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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Summer 2014
(Email for availability)

Professional Development Peer:
Shawn Warner-Garcia

Diversity & Outreach Peer:
Hala Sun

Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco

Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre

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



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Campaign for Arts & Lectures Receives 2 Gifts for Endowment Totaling $1.25 Million From Towbeses, Fisher

The Campaign for Arts & Lectures recently received two major gifts totaling $1.25 million from generous local philanthropists.

Michael and Anne Towbes pledged $750,000, and Timothy Fisher pledged $500,000 in a planned gift to the Campaign for Arts & Lectures.

The gifts, which will benefit the Campaign for Arts & Lectures’ endowment funds, coincided with a week of events featuring educational outreach activities with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which were attended by more than 2,000 local students, from elementary schools to colleges.

From left, Campaign for Arts & Lectures donors Anne and Michael Towbes; Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, principal concert sponsor; and cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott, during a reception for Arts & Lectures’ endowment donors, following Yo-Yo Ma and Stott’s concert March 13 at The Granada. The Towbes gave $750,000 to UCSB Arts & Lectures’ endowment. Credit: Kimberly Citro

“It’s so gratifying to see successful fundraisers and healthy annual fund numbers,” said Anne Towbes, who together with her husband Michael also fund Towbes Fellowships for UCSB graduate students. “But it’s our support of the endowments, the solid financial footing on which these organizations rest, that is so very important in our ability, long term, to serve the community.”

From left, Campaign for Arts & Lectures donor Timothy Fisher with Wynton Marsalis during a concert fundraiser for Arts & Lectures’ education and outreach programs March 18 in Montecito. Timothy and Audrey Fisher gave $500,000 to UCSB Arts & Lectures’ endowment. Credit: Isaac HernandezSaid Timothy Fisher of his gift: “I feel humbled and privileged to be a founding donor of UCSB Arts & Lectures’ planned giving program. This bequeathed gift will boost the Arts & Lectures endowment, and I am so pleased that other UCSB Arts & Lectures Council members have followed my lead.” (Both Timothy Fisher and Anne Towbes are members of the Council for Arts & Lectures, the Campaign’s leadership group.)

“Arts & Lectures, under the leadership of Celesta Billeci and her capable staff, bring world-class performing artists and lecturers to Santa Barbara," Fisher said. "We are so fortunate that UCSB’s community outreach program is among the most successful in the country and has so enriched the culture of our community.”

The Towbeses’ and Timothy Fisher’s donations bring total contributions to the Campaign for Arts & Lectures to $12.8 million. The five-year campaign, which began in the summer of 2011, seeks to raise $20 million, to be split evenly between a permanent endowment and annual support.

“The generosity of Tim Fisher and the Towbeses represents a kind of targeted and effective philanthropy that can truly change a community,” said Celesta M. Billeci, Miller McCune Executive Director of UCSB Arts & Lectures. “These patrons work tirelessly, challenging others to fulfill their own philanthropic goals, further multiplying the fruits of their own generosity. We’re grateful to have Tim Fisher and Anne Towbes serving on the Campaign Council; it’s difficult to imagine a successful Campaign for Arts & Lectures without their constant support.”

For more information about the Campaign for Arts & Lectures, contact Arts & Lectures’ development office at 805-893-2174 or visit UCSB Arts & Lectures thanks for its major corporate support of the 2013-14 season.

For information on how to give to UCSB graduate education, please visit the Graduate Division’s Giving page, “Why You Should Support Graduate Education at UC Santa Barbara.”


Campus Climate Report Findings: UCSB Climate Mostly Comfortable

UCSB from the airFor those of you with no time to read the full 311 page Campus Climate Project Final Report, here is a summary of some of its key findings.

As you may recall, the UCSB community-- undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and staff--was asked to participate in a UC system-wide survey to evaluate a variety of issues relating to campus climate on the learning, living, and working environments. UCSB had a relatively high response rate of 30%.

The report was divided into areas of strength and areas to improve.


Campus Climate

84% of all survey respondents were “comfortable”/“very comfortable” with the campus climate at UC Santa Barbara.

Class Climate

82% of Graduate/Professional Students were “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with the climate in their classes.

Academic Experience

79% of Graduate/Professional Students were satisfied with their academic experience at UC Santa Barbara.


