants in front of the Alpha Phi sorority house in Isla Vista, where a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles, and messages was erected. Credit: Patricia MarroquinIn morning and afternoon sessions today at the Graduate Students Association Lounge, UCSB graduate student teaching assistants were presented with guidelines and advice on how to best support students affected by the tragedy in Isla Vista.

The guidelines included strategies for understanding, managing, and coping with grief; resources and services available on campus; and the importance of self-care. These guidelines can apply to any interactions with students, not only in the classroom.

The following are a few of the points made during the session, in addition to links to PDFs with more in-depth information and a YouTube audiocast recap by Counseling and Psychological Services’ Dr. Turi Honegger.

The session was hosted by the GSA; the Graduate Division; and the Division of Student Affairs.


  • Get adequate sleep, eat nourishing foods, and exercise regularly; maintain as normal a routine as possible.
  • Don’t isolate yourself from others. Spend time with family and friends who can provide you with emotional support.
  • Allow yourself to laugh; allow yourself to cry.
  • Accept caring and practical support from others and let others know what you need.
  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol to cope with emotions; they can conceal legitimate emotions and disturb the grieving process.
  • If you are religious, seek solace from your faith.
  • Avoid overexposure to media; take breaks from news sources as often as possible in order to avoid exacerbating acute stress symptoms.
  • Give yourself all the time you need to feel and understand the loss.

Four-legged therapists offer unconditional love, and are sure to lower stress levels. This pooch was among those therapy dogs at Dog Therapy Day on Tuesday outside the SRB. Credit: Patricia MarroquinWHAT YOU CAN DO FOR OTHERS

  • Be willing to talk about the loss, and encourage the griever to do so.
  • Be a good listener – accept, don’t judge, what you hear.
  • Reassure the griever that grief symptoms such as anger, guilt, and sadness are normal.
  • It may be helpful to say things like: “What help do you need right now?,” “The feelings you’re having are understandable,” and “I don’t know what to say, but I care.”


Don’t say things like:

  • Be strong
  • Take a trip
  • It will be better soon
  • Count your blessings
  • You’re better off than most people
  • Keep your chin up
  • You must put it behind you and get on with your life
  • Time will heal
  • If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.

These platitudes alienate and do not help the griever.

Signs offer free hugs and express support for Isla Vista outside the Student Resource Building today. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Other resources and links:

Strategies for Managing Grief PDF

Understanding Grief PDF

Student Affairs Message to Faculty

Responding to a Campus Tragedy: Instructional Strategies for Instructors and TAs

Audio recap of the morning session by CAPS’ Dr. Turi Honegger:


UCSB Letters & Science Advising Hours Extended, Including Time at SRB 

During this difficult time, as students are connecting with their personal and on-campus support networks, many will likely have questions about various administrative actions available to them and how to deal with their academic program, now and for the remainder of the quarter.

Please note the extended academic advising hours for the College of Letters & Science below.

Along with the extended hours in the college offices for this week, L&S advisors will be at the EOP/L&S satellite advising office in the afternoons, following EOP office hours. The hours for advising hours in the College of Letters & Science and for SRB students in the EOP/L&S satellite office are listed below.

L&S hours in Cheadle Hall:
Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Open through lunch, closing early for the memorial)
Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Open through lunch)
Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Open through lunch)
Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Open through lunch)

L&S hours in SRB, Non-Traditional Resource Center Room 1109:
Tuesday, 1 to 3 p.m. (SRB/EOP closing early for the memorial)
Wednesday, 1 to 5 p.m.
Thursday, 1 to 5 p.m.
Friday, 1 to 5 p.m.

To make an academic advising appointment:
or call 805-893-2038

Academic Advising Walk-in Hours:
Weekdays 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., 1 to 3:30 p.m.


