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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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New Students of Color Welcome Reception, October 28

To continue to create community and foster the development of students of diverse backgrounds, the Graduate Division will host a reception specifically to celebrate graduate students of color on our campus:

Tuesday, October 28

4 to 6 p.m.

Loma Pelona Center

Welcoming remarks will be given by Graduate Dean Carol Genetti and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young. In addition to welcoming students, the reception will offer an opportunity to meet each other and learn about the various graduate student interest groups on our campus. This event is co-sponsored by the Office of Equal Opportunity & Sexual Harassment/Title IX Compliance.

The New Students of Color Welcome Reception is free and open to all graduate students. To RSVP, please complete the form below.

If you have any questions about this reception, please contact Robert Hamm, Coordinator, Graduate Student Professional Development.



UCSB Graduate Students Express Pride in Nobel Prize Achievement of Professor Shuji Nakamura

Shuji Nakamura, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in efficient blue light-emitting diodes, takes questions from the audience at a news conference at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Materials and Electrical & Computer Engineering Professor Shuji Nakamura has been a shining light for graduate students at UC Santa Barbara for years. So grad students were understandably proud when they learned the news Tuesday that Dr. Nakamura, along with two Japanese scientists, had won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for inventing efficient blue light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. We asked a few grad students to tell us how they feel about Professor Nakamura’s honor. Here’s what they had to say:


Leah KuritzkyLeah Kuritzky

The Materials Ph.D. student was a finalist in the 2014 Grad Slam for her talk on laser lighting applications and a participant at the 63rd annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany, in 2013. She said: “We are all so proud of Professor Nakamura. The impact of his contributions continues to grow as solid state lighting is adopted even more widely. The Nobel Prize is well-deserved for the magnitude of his achievements and how they've transformed lighting.”

Humberto Foronda

Humberto ForondaThe third-year Materials Ph.D. student was “ecstatic” upon hearing the news. Said Foronda about Dr. Nakamura: “His achievements are literally life-changing. Personally, it makes me very proud to be a member of this research group and to attend UCSB, working and studying at the Materials Department. Professor Nakamura’s presence and achievements are motivations to go to work every day and be the best that I can be. I truly believe this work will change the way the world sees lighting.”

David Hwang

David HwangThe second-year Materials Ph.D. student is working on developing a way to fabricate light-emitting diodes and integrate them on various substrates. David learned the news that Professor Nakamura had won the Nobel Prize on his way to the bus stop to go to campus. “I started yelling, ‘Shuji won the Nobel!’ It was really encouraging to see his hard work recognized and made me even more proud to be working on gallium nitride LEDs,” David said. “Professor Nakamura’s win is really motivational because he has a great story,” he said. “From being told ‘no’ many times in his early career to now, he has endured many obstacles and put a tremendous effort into realizing his dreams. His win shows that it is never too late to pursue your dreams and should be a lifelong venture. The award further substantiates that we are at the forefront of the field and that UCSB is a top-notch research institution.”

Peter Mage

Peter MageThe fourth-year Materials Ph.D. student and winner of the Graduate Division’s inaugural Grad Slam last year said his reaction to the news of Dr. Nakamura’s win “was a mix of surprise and excitement – it literally was the first thing I saw when I woke up today!” Peter says: “While I don't work directly in the field that Dr. Nakamura won his prize for, I'm thrilled for UCSB and the Materials Department. I'm no Swede, but I believe this award is well-deserved and is a great reflection of the quality of work performed in the College of Engineering here, both in terms of innovation and potential for worldwide impact. I'm excited that UCSB is being recognized for this high level of research, and hopefully this will help to draw even more top-tier students and faculty (and research funding) to the Engineering School at UCSB.”

