Interested in staying up to date on the latest news for UCSB graduate students? Subscribe to the UCSB GradPost.

University of California Santa Barbara
Campaign for the University of California Santa Barbara

Latest News

Translate the GradPost:

Graduate Peers' Schedules

Spring 2015
Peer Advisor Availability

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: 1 to 5 p.m.
Thursday: 2 to 4 p.m.

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


Campus Map


View UCSB Graduate Student Resources in a larger map


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.


UCSB Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology Ph.D. Student Andrea Adams Wins Switzer Environmental Fellowship

UCSB Ph.D. student Andrea Adams, winner of a 2014 Switzer Environmental Fellowship.Fifth-year Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology Ph.D. student Andrea Adams has been named one of 20 recipients of a 2014 Switzer Environmental Fellowship, a program by the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation that recognizes the achievements of environmental leaders and their potential to enact positive change.

The Switzer Fellowship includes a $15,000 cash award to be used for academic study in master’s and doctoral programs; leadership training; access to a broad network of nearly 600 Switzer Fellowship alums; and opportunities for professional development during the fellowship year and beyond.

Andrea’s dissertation research involves the study of disappearing frogs in Southern California. “One species, the foothill yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii) disappeared from the region during a short period of time in the mid-1960s to early 1970s,” Andrea explains. “One thing that can cause such rapid declines in amphibians is the pathogenic amphibian chytrid fungus. I study this fungus’s distribution and disease dynamics in different amphibian species in Southern California to see if it could have been a major contributing factor to the disappearance of the foothill yellow-legged frog in the region. To do this, I conduct molecular work in the laboratory, as well as field and museum work.”

The Switzer Foundation said that “Andrea’s interdisciplinary approach is aimed at better understanding the roles of infectious disease and perceptions of ecological change in conservation outcomes.”

Andrea, a native of Michigan, majored in Environmental Studies at Michigan State University for two years as an undergrad before transferring to Prescott College in Arizona, where in 2003 she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies with an Emphasis in Conservation Biology, and a Minor in Outdoor Adventure Education. She earned a Master’s degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at UCSB in 2013. Andrea’s advisor is Dr. Sam Sweet, and co-advisor is Dr. Cherie Briggs.

Andrea Adams holds a foothill yellow-legged frog. Her fieldwork involves studying the disappearing frogs in Southern California.Andrea is also a biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where, since 2008, she has applied her interest in conserving biodiversity through her work in endangered species management and recovery in Southern California.

Her conservation fieldwork has taken her all over the state, nation, and world – including the Channel Islands, the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, Boreal Forests of Canada, and urban-forest regions in Michigan. As an undergraduate, Andrea studied in Nepal through Michigan State University, and in Mexico, Scotland, and Norway while at Prescott College.

It was a field trip to a California condor release site that first sparked Andrea’s interest in conservation biology. She traveled to the site at the Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona during her final year at Prescott. “I knew right away that I wanted to work in field biology and conservation,” she said.

Andrea learned of the Switzer fellowship from UCSB faculty member Tom Dudley of the Marine Science Institute, who recommended that she apply.

“The application process takes a lot of preparation,” said Andrea. “Along with a research statement, letters of recommendation, and transcripts, the required personal essay is the foundational portion of the application because it communicates to the reviewers your experience and aspirations. After my application was selected, I was invited to San Francisco for a fellowship interview, where I answered questions about my professional experience, goals, and leadership skills.”

The Switzer fellowship year includes two retreats. Last fall she and the other California-based Switzer Fellows from her cohort and previous cohorts met in Sausalito. “This served as an orientation for new fellows as well as a leadership training opportunity,” she said. “It included a day-long training on transformative leadership from the Rockwood Leadership Institute. The session was designed to help us in developing collaborative leadership skills and working across differences.”

In March of this year, Andrea and the other fellows will attend another retreat in Washington, D.C. The gathering will include two days of intensive science and policy communications training with COMPASS (Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea) and will conclude with meeting policy leaders in the fellows’ respective fields.

Another benefit of the fellowship is the mentorship opportunities it provides. Andrea has been paired with a Switzer Fellow alum, a wildlife toxicologist at UC Santa Cruz, who will offer help and advice to her throughout the fellowship year.

Andrea says she is grateful to her recommenders, Cherie Briggs and Rick Farris, for their support during the application process and beyond; as well as the Switzer Foundation, “for its optimistic investment in the future of environmental work.”