96% of Graduate/Professional Students intended to graduate from UC Santa Barbara.

Intellectual Stimulation

69% of Graduate/Professional Students felt many of their courses this year had been intellectually stimulating.


Areas to Improve

Exclusion and Hostile Conduct

23% of all respondents believed that they had personally experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct.

7% of all respondents indicated that this conduct interfered with their ability to work or learn on campus.

A higher percentage of racial, gender, and sexual minorities reported experiencing this conduct as compared to non-minorities. Likewise, a higher percentage of Undocumented Residents than Non-U.S. Citizens, and U.S. Citizens experienced this conduct.

Climate for People With Disabilities

Respondents with disabilities were less comfortable with the overall climate, with the workplace climate, and with the climate in their classes than were respondents without disabilities.

Unwanted Sexual Contact

8% of all respondents believed they had experienced unwanted sexual contact while at UC Santa Barbara within the last five years

However, only 2% of all Graduate/Professional Students reported this experience.


Most Non-Surprising Climate Report Fact

Dominate culture feels okay

White, heterosexual men with no disabilities felt the most comfortable of all groups on campus. (Strangely, this last fact was actually in areas of strength in the original report).


A Different Sort of March Madness: Measuring Universities' Influence

E-CardCredit: Funding PeerTime magazine has created a new way to rate and rank universities: by their influence.

The process is simple, unlike the system devised by U.S. News & World Report to rank schools. Time examined the Wikipedia profiles of each university's alumni and gave each alumni a score according to the length and breadth of their page.

Size does matter: the longer the length and the wider the breadth equals greater influence.

By this measure, UC Santa Barbara is two times more influential than UC Irvine, despite them having a graduate program that is two times larger that UCSB's. UC Santa Barbara scores a 45.8 on the influence ranking compared to UC Irvine's 21.3. I guess Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow being UCSB alumni really count for something.

This is not to be taken too seriously. Time devised the measure to make universities compete in a different way than basketball during March Madness.

If you want to play their bracket game and see how influential a school is, check out Chris Wilson's article, "Interactive: How Influential Is Your School?"  You might even find out that Harvard University scored a 666 on the scale. Not that that means anything.



UC President Janet Napolitano's Message on the New Presidential Policy against Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence

On March 7, 2014, University of California President Janet Napolitano sent an important message to the UC community on the new presidential policy on the protection against sexual harassment and sexual violence at the university (

Representatives from Academic Personnel, Human Resources, Student Affairs, Office of the General Counsel, and Title IX offices, have collaboratively worked to modify the existing policy to meet the federal requirement of adopting the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), signed by President Obama last spring. VAWA requires all institutions to comply with new regulations about responding to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

According to President Napolitano, this new presidential policy:

  • Identifies procedures for reporting and investigating an incident;
  • Specifies sanctions against perpetrators that may be imposed after disciplinary proceedings;
  • Protects the confidentiality of the victims;
  • Provides information on victims’ rights, support services, and requests for accommodation; and
  • Outlines training for faculty, staff, and students, as well as for people who investigate and conduct hearings.

President Napolitano mentioned that this policy “will continue to evolve” to strengthen the security and to increase support at the UC. The UC also anticipates new regulations related to VAWA from the Department of Education in November 2014. For more information about the policy, please get in touch with the Office of Equal Opportunity & Sexual Harassment / Title IX Compliance (OEOSH/TC).


The Up's and Down's of Graduate School

Credit: PhD Comics

In the recent article, "The Six Stages of Graduate Education," author William Pannapacker paints a dreary picture of graduate school. Pannapacker details his thoughts and anxieties during his six years in a graduate program in English. While there are a few exciting parts, such as getting accepted into a graduate program with funding, passing exams, and publishing articles, the majority of the article focuses on Pannapacker's overwhelming anxiety and depression.

It is normal to experience anxiety, depression, and isolation during graduate school. Graduate school is extremely challenging - don't let anyone tell you otherwise! However, rather than seeing yourself as the victim of all of the stressors and challenges in graduate school, think about what you can do to improve your situation.