Anisa Myzaferi

Anisa MyzaferiAnisa is a fourth-year graduate student at the Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center, pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Upon hearing the news of Dr. Nakamura’s Nobel Prize, Anisa said, “My first reaction was joy, excitement, and pride to be working in the field of GaN optoelectronic devices. At the same time, I felt an immediate renewed motivation for my own research and commitment to successfully carry this field forward.” She called Professor Nakamura “a very humble scientist, even though he is so accomplished. This particular trait of his is a personal inspiration to me, regarding the type of scientist that I want to be. Professor Nakamura, together with the other professors who guide our research here at SSLEEC, trust and support us unconditionally as we conduct our Ph.D. research, so to see him win the Nobel makes me particularly happy and grateful. It is a most deserved accolade that highlights his effective scientific leadership.” Anisa said the reason he won the Nobel, his work in blue light-emitting diodes, “illustrates the importance of recognizing the need for energy-efficient devices and efficient management of current technologies. Bestowing the Nobel Prize in Physics on this particular achievement renews the motivation and concentration of the global community on the exigent topic of energy efficiency. It is an honor that UCSB and SSLEEC are at the forefront of contributing high impact results to this most humanitarian goal.” 

For more information about Dr. Shuji Nakamura’s Nobel Prize, read the Office of Public Affairs and Communications news release.

Dr. Shuji Nakamura displayed the blue light-emitting diode at the news conference. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

On Tuesday at a news conference at UCSB, officials toasted Shuji Nakamura for winning the Nobel Prize in Physics. Credit: Patricia Marroquin


New TAs Prepare for Their Students at Annual TA Orientation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Secrets of Grad Student Success Shared at Graduate Orientation

Carol Genetti, Dean of the UCSB Graduate Division, welcomed students to Orientation and told them about annual events such as the award-winning Grad Slam. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Kyle Crocco explained his duties as Funding Peer. Credit: Patricia MarroquinFor those of you who missed the New Graduate Student Orientation, you missed a free lunch and some great cookies. You also missed out on all the secrets of how to be a successful graduate student.

So, your faithful funding peer is here to clue you in on what you missed about resources, how to live and thrive, tips from grad student pros, health advice and insurance information, Graduate Students Association (GSA) services, and peer help from the Graduate Student Resource Center (GSRC).


Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti outlined four important things a grad student should do to succeed:

  1. Know the right people in your department: Your Graduate Advisor, Graduate Program Assistant (GPA), and your Research Advisor. Pick the right research advisor and be very nice to your GPA and your grad school life here will be very productive and good.
  2. Take advantage of the many Interdisciplinary Emphases offered.
  3. Become acquainted with Graduate Division services for academics, finances, and professional development.
  4. Be happy now and do things while you’re here.

Live and Thrive in Grad School

Dr. Turi Honegger talked about the importance of living a balanced life. Credit: Patricia MarroquinDr. Turi Honegger from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) talked about how to live and thrive in grad school.

Did you know that a study of Berkeley grads revealed that grad school was stressful and that 95% of students feel overwhelmed and 67% seriously depressed at some point in their grad school career.

The cure to a better grad life is to be well-balanced. But how can you be well-balanced?

Dr. Honegger offered three pillars in order to find balance:

  1. Know thyself
    • Know your motivation to be here.
    • Know your personality type.
    • Know how you like to work best.
  2. Have better relationships
    • Create Intentional Community: Cultivate a sense of community while you’re here (on campus and in Santa Barbara).
    • Choose the right advisor. It's a key to your success and happiness. Find someone to advocate for you, who has a similar personality type you can work with.
    • Find multiple mentors, not just an advisor, but peers and colleagues who can help you succeed.
    • Disprove these myths: I must do it all alone; I cannot have a social life or love life; and I can't be friends because I'm in competition with people in my program.
  3. Take time for your physical health and mental wellness
    • Make time to work out, which leads to more energy and more productivity.
    • Find your right working level: Too much work can lead to less productivity.

A panel of grad students answered questions from the audience. They are, from left: Dibella Wdzenczny (Linguistics), Lois Harmon (GGSE), Lyandra Dias (Bren), Richard Huskey (Communication), and Alex Pucher (Computer Science). Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Tips from Grad Students

Five students had suggestions on how to succeed.

  • Lyandra Dias (Bren): Join the excursion club.
  • Lois Harmon (GGSE): Don’t work more than 40 hours a week, get sleep, and find your community.
  • Richard Huskey (Communication): If you can make time for work, you can make time for fun.
  • Alex Pucher (Computer Science): There are opportunities to be interdisciplinary if you want. Lifting weights at the rec center is a great way to get rid of tension.
  • Dibella Wdzenczny (Linguistics): Take advantage of CAPS, schedule time to sleep, and go to the farmers market.

