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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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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?"


Main Library Will Be Closed March 28-30

Construction UpdatesIf you were planning on spending your Spring Break holiday hanging out in the UCSB main library, then think again. Fate, this blog, and the library's renovation plans are sending you a message to go somewhere else.

The main library will be closed March 28-30 in order to complete a power source transfer that will result in a building-wide power outage. However, the online research databases will remain accessible from the library website.

For those needing access to library services such as laptops, computers, and scanners, the Arts Library will have limited hours during those days.

Arts Library Hours:

Friday, March 28: Closed (Cesar Chavez holiday)

Saturday, March 29: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday, March 30: 2 to 10 p.m.

The main library will reopen on Monday, March 31, at 8 a.m.


Find Your Quiet Study Space in Corwin Pavilion During Finals Week

Credit: Funding PeerRoommates driving you crazy? Tired of the nightlife ruining your study life? Just need a quiet place to finish that class paper?

Then check out "Late Night Study in Corwin" this Finals Week in Corwin Pavilion. The Pavilion will be open from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. between Saturday, March 15, and Tuesday, March 18.

No need to rough it. Corwin Pavilion is equipped for all your high-tech and study needs with wireless Internet access, rows of study tables, and power strips able to accommodate 216 of your closest friends. There is even a campus safety officer.

“Late Night Study in Corwin” is intended to provide an additional quiet study space during the high-peak Finals Week while the Library undergoes its Addition & Renovation Project.

Other Places to Get Your Study On Include:

The first two floors of the UCSB Library:  open 24/7 for Overnight Study for registered UCSB students, faculty, and staff.

The UCen’s UStudy Center: open 24/7 from Saturday, March 15, at 9 a.m. through Friday, March 21, at 1 a.m.


Grad Slam Advice: How to Design a Winning Presentation

At the 2013 Grad Slam, more than 80 students took the stage to describe the impact and value of their research or big ideas. In the end, only 9 students advanced to the final round; and only one of the 9 finalists won $2,500 (and two runners-up received $1,000).

I attended eight of the nine preliminary rounds. I also presented in the third preliminary round and advanced to the final round. Based on my experiences as a participant and audience member, I put together some tips to help you design a Grad Slam-worthy presentation (Note: the tips are organized by the judging rubric themes to help you score additional points):

Clear and Effective Presentation

Presentation is Geared Toward a General University Audience

  • Avoid jargon, lengthy words, or technical terms
  • KISS (Keep it simple, student)
  • Pretend that you are sharing your research with a family member, friend, or someone who you randomly met in an elevator (e.g., what is your "elevator speech?")
  • Simplify graphs and charts and make sure to explain all of your visuals.
  • Share foundational/basic knowledge before jumping into the advanced content (e.g., what is a semiconductor and why is it important?)

Intellectual Significance

  • Regardless of what topic you are researching, your research matters to society - make that point! (read: Your Research Matters)
  • Share stories to help the judges and audience connect with your research
  • Appeal to emotion (e.g., "This is an example of a student who dropped out of high school due to microaggressions and bullying...what if this was your friend or child?")
  • Describe the broader impact of your research
  • Describe how your research advances your field of study (e.g., How does it build on the literature? What gaps does it address?)

If you are interested in participating in the 2014 Grad Slam, visit:

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