UCSB Classes Suspended on Tuesday, a 'Day of Mourning and Reflection'; Memorial Service Planned at Harder Stadium

On his Facebook page, UCSB alum Michael Douglas said: "My deepest sympathy to the victims, families, and friends of this terrible tragedy. My thoughts are with the entire UCSB family. Michael Douglas, '68" Credit: Michael Douglas Facebook pageA Message from Chancellor Henry T. Yang and Interim Executive Vice Chancellor Joel Michaelsen

To the Campus Community:

In light of the tragic events that occurred on Friday night, after discussions with the Academic Senate, Associated Students, and our administrative colleagues, we are declaring Tuesday, May 27, a Day of Mourning and Reflection. There will be a memorial service at Harder Stadium on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. organized jointly by students, staff, and faculty.  Also, Associated Students has asked us to let our community know that our students are planning a memorial wall at the Pardall Center.

Regular classes will not be held on Tuesday. However, because our academic community needs a space for talking and healing as well as mourning, we ask that faculty come to campus on Tuesday to be available to meet with students. We suggest that faculty communicate with our students and teaching assistants to let them know whether they will be meeting at their regularly scheduled class time, or in office hours, or both. Staff should report to work as usual, but employees who need to request time off from work should coordinate those requests with their supervisors. Classes will resume on Wednesday (May 28).

We wish to reiterate the message from the undergraduate deans that academic advisors are available to assist students who are concerned that this tragedy will interfere with the completion of their courses. Our dedicated advisors will do everything they can to ensure that no student’s academic record is adversely affected by this difficult situation. There will be extended walk-in advising hours this week starting on Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including the lunch hour. Faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants will receive additional information from their department chairs and deans about how to provide guidance and alternatives to students who may need assistance as theyCredit: UC Santa Barbara Instagram (@ucsantabarbara) complete their academic year.

We remind students, faculty, and staff that professional counselors are available to provide support to all members of our community. We encourage you to consult them to address your own needs and to get advice about how you can help others if they reach out to you. Counselors can be reached by phone at 805-893-4411, 24 hours a day.  Counselors will be available for in-person visits all day Tuesday at the Student Resource Building.

This is a period of mourning for all of us. The moving candlelight vigil that our students organized on Saturday evening began the process of healing. On Tuesday we will remember and honor the victims of this horrible event, and come together as an academic community to reflect, talk with each other, and think about the future. As terrible as these past two days have been, they make us believe in our students and the entire UCSB community more than ever.

Henry T. Yang, Chancellor

Joel Michaelsen, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor


Chancellor Yang's Letter to the UC Santa Barbara Community

UCSB community members gathered Saturday evening for a Candelight Vigil in honor of the victims of the Isla Vista rampage. Credit: George Foulsham, Office of Public Affairs and Communications

The following is a letter to the UC Santa Barbara community from Chancellor Henry T. Yang:

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing again to share more sad news. Yesterday we were informed that three of our students, Katherine Cooper (senior), Christopher Martinez (junior), and Veronika Weiss (sophomore) were among those killed during the tragic events on Friday night. Today the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office released the names of the remaining victims and they are also members of our community. They are George Chen and W. Wang, both juniors in the College of Engineering. The parents of the third student have requested that we only use his initials, C.H.

Our sense of loss is immeasurable. We are offering our full support to their families, and our thoughts and prayers are with them. In the coming days we will also explore with the families how we may best honor their memories. We have established a fund, The UC Santa Barbara Community Fund (, to honor our students who were victims of this tragedy and to memorialize their lasting impact and contributions to the UC Santa Barbara community.

The number of reported injuries has been revised to 13. Nine of those taken to the hospital were UC Santa Barbara students. We have been informed that six of these nine students have already been released and one is expected to be released tomorrow (Monday, May 26). We fervently wish all the injured a full recovery.

The safety and welfare of our students is our top priority. We have counselors available today and tomorrow at our Student Resource Building from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and by phone at 805-893-4411 around the clock. With support from the UCLA and UC Irvine police departments, we have also increased police patrols in Isla Vista and on campus. In addition, our CSO Escort Program provides courtesy escorts for our students and community members traveling on campus and in Isla Vista at any time. To request a CSO safety escort, simply call our Police Dispatch line at 805-893-2000. I encourage every student to enter this number in your cell phone now, so that it will be readily accessible when you need it. Escorts can also be requested through the red emergency phones located all over campus.