Credit: Patricia MarroquinHealth

Mary Ferris, M.D., the UCSB Student Health Executive Director, gave an overview of the services at the UCSB Health Center. She pointed out that all services are confidential; many grad student health problems such as repetitive stress syndrome and eye strain are preventable; and you should get to know your clinician, so you can form a better relationship and have better health. She also gave an overview of Gaucho Health Insurance, which:

  • Covers services worldwide
  • Has a $300 annual deductible
  • Provides 85% coverage for hospitalization and professional services
  • Charges a $5 co-pay at the pharmacy for generic prescriptions, and provides free contraception
  • Has no annual or lifetime caps on benefits
  • Covers dental and vision
  • Does not charge for primary care, labs, X-ray, or urgent care
  • Provides health care nearby when closed 
  • Offers a Gateway secure logon to email for health advice, to make appointments, or order pharmacy refills.

Zach Rentz and Emma Levine of the GSA address the new students. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Graduate Students Association (GSA):

Zach Rentz, President of GSA, outlined the services GSA provides for grad students.

Drs. Robert Hamm (of the Graduate Division and the Graduate Student Resource Center) and Don Lubach (of Student Affairs) enjoy a laugh. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Graduate Student Resource Center (GSRC)

There are several graduate peers in the GSRC office in 1215 Student Resource Building who provide workshops and one-on-one help in the following areas:

  • Funding: Kyle Crocco will show you the money: how to find it, apply for it, and spend it, if necessary.
  • Writing: Ryan Dippre will help you one-on-one with your writing and let you know that “you are a good writer and it’s all going to be OK.”
  • Professional Development: Shawn Warner-Garcia will show you how to succeed and prepare as a professional, create your professional identity, and clue you in to resources for family students.


New grad students enjoy a free lunch after Orientation. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

The post-Orientation lunch was served on the Campus Green. Credit: Patricia Marroquin


Who’s New at UCSB? We Introduce You to Our Incoming Graduate Student Cohort

UCSB will soon welcome 758 new graduate students into its ranks. These incoming students are diverse in many ways, such as their ages, countries of origin, and fields of study. Here, we break down the statistics on our incoming graduate student cohort and introduce you to several of our new students. All infographics created with Piktochart.



There is an almost even split of men (51 percent) and women (49 percent) in the incoming class. Most of the students are between the ages of 20 and 30, but 10 percent of them are 31 and older. Our youngest incoming student is 20 years old, and our oldest is 65 years old.


Map creation by Patrick Hall; map template by Kevin Ross

Map template by GunnMap 

Our new graduate students are coming from 35 countries – from China to Chile, Saudi Arabia to Serbia, New Zealand to the Netherlands – representing nearly every continent. In fact, roughly one-third of incoming students (280, to be exact) are coming from places outside the U.S. Our U.S. students hail from 43 of the 50 states, but over half of them are California natives.


The most popular disciplines that our new graduate students chose were Environmental Science and Management (103 new students), Electrical and Computer Engineering (90 new students), and the Teacher Education Program (79 new students). By division, the most new graduate students are in Mathematical, Life, and Physical Sciences (163), followed by Education (125) and Humanities and Fine Arts (108). One-third of incoming students are pursuing a Ph.D., but a sizable number are also pursuing a Ph.D./M.A., Master of Environmental Science and Management (M.E.S.M.), Master of Science, or M.A. degree.

We asked several of our new grad students to tell us more about themselves, including what degrees they will be pursuing, their favorite things to do, and what they are looking forward to most about graduate school. Read on to find out what we learned about them.

 Fernanda has traveled around the world. She is pictured here (left to right) in Santa Barbara, Berlin, and San Francisco.FERNANDA FIGUEIREDO grew up in Brasília, the capital of Brazil. Brasília boasts the biggest urban park in the world – as well as a plethora of waterfalls, hikes, and biking trails close to the city center – so it’s only natural that Fernanda, the daughter of a biogeography and ecology professor, would go on to specialize in environmental science and conservation. Having graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Universidade de Brasília, she comes to UCSB through a Science without Borders scholarship to study geographic information systems, landscape modeling, and remote sensing in the Geography Department.