Andrea considers it “a significant honor” to have won the fellowship, “and I look forward to participating in the fellowship network throughout my career to support other environmental leaders in their work.”

After attaining her Ph.D., the Switzer Fellow’s career goals are to “continue doing research while working collaboratively with partners in other fields and in local communities on more applied aspects of conservation.”

To read biographies of all 20 Fellows, visit the 2014 Switzer Fellows page. The Switzer Foundation has been accepting 2015 Switzer Fellowship Program applications, which are due January 9, 2015. Because the applications take a lot of time and work to complete, it may be too late to apply for the 2015 program. However, for more information, read Switzer’s How to Apply page.


The GradPost’s Top 14 Stories of 2014

Each year, it’s always interesting to take a look back and see what GradPost stories most captivated our readers. In 2013, most-read stories featured the blooming of a rare, stinky “corpse flower”; our university’s only scientific glass blower; graduate student and alumni profiles; and a couple of job interview issues – dressing your best and using body language to your advantage. This year, we found that one tragedy, a few triumphs, a handful of graduate student and alumni features, and the Grad Slam dominated our readers’ attention.

Here now are the GradPost’s top 14 most-read stories originally published in 2014, followed by a list of six other noteworthy articles that just missed the list; and seven popular topic pages.

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




Top 14 GradPost Stories Originally Published in 2014

1. UCSB Classes Suspended on Tuesday, a ‘Day of Mourning and Reflection’; Memorial Service Planned at Harder Stadium (May 25)

In a message from Chancellor Henry T. Yang to the Campus Community, he declared Tuesday, May 27, as a “Day of Mourning and Reflection” in light of the May 23 Isla Vista tragedy that claimed the lives of six UCSB students. The university suspended classes that day and scheduled an afternoon memorial service at Harder Stadium. Chancellor Yang reminded the community that professional counselors were available to provide support.

2. 5 Things You Should Know to Empathize With International Students (May 7)

Diversity and Outreach Peer Hala Sun, who has spent a decade as an international student in the United States, shares her insights on what these students go through on a regular basis. Her column is based on her own experience as well as those of other international students she knows. Her reflections offer helpful information to enable others to better empathize with this community of students.

3. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Deborah Barany (May 9)

Torrey Trust interviews Deborah Barany, a Ph.D. student in the new interdepartmental Dynamical Neuroscience program and a runner-up in the Finals of the 2014 Grad Slam competition. She talks about her research; what it was like to compete in the Grad Slam; her inspiring grandmother, who was a muscle physiologist and strong advocate for women in science; her love for playing sports; and more.

4. Commencement Speaker Mike North: UCSB Ph.D. Alum, Nonprofit Founder, Discovery Channel Host, and ‘Indiana Jones of Technology’ (June 12)

It’s difficult to pigeonhole our 2014 Graduate Division Commencement speaker. Dr. Mike North obtained three degrees from UCSB. His dissertation research involved studying the natural adhesive found on the pad of a gecko’s foot. He became a TV show host and founder of a nonprofit. He has gone scuba diving with sharks and built a 30-foot, 90-mph fire-breathing Viking ship that he drove from Santa Barbara to Burning Man. We profiled this multifaceted, fascinating man.

5. Graduate Division Hosts a Summer Dissertation Writer’s Room (June 16)

Credit: Kyle CroccoThe opening of the first Graduate Division-hosted Dissertation Writer’s Room in the Student Resource Building was a big hit. The room provides a shared, quiet space to work on your dissertation. The room comfortably seats 18 writers and includes amenities such as ergonomic furniture, plenty of electrical outlets, coffee, water, snacks, and wireless. The room was so popular that it reopened in the fall quarter. And the space isn’t just for dissertation writers. All graduate students were invited to make use of the shared study space, whether they were completing a final round of revisions to their dissertations or writing their first graduate seminar papers.

6. ‘Tenured Professor’ and ‘Librarian’: Are These Really Low-Stress Careers? We Interview UCSB Faculty and Librarians (January 13)

We came across an intriguing study by the career information website, which annually issues its lists of the 10 Least Stressful and 10 Most Stressful Jobs. What caught our attention was that CareerCast proclaimed “Tenured University Professor” as the No. 4 Least Stressful Job and “Librarian” as No. 8 on its low-stress meter. The GradPost interviewed eight tenured professors and academic librarians at UCSB to get the real scoop on stress. What we found is that these careers, like any others, do have their challenges and stressors. However, professors and librarians we interviewed said they enjoy the intellectual stimulation; freedom to pursue research; schedule flexibility; and diversity of duties that come with working at one of the world’s top-tier research institutions. 