Interestingly, after reading this article, I came across Carol Morgan's essay "13 Things to Remember when Life Gets Rough," which provides good advice for making it through the low points of graduate school. Morgan focuses on actions you can take (e.g., making changes, letting go, reframing your mindset) to make the most of your situation. One of my favorite suggestions from this article is "Appreciate the Moment." It's so easy in graduate school to worry about the future (e.g., "What if I freeze in the middle of defense? What if I don't pass my exams? What if I don't get a job?"). Take some "me time" daily to sit back, relax, and enjoy the present moment. Practicing gratitude is another thing you can do to appreciate the moment.

So, the next time you hit a rough patch in graduate school, think about the actions you can take to transform the negative into a positive.


Do You Suffer from Fragitidy: The Fragile Rigid Ego?

Fragitidy e cardFragitidy can happen in close relationships. Credit: Funding Peer.Are you frarigid? No, not frigid. I mean, fragilely rigid? As in, your, you know, ego.

Do you find that people are attacking you wherever you go because they are stupid and judgmental? Do they deliberately provoke you with what they claim to be are "innocent" questions, but are truly passive-aggressive attacks on your awesomeness?

Well, then you might suffer from Fragitidy, a term and condition that is definitely not made up.

In an article by Jerry Sherman, he describes that fragitidy is something that can happen to any of us from time to time. It is the opposite of resilience and adaptiveness. We perceive attack from everywhere and attack back to protect our ego.

For fragitid people there is only right and wrong. They are right and you are wrong.

Fragitidy can happen to everyone: in close relationships, in times of economic downturn, and political debate. Maybe you know a graduate student or professor who is fragitid. Maybe it's you.

It's also contagious. If you're around fragitid people, it's hard not to react in the same way. The best way to know if you have fragitidy is if you're accusing others of having being fragitid. The best way to avoid being fragitid is to stay away from people who are.

For more on this topic, check out Jerry Sherman's article in Psychology Today, "Fragidity: The Fragile Rigidity of the Brittle Ego."


Important Research Explains Why We Hate Hawaiian Shirts

Hawaiian ShirtWorld's Largest Hawaiian Shirt Credit: Tammy GreenIf you're like me, you probably have spent many late, lonely nights wondering why you hated Hawaiian shirts so much. Fortunately, science has come to our rescue with an answer as obvious as it is well-researched.

In their article "Funny Kine Clothes: The Hawaiian Shirt As Popular Culture," Marcia Morgado and Andrew Reilly, from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, used a semiotic framework, paradigmatic analysis, and other terms I don't quite understand to show that the Hawaiian shirt has been associated with a stereotype of the tourist as a "sartorial clod;" as a preeminent symbol of casual dress; and a revered icon of the spirit of local Island culture.

Basically, the meaning of the Hawaiian shirt revolves around its contrast to customary dress: its peculiarity; its brightness; and association with sloppiness. Or in regular terms: weird, ugly, and lazy.

Which fit in well with what they discovered to be the popular image of the tourist in a Hawaiian shirt: fat, foolish, and inferior.

So, the reason you hate the shirt so much is not because the shirts are so ugly, it's because you think you're better than tourists. And, let's face it, you are. Have you seen the shirts they wear?

For more positive associations of the shirt and an in-depth explanation of their analysis techniques, read their study Funny Kine Clothes: The Hawaiian Shirt As Popular Culture.

Or for another take on this pressing issue, see the Popular Science commentary on this article by Colin Lecher, "A Scientific Look At Why You Hate Hawaiian Shirts."

Disturbing Note: The authors revealed there was a large body of literature for studies on the Hawaiian shirt. Think about it.


Future of College: Exit Exams or Competency-Based Degrees?

Credit: Funding PeerWhat will college be like in the future? Technology aside, what will you be expected to do to earn your degree?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has recently written about two ways you man earn your degree in the future: exit exams and competency-based degrees.

On the one side of the future continuum, states are proposing a student cannot graduate college without passing an exit exam to show he or she has learned something. On the other side, some states are proposing students could get college credit without even taking classes. They would just need to demonstrate competence in their field of knowledge, without attending classes.

Which one is more likely to become reality?

Let's look at what's on the table.

Exit Exams

In the article "States Demand That Colleges Show How Well Their Students Learn," Dan Berrett explains how in Missouri, some colleges like the University of Missouri are using professional licensure tests for the fields of accounting, nursing, and teaching, to gauge how well their students are doing in their majors.