Fernanda said, “I was always interested in environmental conservation since my childhood when my parents took me to visit some National Parks and do some trips that I could see different biomes and habitats in Brazil.” She also participated in Girl Scouts as a child, where she “learned about protecting nature, [and the] importance of discipline and working in groups.” At UCSB, she hopes to become an environmental specialist and learn conservation techniques that she can take back to Brazil.

Fernanda is excited not only about the beautiful scenery in Santa Barbara but also the healthy lifestyle – including eating organic food, practicing sports, and cycling everywhere – that many adopt here. She enjoys cycling, hiking, and photography as well as music, cooking, and crafting. One of her favorite places here in the U.S. is Yosemite National Park, which she visited recently. Fernanda said that she fully expects her time here in Santa Barbara to be “awesome.”

Jennie always knows how to capture the moment.JENNIE KIM grew up in Toronto, Canada, before moving to San Diego in high school. She recently received her Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA, where she majored in Political Science with a concentration in international relations. She will be pursuing an M.A./Ph.D. in Political Science here at UCSB. Jennie says that her research interests are focused on international security – particularly counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

Jennie said, “I’m looking forward to being in a new environment and starting a ‘new chapter’ of my life. I want to be able to develop close relationships with professors, as well as peers within various graduate departments at UCSB, and hopefully fulfill my dream of becoming a professor teaching in the realm of Political Science. It’s always amazing to meet individuals from all walks of life and see everyone come together to provide their own insight and wisdom about a subject he or she is passionate about.”

Not only is Jennie looking forward to the bonds she will form on campus, she is also excited to learn how to surf. “I feel like it's necessary to at least try whilst at Santa Barbara,” she said. She is already versatile in a variety of sports and activities, including archery, yoga, and hiking. “I also really enjoy cooking; my favorite dish I've made is a miso-glazed salmon.” In addition to athletics and cooking, Jennie also has her motorcycle license!

Cady throws herself headfirst into whatever she is pursuing, whether it be a particularly intense gaming session (left), a death-defying climb up the Great Wall of China (right), or one of the many crazy colors she has dyed her hair (center).CADY MCLAUGHLIN grew up in rural Ohio, where “the closest shopping mall was about a 20-minute drive and the closest big city – Pittsburg – was 45 minutes away.” She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she double majored in Modern Languages (with emphases in French and Mandarin) and Asian and Pacific Studies. At UCSB, she will be pursuing an M.A. and then a Ph.D. in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, where she will focus on issues of media and sexuality.

Cady told us about her connection to each part of her research interests. “My interest in media has no strong foundation, but rather builds from the fact that today's society is so media-heavy. [Media] impacts our daily life so heavily but still silently, so to study the change of media through time is fascinating. My interest in sexuality stems from being a queer person myself and because the strongest community I found as a new student in college was through the university GSA [Gender Sexuality Alliance]. My specific interest in studying East Asia has always been innate, even when I had no concept of the differences between the countries. Despite growing up in a heterogeneous community, whenever I found something Asian-inspired I was drawn to it – from food to language to entertainment.”

In coming to UCSB, Cady is excited to be a part of the academic community. “I was raised by a single mother who worked as a high school and college educator and I was babysat frequently by my grandparents and great-grandparents. I always loved school and I blame that on my family constantly reading to me as a child. Education has been a huge part of my life and personal identity, so to have the chance to further mine is the aspect I look forward to most.”

In her free time, Cady enjoys everything related to sci-fi and fantasy as well as video games and board games. “I'm not one to do nights out on the town and would prefer to sit at home and marathon a TV show like 'Dexter' or 'Breaking Bad.'”

Ehsan comes from a "rather tall family," as he put it; here he is stooping to get into a picture at his cousin's wedding recently.EHSAN OMIDI comes to UCSB all the way from Tehran, Iran. He earned both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran. He will be entering the Ph.D. program in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a concentration in control, communication, and signal processing.