I am moved by the love and support demonstrated by our community, especially during these difficult times. Dilling and I were honored to join our students for last night’s candlelight vigil, the first of what I anticipate will be many events to honor the victims and to come together as a community. We are planning a campus memorial service, and will send another communication later today with additional information and other updates.


Henry T. Yang


4 Ways to Be a Loving Neighbor: My Personal Perspective Amid Isla Vista Tragedy

Credit: Hala Sun and Pages.

It was 9:25 p.m. on May 23. I was heading home after attending an amazing musical event sponsored by the Chinese Students & Scholars Association held at the MultiCultural Center Theater. The night was beautiful, until I saw multiple police cars, ambulance, and firetrucks passing by, all racing toward Isla Vista. Something did not feel right. I was scared. As soon as I arrived home, I checked my email, but there was no alert. So I quickly logged into Twitter to find out what was happening in Isla Vista (#IV). My heart sank when I found out that there was a massive shooting targeting female students.

Hala SunAs a woman of color, I felt vulnerable through this tragic event. However, I believe there is still hope. We cannot control all the events that happen every day in our lives or in our community. But we can do something now to facilitate change — by being a "loving neighbor." I would like to share my thoughts on four ways, or perhaps, four challenges for all of us at UCSB and in Isla Vista, as we work together to bring proximate justice.

1. Choose to cross the street to cross barriers of culture and fear. Sometimes, if we encounter situations that are messy and complicated, or if we meet someone from another culture, race, gender, or ethnicity that is unfamiliar, it is easy for us to fear and walk away without taking a closer look. However, the very first step to bringing proximate justice and to be a loving neighbor is to have the courage to cross the street — to cross that barrier and reach out.

2. Choose to open your eyes and notice.
We have our eyes generally open (unless we are sleeping), but we do have a choice, most of the time, to choose what we want to see or have to see. After crossing the street or the barrier, the next step is to take a closer look. But after seeing what is happening or what is needed, we sometimes close our eyes. Well, that’s OK. It is quite natural to close our eyes. What’s important is our courage to open our eyes again to figure out how we can help.

3. Choose to give time and money. After crossing the street, seeing, and realizing what is needed, we ought to make another decision — using our valuable time and/or money. We all can be hearers and readers of the news. But how often do we pause, to reflect, and to give? And we wonder whether our help would make any difference. Well, the good news is, yes it will — as long as we all work together toward a common goal. There is power and hope when we collaborate and when we give. We cannot make any changes if we, ourselves, are hesitant to give anything.

4. Choose to open your hearts and feel. We cannot live harmoniously and bring proximate justice if we do not open our hearts and truly feel what is happening around us — in our school, our community, our country, and our world. It is from our heart we can show love and attention to our family, friends, colleagues, students, faculty, staff, and our community members. It is only when we open our hearts that we can understand and be able to empathize or sympathize.


As we live in this busy, and often individualistic society, the concept of “neighbor” is slowly disappearing. All kinds of reforms and changes can be made at the policy, organizational, and/or institutional level. But I believe the most important change is the change that starts within us — transforming to become a good, loving neighbor to one another. By choosing to cross the street to cross barriers of culture and fear, by choosing to open our eyes and notice, as well as to give time and money, and by choosing to open our hearts and feel what is happening around us, we can all hope for change. And justice might be just around the corner, in close proximity. Now, before we ask who our neighbor is, let us first reflect on what kind of neighbor we have been and what kind we ought to be from this point forward.

(Editor's Note: Graduate Division Diversity and Outreach Peer Hala Sun is a doctoral student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. She holds two master's degrees: a Master in Public Administration, specializing in International Management, from the Monterey Institute of International Studies; and an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the Monterey Institute. Hala, who speaks five languages, is of South Korean descent, grew up in the Philippines, and attended a Chinese school. Her research interests focus on bilingualism/multilingualism, second language acquisition, language development through interaction, and teacher development.) 


Resources and Support Services in Wake of Isla Vista Tragedy

The GradPost has compiled a list of phone numbers, websites, announcements, and other information to assist students, parents, faculty, staff, and the public in the wake of the Isla Vista tragedy. As we get more information, we will add to this list, so please bookmark this article.