Credit: Melissa Barthelemy

7. History Grad Student, Other Volunteers Create Memorial Wall in The Arbor (June 2)

History Ph.D. student Melissa Barthelemy and other student volunteers worked throughout the night to repurpose a campus message wall into a memorial wall paying tribute to the UCSB students lost in the Isla Vista tragedy. Initially paying out of pocket to get this time-sensitive project going, Melissa (along with the other volunteer artists) “battled raccoons, skunks, and ferrel cats simultaneously (literally) until 1:30 a.m.” in The Arbor to finish the first phase of “We Remember Them: A Place of Healing at The Arbor.” Today, Melissa continues her volunteer efforts, working on a memorial preservation archive project in cooperation with the UCSB Library. She and the other volunteers hope to give USB sticks containing photos, videos, and other material to the families of the students who were killed.

8. UCSB Ph.D. Alum, Discovery Channel TV Show Host, ReAllocate Founder Mike North to Be Keynote Speaker at 2014 Graduate Division Commencement (March 13)

The initial announcement that Dr. Mike North agreed to be the Graduate Division’s Commencement speaker was also a popular article (see No. 4 above for his full profile feature). In this piece, Dr. North’s advisor, Mechanical Engineering Professor Kimberly Turner, said this about him: “Dr. North is definitely one of those students who continues to have lifetime lasting impact on me. It was clear from the first time I met him, as a UCSB undergrad, that he was destined for great things. He is definitely a man with passion for discovery, and a deep humanitarian side as well. From the highly engineered ‘fire-breathing dragon’ art car he built to take to Burning Man, to the first reversible gecko-based adhesion, Mike takes on everything at full speed.”

9. New UCSB Alum Casey O’Hara Puts His Bren Education to Work as Oregon Science Reporter Through AAAS Fellowship (July 9)

New Bren grad Casey O’Hara was one of 15 students nationwide to be awarded a Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This AAAS fellow (a former high school science teacher; medical-device developer; and Brengrass band musician) was assigned to the Oregonian newspaper in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, where he put his Bren education to good use as a science news reporter for the summer.

Infographic by Shawn Warner-Garcia

10. Who’s New at UCSB? We Introduce You to Our Incoming Graduate Student Cohort (September 25)

Professional Development Peer Shawn Warner-Garcia introduced us to a new cohort of graduate students at UC Santa Barbara. Her excellent, colorful infographics illustrated the statistics – from ages to countries of origin to fields of study. And she interviewed six new students to learn about their research interests, their favorite things to do, and what they look forward to the most about graduate school.

11. Grad Slam Semifinals: The Showdown Continues (April 14)

Academic Peer Torrey Trust breaks down the showdown for the Grad Slam Semifinals. Her bracket infographic shows which students were scheduled to face off against each other in two semifinal rounds.

Lara Deek, center, dancing the Argentine tango at the Seattle Tango Magic Festival.

12. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Lara Deek (January 24)

The GradPost profiles Computer Science Ph.D. student Lara Deek, who is doing research on designing more efficient and powerful wireless systems for emerging wireless networks. She talks about the “wonderful, multi-dimensional experience” of graduate school; her research into the “next-generation technology in the wireless world”; and her love of rock climbing, yoga, and the Argentine tango, among other topics.

13. 4 Ways to Be a Loving Neighbor: My Personal Perspective Amid Isla Vista Tragedy (May 24)

Diversity and Outreach Peer Hala Sun was heading home to IV after attending a wonderful musical event at the MCC Theater when she heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights of police cars and firetrucks. She soon learned about the tragic events in Isla Vista that night. Hala took some time to reflect and offer her suggestions for ways that members of the UCSB and Isla Vista communities can be loving neighbors to one another.

14. Candlelight Vigil Tonight at Storke Plaza (May 24)

We announced the university's plans for a candlelight vigil, where the community could come together to heal, comfort one another, and pay tribute to those lost in the Isla Vista tragedy. At the Storke Plaza event, students would hear from speakers and performers before joining the candlelight vigil and memorial walk into Isla Vista.