Both of Ehsan’s parents were schoolteachers, and he has always excelled in academics. Growing up, he had many of the same hobbies as his friends, including soccer, cartoons, and video games. “But,” he said, “my real hobby started when we had a computer in our home and I started programming with it. Since then, programming has been my main entertainment.” When he realized that computer programming didn’t challenge him enough, he began to study electrical engineering in order to figure out what goes on inside a computer. He also worked on his university’s robotics team in creating a simple robot that could do funny tasks such as playing with a golf ball.

Ehsan is very excited to be studying at UCSB, which is among the top 10 engineering schools in the world (Academic Ranking of World Universities). It also doesn’t hurt that Santa Barbara is, in Ehsan’s words, “totally a perfect city.” He said, “Living in an always-sunny city with beautiful landscapes wherever you look and doing your desired research is what every grad student dreams.”

Ehsan’s hobbies include soccer, violin, and chess, and he hopes to add hiking and surfing to the list when he moves to Santa Barbara.
John is always up for some fun. Here he sports a handmade feather hat for a puzzle hunt (left), soaks in the beauty of San Clemente (center), and enjoys his last day in Pittsburgh atop the number garden at Carnegie Melon (right). JOHN RETTERER-MOORE grew up in Concord, Massachusetts, and has been making his way – slowly but surely – toward more hospitable climates ever since then. He earned a Bachelor's degree with double majors in Computer Science and Discrete Math from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before deciding to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science in the much more mild locale of Santa Barbara.

John said that his “main research interests mostly lie in the intersection of computer science and math. I'm interested in complexity theory (studying what fundamental limits exist on our ability to compute certain things), cryptography (studying how to securely encrypt various types of messages and protect them from various types of attackers), and computational social choice (applying ideas from computer science to solve problems that arise in humanities research, like designing voting systems and dividing goods fairly).” He is excited about working with great professors to try to answer interesting research questions in the field of theoretical computer science.

John is understandably looking forward to enjoying the scenery of Santa Barbara by doing things like hiking, swimming, and reading papers on the beach. He also enjoys all kinds of gaming, including board games, card games, and computer games, and he is “definitely looking for fellow gamers at UCSB to hang out with.” At Carnegie Mellon, he competed in and also helped run a lot of puzzle hunts, and he said that he would love to start one here with some like-minded individuals.

A fervent rock music fan (some of his favorite artists are Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen, and Modest Mouse), John also plays the drums and dabbles in creating mashups. (You can check out some of his mashups on YouTube.)
Shyam in his element: hiking in various locales (left, right) and visiting the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (center)SHYAM SRIRAM had a unique childhood. Born and raised near Chicago, he moved with his family to their heritage country of India when he was nine years old. He then migrated back to the U.S. after high school to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Purdue University and then a Master's degree in Political Science from Georgia State University. At UCSB, he will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science with a focus on American Politics.

In his earlier studies, Shyam’s research interests vacillated among a variety of topics, including Jewish Studies and Black Politics. Eventually, one of his professors, Dr. Robert Melson, asked him, "Shyam, is it possible that you are so interested in these other communities because they are leading you to study your own community?" From then on, Shyam began to focus his research on the area of Asian Pacific American Politics, with emphases on issues of identity, citizenship, and nationalism. Shyam is excited to work with the outstanding professors in UCSB’s Department of Political Science – particularly Dr. Pei-te Lien – and is looking forward to the interdisciplinary nature of graduate school, where he can take many classes across the curriculum.

Shyam will definitely take advantage of the natural beauty of Santa Barbara as he regularly trains for a variety of competitive athletic events, such as the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, New Mexico, happening in March.

And, if you ask him nicely, he might even show you his tattoo of William Faulkner, which he believes is the only one of its kind in the world.

Some of our incoming graduate students enjoyed the scenic views while hiking the 7 Falls trail in Santa Barbara last week. From left to right: Stefan DuBois, Jess Perkins, Tegan Brennan, Samantha Samuelson, Aditya Dalakoti, and Sahaj Biyani. Credit: Hui Yon Kim


The Disney Life of UCSB Art History Ph.D. Student Maggie Bell

Maggie Bell at San Gimignano, Italy, this summer. Credit: Maggie BellIf Maggie Bell’s life were a movie, it would probably be a Disney film. In this film, you would see a young Maggie and her little brother go off for a year to live in Madagascar with her zookeeping parents. You would see her struggle with the French language and then get so frustrated she would bite someone. This, of course, would change her whole life.