Other colleges in Missouri are evaluating their students based on general-education offerings. They are using a standardized test (the Educational Testing Service's Proficiency Profile to be exact) to assess mathematics, reading, and writing. And just when students thought they were done with the SAT...

On the other side of the continuum are:

Competency-Based Degrees

In the article "Competency Based Degrees: Coming Soon To A Campus Near You," Joel Shapiro explains how some schools in New Hampshire and Wisconsin are using competency-based programs for students to gain academic credit by demonstrating their competence through a combination of assessment and documentation of real-world experience.

Competency models are based on the value of experiential learning, in which students develop their skills in real-world contexts. To gain credit, students would present a portfolio of their accomplishments, like creating a website if they were a web designer.

The Future?

While the competency-based degree model does have weaknesses, as in how will a student's work be assessed, it does put a value on showing students can do something with the knowledge they have learned, unlike standardized exams.

On the other hand, colleges probably won't be too happy with suggesting that real-world experience is a substitute for college classes. Colleges are more likely to look to standardized exams to prove students have "learned" something.


Don't Worry If You Can't Think Outside The Box: No One Else Can Either

Thinking outside the box solution. Credit: Anne KnockHave you ever wondered why you can't think outside of the box? Well, no need to worry. Apparently, no one else can either.

What is thinking outside of the box anyway?

The whole "thinking outside of the box" thing came to being when J. P. Guilford, one of the first academic researchers to study creativity, asked subjects in his research study to connect nine dots using only four straight lines, all without lifting their pencil from the page. Easy, right?

Well, only 20 percent of his test subjects could solve the problem. The remaining 80 percent thought the whole thing was stupid. They also failed to see the solution lay in drawing lines that extended beyond the area defined by the dots (the box). Those who could "think outside of the box" (defined by the nine dots) were seen as creative, cool, and unconventional thinkers, and not the nerds that they actually were.

"Thinking outside of the box" eventually became the overused catchphrase for creativity that we all use but secretly don't understand.

Until now, that is. Recently two different research teams (Clarke Burnham with Kenneth Davis, and Joseph Alba with Robert Weisberg) discovered that the 80 percent were right after all: the test was stupid.

Both teams repeated the experiment, using two groups of people. One group was given the same instructions as in Guilford's experiment (connect the nine dots with four lines while not lifting the pencil from the paper), and another group got those same directions with additional advice: you can draw outside of the area defined by the nine dots (the box) in order to solve the problem.

What did these researchers discover? The test was stupid. Or, at least the implications were. There was also no difference between the groups, statistically speaking.

Cat In BoxCredit: Cassandra Arnold

With the original instructions, only 20 percent solved the problem as usual. With the added advice to draw outside of the box, only 25 percent of the subjects solved the problem. However, this 5 percent difference was considered so lame as to be statistically insignificant and the result of sampling error, meaning that solving the nine dot problem did not require "out of the box" thinking at all.

In fact, people who think outside of the box are no more creative, cool, or unconventional than those of

us who think inside the box. Just ask any cat.

For more on this topic, read the Psychology Today article by Drew Boyd, "Thinking Outside the Box: A Misguided Idea."

For more on what's stupid, read the Steven Bowman commentary, "You Know What's Stupid? Everything I Don't Understand."


Can't Get Sleep? You Might Just Have a Hyperactive Brain

InsomniacCredit: Funding PeerGraduate students and lack of sleep go together like due dates and coffee. But if you are not sleeping well, is it because of your bad caffeine habit or is it because your brain won't shut down?

The implications of a recent brain study by Dr. Rachel Salas, an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, might just provide the answer to that question that has been keeping you up all night.

Salas and her colleagues studied the brains of 18 insomniacs and 10 good sleepers and discovered that insomniacs' brains may be in a constant “on” state, meaning their brains continue to operate at high levels even when they are supposed to be calming down to recharge at night.

However, it is still not clear from the study which came first: insomnia or the hyperactive brains. That is to say, do insomniacs have more active brains, which robs them of their rest, or do chronic sleep disruptions caused by insomnia lead to people having more hyperactive brains? (And Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)

For more on this study, read the Time article by Alice Park, "Insomniac? You Might Have a Hyperactive Brain."

For some sleep advice tips, check out the Psychology Today article by Rebecca Searles, "Sleep and Grad School: How Important Is It For Students?"