6 More Stories That Just Missed the Top 14 List

15. The Next Miss California Might Be UCSB’s Kara Smoot, Master’s Student in Music and Vocal Performance

16. Materials Ph.D. Student Leah Kuritzky Is Helping to Change the World of Lighting Forever

17. Welcome to the Dark Side of Academia: Fake Conferences and Faux Journals

18. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Jonathan Jones

19. UCSB’s First Feminist Studies Ph.D. to Be Awarded on Sunday, to Carly Thomsen

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

And our most-read GradPost pages of 2014 were: The Grad Slam and Grad Slam recaps pages; new students page; orientation page; off-campus and on-campus housing pages; first-year activities page; and our GradPost newsfeed Subscribe page.


GSA Has Immediate Need for an Acting Vice President of Student Affairs

Jason Hopkins, GSA’s Vice President of Student Affairs, has been hired by the Office of International Students and Scholars for the position of Scholar Specialist. With his hiring by the university, Jason is no longer allowed to serve in the GSA role. The following message was issued by GSA President Zach Rentz:

“With Jason's departure we now have a vacant executive position. There will be a special election to fill the Vice President of Student Affairs (VPSA) position at GSA's first assembly meeting on January 13 at 6 p.m. in the GSA Lounge. Until then, we need to appoint an acting VPSA to fill the role until the special election.

If you are interested in applying, please email Zach Rentz, the GSA President, ASAP. We need to appoint someone quickly so that they are prepared for certain meetings during the first week of the term before the special election, so we apologize for the short notice and expedited process.

We will be taking applications until midnight on December 24. Then, in accordance with GSA's bylaws, the Executive Committee will review the applications, vote, and hopefully appoint an acting VPSA by this coming weekend.

To apply, all you have to do is email Zach at a short bio, why you want to be the acting VPSA, and why you think you would be good at the position. Feel free to write to Zach in an email. … no need to put together a formal document.

Please click here for a description of the position."

Zach says the GSA is also looking to fill openings on several high-level committees where the UCSB graduate student body needs a grad student representative. The committees are: UCSB Campus Climate Implementation Committee; Search Committee for the UCSB Chief Information Officer; and Student Regent Nominating Commission. For more information about these committees and how to apply, read this announcement.


Sneak Peek into Upcoming Professional Development Programming

Before you finish grading, wrap up writing, and head home for the holidays, take a sneak peek into the exciting variety of professional development programming that the Graduate Division will be hosting in the winter quarter! Note: All dates and times subject to change. Be sure to subscribe to The GradPost to receive the most up-to-date information on programming and events for graduate students.



Interviews and Negotiating a Job Offer
: Karen Myers (Associate Dean of the Graduate Division) and David Seibold (Vice-Chair and Professor of Technology Management Program)
When: Friday, January 16, 1-2:30 p.m.
Where: SRB Multipurpose Room
(Check out the recap of our Fall quarter Academic Job Search Series panel discussion)


Academic Publishing Workshop
: Ryan Dippre (Writing Peer) and Shawn Warner-Garcia (Professional Development Peer)
When:Friday, February 6, 1-2 p.m.
Where: SRB Multipurpose Room

Credit: The Italian VoiceCV and Cover Letter Workshop
: Ryan Dippre (Writing Peer) and Shawn Warner-Garcia (Professional Development Peer)
When: Friday, February 27, 1-3 p.m.
Where: SRB Multipurpose Room

Graduate Student Career Series: The Art of Interviewing for Non-Academic Positions
: John Coate (Career Services Graduate Student Services Coordinator)
When: Wednesday, February 4, 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Where: SRB Multipurpose Room

Graduate Student Career Series: Successful Networking In Person and Online
: John Coate (Career Services Graduate Student Services Coordinator)
When: Wednesday, March 4, 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Where: SRB Multipurpose Room

Introduction to the Versatile Ph.D.
: Shawn Warner-Garcia (Professional Development Peer)
When: Wednesday, February 11, 11-11:30 a.m.
Where: Career Services, Resource Room


Finding Funding Workshops
: Kyle Crocco (Funding Peer)
When: Tuesday, January 20, and Thursday, February 5; noon-1 p.m. both days
Where: SRB 2154

Credit: Simon CunninghamFinancial Literacy 101: Loans, Credit, Budgets
: Kyle Crocco (Funding Peer)
When: Tuesday, February 10, noon-1 p.m.
Where: SRB 2154

Financial Literacy 102: Taxes
: Kyle Crocco (Funding Peer)
When: Tuesday, January 27, noon-1 p.m.
Where: SRB 2154

Financial Literacy 103: Insurance
: Kyle Crocco (Funding Peer)
When: Tuesday, February 17, noon-1 p.m.
Where: SRB 2154