The story of how Maggie went from her Disney-like childhood to being a sixth-year UCSB Ph.D. student in History of Art and Architecture with a concentration on the Italian Renaissance is as fascinating as Maggie is.

When I first met Maggie in the lobby of the UCen she was excited because she would be ABD in two weeks. I found her surprisingly easy to talk to and we chatted informally for almost 10 minutes about grad school, what we we’re doing, and our teaching experiences (apparently 80% of the work of a fourth-grade teacher involves keeping the students in their chairs) before getting down to the interview.

You have a BA in Art History and a minor in Linguistics. Why Linguistics?

When I was little, I lived in Madagascar for a year. I remember feeling isolated because I didn’t speak French or Malagasy. I was terrified of French school. I actually bit someone because I didn’t want to be in French class. I guess it was very important for me. When I came back to the U.S. and was a little older I started taking Spanish classes in elementary school and loved it. I took it all the way through high school. Then I thought I would major in Spanish and do a dual major with linguistics. But I became interested in other ways that people communicate with each other and one of those ways was the visual arts.

Maggie Bell with her brother and mother in Madagascar, making friends with the lemurs. Credit: Maggie Bell

How did you become interested in the visual arts?

Grad Spotlight LogoI went to Catholic school growing up, but I was never actually Catholic. Everyone else was Catholic and got to have their own rosaries, First Communion, and stuff like that. I had none of that. I felt really left out. But what I loved was all the ritual. I loved actually sitting in church. I liked that we put crowns of flowers on the Virgin Mary at certain times of the year, and covered up the statues. I think that’s part of the reason why I was interested in images. Throughout the day you would pray to different images. We would pray to the crucifix at the beginning of the day, the Virgin Mary at the end of the day, and the crucifix again before lunch. It became so much about focusing on these images even though they had no other meaning for me other than this is something important we did every day.

Is this why you got into Art History?

I always liked the visual arts. My father was an artist. I never thought about art historically before. So I tried a class on a whim because I liked art. My first class was in the Italian Renaissance and I never changed my mind since the moment I took the first class.

The interior of the frescoed hospital room that Maggie is working on right now. Credit: Maggie Bell

You study frescoes. How did you become interested in them?

The thing that I like about working on them is they’re inexorable from the site in which they’re made. The ones I studied were painted in the 15th century and they’re in this massive hospital in Siena called Santa Maria Della Scala. It was impossible to understand them without understanding the hospital or what it would have been like to be a patient there, to move through that space, to see it every day as a citizen of Siena. I think that perceptual aspect of it, more than just, say, the subject matter of the fresco or the style in which it was painted, is what was really fascinating to me. Also because it’s so challenging to address those kinds of questions.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Maggie Bell's favorite Italian meal. Credit: Maggie BellNavigating the Italian postal system in Italian. I had to mail two bottles of sparkling red wine. Yes, there is such a thing.

You have a fascinating upbringing. What is the one thing that people find most interesting about your childhood?

I think the fact that my parents were zookeepers was the most interesting thing. And the fact that when my Mom needed to take care of us but also had to go to work, my brother and I got to spend the entire day at the zoo, running around and doing whatever we wanted.

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

The thing that people don’t know about me is that I also have a black belt in karate. It sounds cooler than it is. I got it when I was 15 and it was something that my Mom made me do. I didn’t like fighting people. I gave a kid a bloody lip once when I kicked him in the face, but I felt terrible about it. But what I did like about it was the performance aspect. 

You’re in your sixth year and about to become ABD. Any advice for incoming graduate students? Something you wish you had known?

Everything is going to be OK. You don’t have to be perfect all the time. If you miss a few readings for the seminar, you won’t be ostracized or lose your funding. Oh, and you think it’s just hard for you, but it’s hard for everyone.

Maggie making some time for her friends (and art colleagues). Credit: Maggie BellOn that note, what is your favorite thing to do to relax?

Seeing my friends is my most important hobby. It’s sad to say "hobby," because it’s an activity that makes me very happy, but I have to make an effort to do it, to find the time. I also have Netflix and Amazon Prime. I know this series is old but I love "Veronica Mars." I also watch "Bored to Death."

Finally, what do you hope to be doing when you graduate?

I want to be a tenured professor, or just a professor. I really love teaching and want to do that.


UC Santa Barbara Is Rising in the Rankings

No. 10 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Top National Public Universities? Check. UCSB’s Materials program No. 1 on the magazine’s list of top graduate and professional programs at public universities? Check. No. 11 among public universities in Washington Monthly’s National Universities Rankings? Check. No. 8 among the top 750 universities worldwide in the Leiden Rankings? Check. One of’s 25 Healthiest Colleges in America? Check. No. 24 on the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools list? Check. No. 5 among public universities on Forbes magazine's list of America's Most Entrepreneurial Universities? Check.

Credit: Patricia MarroquinIn the past couple of years, UC Santa Barbara has received a host of honors and awards, and in several cases, its rankings have risen over the previous year.

“These rankings reflect UC Santa Barbara’s remarkable strength across a wide variety of disciplines and departments,” Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall said in an Office of Public Affairs and Communications (OPAC) news release. “Excellence across the campus contributes to the interdisciplinary environment that allows us to provide our students with a deep and broad education, while stimulating innovative research and scholarship.”

Our campus truly is “soaring,” and in keeping with that spirit, OPAC has created a video, “Soaring Over UCSB.” Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of our beautiful campus in the video above. For more information about UCSB’s rankings, read the OPAC news release.

Credit: Patricia Marroquin


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What You Need to Know About the University of California's Employment Contract Changes

Credit: cybrarian77

If you are an academic student employee at UCSB, you sign a contract that spells out the terms of your employment. Periodically, some major parts of this contract undergo revisions when the university negotiates with labor unions such as UAW 2865, which is the union that represents over 13,000 student-workers across the University of California system. The UC employment contract was updated and ratified on June 21, 2014, and included changes that directly affect many graduate students. This new contract will be in effect until June 30, 2018.

Read below for answers to some frequently asked questions.

Q: Which graduate students are affected by the contract changes?

All Academic Student Employees (ASEs) in the UC system, including Teaching Assistants, Associates, Readers, and both undergraduate and graduate tutors.

Q: Which parts of the contract affect me most as a graduate student?

Wages. Wages will increase 5% during the 2014-2015 school year, and will continue to increase each year through 2018 (though by a smaller percentage).

Appointment Notification and Appointment Security. Once an employment offer is received by an ASE, it is guaranteed. The offer should be accompanied by (1) an appointment notification letter, which states the dates hired for, number of hours, and what the pay and benefits are; and (2) a supplemental documentation checklist that details which course the ASE is assigned to and what the specific duties are. If an appointment is canceled, the university either has to reassign the ASE or pay him/her anyway.

Fee Remission. A graduate student who works at least 10 hours a week (a 25% appointment or higher) as a TA, Reader, or Tutor will be granted full remission of in-state tuition, registration fees, and health care premiums. The University has agreed to maintain the status quo with respect to providing an additional $408 per year, and more specifically $136 per quarter, of non-resident supplemental tuition remission as part of the graduate student partial fee remission benefit for qualifying students. Students who have earned partial fee remission as an ASE and have been assessed non-resident supplemental tuition in the same quarter will be provided the $136 credit.

Workload. ASEs are entitled to wages for all duties related to the appointment, including reading the course material, attending lectures, preparing for discussion, attending required training classes, and answering student emails. ASEs cannot be asked to work more hours than they are being paid for. For a TA working at 50%, this means working no more than 220 total hours during the quarter, 40 hours in any given week, or 8 hours in one day.

Credit: Micah SittigChild Care Reimbursement. Any ASE working at 25% time or more is entitled to a $900 (up from $600) per quarter child care reimbursement for children up to the age of 12. This subsidy is also available for summer session. To find out more about this reimbursement, click here.