Credit: Paul ShanksPerformance Enhancement: Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence, Principles of Communication, and Strategies for Difficult Conversations
: Turi Honegger (Assistant Clinical Director at UCSB Counseling and Psychological Services)
When: Tuesday, January 13, 3-5 p.m.
Where: 1601 Elings Hall

Intelligence, Principles of Communication, and Strategies for Difficult Conversations
: Turi Honegger (Assistant Clinical Director at UCSB Counseling and Psychological Services)
When: Tuesday, January 20, 3-5 p.m.
Where: SRB Multipurpose Room


Navigating the IRB Process
: UCSB Office of Research
Details TBD

Grant-Writing Workshop
: UCSB Office of Research
Details TBD


In partnership with other campus departments, the Graduate Division will present a series of workshops on public speaking, presentations, and stage presence. Stay tuned for more details!


Credit: OberazziIf you have any questions or suggestions about professional development programming you'd like to see in the future, please e-mail Robert Hamm, the Graduate Division's Director of Graduate Student Professional Development.




The Doctor Is In: December 2014 Edition

Source image credit: statue-of-libertyWelcome to the December 2014 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 outstanding faculty panel answer your questions about seeking out a mentor and balancing competing priorities.

About Our Faculty Panel

Miroslava Chavez-GarciaDr. Miroslava Chávez-García is Professor and Vice-Chair of the Chicana & Chicano Studies Department at UCSB. She received her Ph.D. in History from UCLA and is the author of the book "States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California's Juvenile Justice System" as well as articles on gender, patriarchy, and the law in 19th century California. She organizes and leads professional development workshops for UCSB and the Ford Foundation and is particularly passionate about helping scholars of color navigate academia.

Aaron EttenbergDr. Aaron Ettenberg is a Professor in the Psychological & Brain Sciences Department at UCSB. He received his Ph.D. in Psychopharmacology from McGill University and conducts research on the neurobiology of reinforcement and motivation with particular interest in the neural basis of drug abuse. He is a recipient of the UCSB Distinguished Teaching Award and the UCSB Graduate Mentor Award.



Susannah ScottDr. Susannah Scott is a Professor at UCSB with a joint appointment in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry and Biochemistry. She received her Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Iowa State University and is currently the director the NSF-sponsored Partnership for International Research and Education in Electron Chemistry and Catalysis at Interfaces, a collaborative research program involving UCSB and several prominent catalysis research groups in China. She was also recently named to the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Sustainable Catalytic Processing.


Q: How should graduate students ask a faculty member to be their mentor, especially if that person is not his/her academic advisor?

Dr. Scott: A graduate student’s thesis advisor expects to play a mentoring role throughout the entire arc of the thesis project and beyond. At the same time, many graduate students do not take full advantage of the mentoring opportunities that this relationship offers. A thesis advisor may assume that a student who doesn’t ask for help is not looking for advice. You should meet with your advisor regularly (e.g., every week or two), and these meetings are often student-initiated. The faculty member will be most receptive if you come well-prepared to meetings: be prompt, organize and bring your materials, and make a copy to leave with your advisor.

Asking a faculty member who is not your thesis advisor requires a little more planning. You can approach someone a few minutes before or after a class and break the ice by asking a casual (not too personal) question. Most professors are willing to chat with a student who appears thoughtful and interested. If the conversation requires more than a few minutes, you can say, “Would you mind if I contact you for more advice later?” and follow the cues that you receive.

Most likely, the faculty member will ask you to stop by her or his office or to send an email requesting an appointment. It’s best to spread your requests over time; if you bring a long list of questions that requires a considerable time commitment to answer all at once, you will likely scare your prospective mentor off. It is a relationship to build slowly, so be prepared to start small. Once you get to know each other, longer conversations will happen naturally and will not feel burdensome to either party.

Dr. Chávez-García: I would approach potential mentors as I would approach potential advisors: ask myself tough questions, do my homework, and then approach them. First, I would ask myself why it is I want a mentor when I already have an advisor? In most cases, they are the same person but not always, as mentors fulfill professional as well as personal needs.

To me, a mentor is someone who listens attentively, responds promptly, and provides practical answers to your questions and concerns. A mentor is also someone who guides and protects you for selfless reasons – not because they seek personal gain or self-promotion but because they want to promote you and your work. A mentor can be a role model – someone you wish to emulate – but they can also come from a different space or place (or career). As such, you shouldn’t limit yourself to one mentor. Rather, seek two or three who can provide you with a wide variety of insight on academia, including keys to publishing, the job market, expanding professional networks, and raising a family.