Pregnancy and Childbirth Leave. A salaried ASE shall be eligible to receive up to 6 weeks (increased from 4 weeks) of paid leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions for the period prior to, during, and after childbirth. ASEs are also eligible for up to four months of unpaid pregnancy disability leave, not to exceed the end date of the ASE appointment. This runs concurrently with paid pregnancy leave. An ASE on approved long-term leave is entitled to partial fee remission and student health insurance as long as they remain otherwise eligible for this benefit of employment. Only women are eligible for this type of leave.

Newborn/New Child Bonding Leave . A salaried ASE shall be eligible to receive up to 4 weeks of paid leave to care for and bond with the ASE’s newborn child or a child placed with the ASE for adoption or foster care, provided that the leave is taken within 12 months of the birth or placement of the child with the ASE. An ASE may be approved for up to two additional weeks of unpaid leave for baby bonding. Both men and women are eligible for this leave.

Sick Leave
. Salaried ASEs employed at 50% time are entitled to two paid sick days per quarter. This leave may also be used to care for a family member. Any salaried ASE is eligible to receive up to 4 weeks of paid leave due to a serious health condition or to care for a family member who has a serious health condition. An additional 2 weeks of unpaid leave may be approved for a serious health condition.

Credit: Samir LutherNon-Discrimination Improvements. Appointment letters must now include a statement about all-gender restroom access. ASEs are guaranteed access to all-gender and ADA-compliant restrooms within accessible proximity to their workplace. If a restroom is not available, ASEs may contact the Union to fill out a request form. For a list of UCSB's gender-neutral bathrooms, click here.

Lactation Support. An ASE must be allowed time, though not during classroom time, for the purpose of expressing breast milk. ASEs shall have access to designated spaces for the primary purpose of expressing breast milk. If no such space exists in reasonable proximity to an ASE’s work location, the department/hiring unit will designate an appropriate temporary space for the purpose of expressing and storing breast milk. For more information on UCSB's Breastfeeding Support Program and to locate a lactation room on campus, click here.

Q: Where can I read the full contract?

The full revised contract may be accessed here.

Q: Who can I contact if I have more questions?

Please contact the hiring supervisor or graduate program assistant in your department with further questions.


U.S. News & World Report Ranks UCSB No. 10 on Its List of Top Public National Universities

UC Santa Barbara is among the best public universities in the nation, once again ranking highly on U.S. News & World Report’s annual listing of the “Top 30 Public National Universities.” UCSB was ranked No. 10, moving up a spot in U.S. News’ rankings. On the magazine’s list of “Best National Universities,” which includes both public and private institutions, UCSB also did well, moving up to No. 40 in a tie with Pennsylvania's Lehigh University.

The rankings are part of U.S. News’ 2015 edition of Best Colleges, which includes data on nearly 1,800 institutions nationwide. The colleges and universities are ranked on about 16 measures of academic excellence, including research, faculty resources, and commitment to instruction.

UCSB’s graduate students and the high quality of its graduate programs no doubt contributed to the top rankings. Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti was pleased but not surprised that UCSB ranked so highly.

“It is exciting to see that UCSB is again ranked within the top 10 public universities,” said Dean Genetti.  “Our recipe for success includes our highly distinguished faculty, brilliant graduate students from across the world, and remarkable undergraduates who are eager to join in the research enterprise. But especially important is our campus leadership that works to enable discovery and scholarship, and brings to fruition the creative ideas and cross-disciplinary programs that our campus is known for.”

University of California campuses dominated the top 10 list of public national universities. UC Berkeley was No. 1; UCLA placed No 2 in a tie with the University of Virginia; UC San Diego was No. 8; and UC Davis was in the No. 9 spot. UC Irvine followed closely behind UCSB at No. 11 on the public national universities list.

UCSB’s College of Engineering was also recognized, placing No. 20 among engineering schools at the nation’s public universities.

For more information, read the Office of Public Affairs’ news release, “A Top 10 University.” Also, read U.S. News’ blog article and its complete rankings.

Congratulations to UC Santa Barbara and all the other UC campuses that made this distinguished list!

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