Second, I would ask myself why that individual? Is the choice based on what you heard or what you know? In other words, do your research, read their work, and identify common interests. Once you’re certain that they are the “one,” make an appointment and bring with you a set of prepared questions and list of common areas of interests and experience. Be prepared to discuss expectations (with permission, you might even contact their students for input). Professors want to engage in intellectually stimulating conversations.

Finally, remember, these are long-term relationships that need cultivation but, ultimately, cannot be forced. In my experience, they have grown naturally from having similar work ethics, personalities, and goals.

Dr. Ettenberg: One can have multiple mentors – people whose guidance, advice, and support help promote one’s career – without jeopardizing one’s relationship with an academic advisor (who presumably is also a mentor). The easiest way to proceed is to ensure that potential mentors are members of one’s dissertation committee. In this scenario, you should discuss potential committee members with your advisor, who will have valuable input on who would be a good match for your project. Then make an appointment or drop by the prospective committee member’s office (don't do the request over email!) and present the invitation with an explanation of why you and your advisor think that the person would be a good mentor.

If, however, this question is referring to a situation where the academic advisor is not in fact the best match for you, then the matter becomes much more delicate. In that scenario, you should have a prospective faculty member in mind and confidentially bring the name to the department chair, who can provide input and advise you on department policies about such matters.

Keep in mind that such changes are easier early in your graduate career but are much more complicated down the line after the current advisor has already invested time, energy, and sometimes money in support of your career. Assuming that there are no obstacles identified by the chair, then you should – again, confidentially – approach the prospective new advisor and explain why he/she is being asked about assuming this new role.

Only after a suitable replacement advisor has agreed to serve in that capacity should you then have an open and honest discussion with your current advisor. Most professors I know would be understanding in this situation, and while they may not think that the move is a good one, they would not be vindictive or prevent you from making the requested change.

Q: How can one balance professional and/or creative pursuits along with graduate coursework and research?

Dr. Chávez-García: When I hear the word “balance” associated with academic life, I often cringe. I say this because, as we all know, what balance means to one person is sheer madness to another. I think what we really mean to say is “priorities,” that is, how do we prioritize our responsibilities as well as our desires? (We cannot forget to consider those things that keep us sane, energized, and motivated to do our work.)

I believe that prioritizing our professional and personal lives involves establishing short- and long-term goals and figuring out which ones are most important. As new students, we know that developing an original research project is at the top but we should also realize that creating a strong curriculum vitae and building a professional network are equally important.

Establish your goals on a yearly basis and break those down into smaller segments so that you know what your goals are for each month and/or week. Admittedly I don’t do this as often as I’d like, but I generally have a sense of what I want to achieve and what is expected of me.

Of course, we – especially as women and people of color – often run into the pressure of being asked to participate on some committee or event because of the need to appear to be inclusive across race, ethnicity, and gender. (In such cases, my suggestion is to be selective when you say “yes” and feel confident that you can say “no” by responding that you would be delighted to participate if you didn’t already have x, y, and/or z going on. Tell them, too, to ask you at another time so that you don’t burn any bridges.) There are ways to say no while still appearing collegial.

Dr. Scott: There is no doubt that graduate courses and original research are both intellectually demanding and very time-consuming for most people. These also often count as professional and/or creative pursuits. Doing them well requires a major investment of your energy and a substantial amount of inspiration, but they don’t (and shouldn’t) have to occupy all of your waking hours.

Most people find that they need to take periodic breaks from intense work in order to function at their best. Often a change in the type of pursuit can be just as effective at helping you to recharge. You will sometimes find that solutions to academic problems emerge while your brain is working on them in “background mode,” precisely because you are focused on something else.

Instead of feeling guilty about taking breaks, view them as necessary to your creativity. When I was a graduate student, I rehearsed with an orchestra (for no credit towards my Ph.D.), just because I liked to concentrate really hard on something that had nothing to do with my research several times a week. Your resume will also benefit from showing that you have broader interests than just your work.

You should check that you are using time off to recharge, and not just to avoid doing work that you dislike. The length of time you need depends on you, but a good strategy is to assess your productivity and recognize when it starts to decline.

You should also check in regularly with yourself and your advisor to make sure you are making good progress. Your research advisor should not count the hours that you put in at the lab or the library, if you are advancing steadily towards your research goals.

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

Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 49 Next 10 Entries »