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Graduate Peers Hours

Spring 2014

Academic Peer:
Torrey Trust

Mon: 1 to 4 p.m.
Tues: 1 to 4 p.m.
Wed: noon to 3 p.m. 

Diversity & Outreach Peer:
Hala Sun


Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco


Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre

Tues: 10 to 11 a.m. &
2 to 6 p.m.
Wed: 9 to 11 a.m.
Thurs: 10 to 11 a.m. 
Fri: 9 to 11 a.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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The Harder Truth: A Tale of the Stadium’s Spectre

UCSB Men's Soccer team player Daniel Welsh, about to be pelted with a flying tortilla, relives "The Tale of the Harder Stadium Spectre."

Grad students, if you’re new to the campus you may not have heard about this. A little known story is that a ghost inhabits UCSB’s Harder Stadium. In fact, it has a peculiar taste for tortillas.

“Harder can be a really, really dark place,” UCSB Men’s Soccer team player Daniel Welsh tells freshman Drew Murphy as they warm themselves in front of the roaring fire on their cellphone app.

In the spirit of Halloween, view the haunting video below to learn “The Tale of the Harder Stadium Spectre.”

Trick or treat?!

The Tale of the Harder Spectre from UC Santa Barbara on Vimeo.





From Kal to Cal – Kalavakkam to California – a Grad Student's Poem

Prasanna VenkateshEditor's note:

Prasanna "Prasy" Venkatesh, from Chennai, India, is a second-year master’s student in Electrical Engineering with a specialization in Communications and Signal Processing. Prasy earned a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communication Engineering from SSN College of Engineering, affiliated with Anna University in Chennai, in 2012. In his free time, he likes to play cricket, go to the movies, travel, hike, and try new cuisines. He also enjoys singing with the South Asian a capella group Ravaani on campus; and writing both poetry and humor articles.

The following poem, Prasy’s first published submission to the GradPost, offers a look at the life of an international grad student at UCSB.


Arrived as an alien here at LAX

         Availing an educational loan of 20 Lakhs

Bachelor of Engineering at AU for four years

         Shaped us as dormant and latent engineers

California for the Master’s, as they used to say

         For the fun, sun, work, job, and pay

Daylight Saving - Still I wonder

         Is that a necessity or a complete blunder?

Every festival in India leads to FB posts

         We are “jointly detached” from the actual hosts

Free food and freebies are all that we hear

        “Apply Online,” “Couple of Weeks” - these two cause fear

GPA shouldn't create any pressure

         Although Giga Pascal is a measure

Home away from home is well understood

        When your roomies think on the same wavelength as you would

Prasanna Venkatesh, bottom right, and other members of the a capella group Raavani, performed at USC in Winter 2012.

In the morning, I eat bread with nutella

        And in my leisure I sing a capella

Justification of project ideas is always expected

        And I reply with Ctrl+J, totally unexpected

Kalavakkam to California with so much pride

        The master’s life is nevertheless a bumpy ride

Living in the United States without chasing a dream

        Is like eating a bourbon without its cream

Muffins for the lunch and an apple for dinner

        Not only in the paint shop you get “thinner”

Prasanna Venkatesh celebrates Halloween on Del Playa in 2012.Nights spent on board games, cards, and entertainment

        Are more remembered than those for projects and assignments

Out-of-the-box thinking is the need of the hour

        It can take us higher than the Eiffel Tower

Provisions from Costco and Wal-Mart we buy in bulk

         And while carrying them we think of ourselves as Hulk

Quarter system is indeed hectic

       All work and no play sometimes makes you sick

Rapturous noise we make at the end of the quarter

       Whatever the world thinks, it doesn’t matter

Prasanna Venkatesh performs at Petco Stadium in San Diego in summer 2013 as part of a competition for Qualcomm summer interns.Songs are indeed the best companion

       Like the vegetable curries garnished with onion

Tete-a-tete with a good close friend

       Can change your life and set the trend

Uncertainties are very certain here

        Life takes a twist there and here

Valiant effort is what they expect

        If you are not shrewd, you are screwed

We should learn from people who are smart

        who don’t take success to mind and failure to heart

Xperience the difference

          Xperience the transition

Xperience the time zone change

          Xperience the temperature range

So many in X, as master’s is full of X factors

You Yes Yay!! – the world’s superpower

          Why don’t you follow kilometers per hour?

Zillions of things more to write

           This is just to give insight.

Prasanna Venkatesh, in gray shirt at back left, enjoys a picnic lunch with fellow singing group members outside Campbell Hall in spring 2013.


Lost and Found: Associate Dean Recovers a Bicycle, Shares Valuable Lessons Learned

Associate Dean Don Lubach's beloved bicycle – it was lost but now is found.I lost my bike, I used my network and benefitted from this amazing community. I found my bike, and I learned some things. That’s what this post is about.

There is hardly anything I enjoy more than using a bicycle as my primary vehicle. It is the most practical way to get from my home in Goleta to my job at UCSB, it keeps my family’s ecological footprint a little smaller, and it saves us a lot of money.

When I emerged from my office after working late one recent Tuesday, my happy bicycle commuting world took a tumble. My bicycle was not where I had parked it. Ouch! This is the first locked bicycle I have ever lost between 1982 and the present.

I went back up to my office, dashed off a “please find my bike” status note on Facebook, and used my folding bike for the ride home. Once at home, I posted lost-bike notes on Craigslist and Reddit, and I sent a picture of my bike to Corporal Matthew Stern of the UCSB Police Department. Corporal Stern is not only representative of our fine police force, he is also mildly obsessed with bicycle safety, theft, and a good experience for those using any and all modes of transportation on campus.

Earlier on this same day, I had sent Matt this article comparing nearly every make and model of bicycle lock. Part of me thought that Stern was working late and playing a trick on me for using the least secure lock for my cargo bicycle.

As the hours elapsed, my certainty grew that my beloved cargo bicycle was gone. I starting thinking about what lessons I ought to take away from this experience. This was the first bicycle I had lost in more than 20 years. So it was time for UCSB’s First-Year Dean to go back to school on the essentials of bicycle security on campus.

The right way to lock a bike, according to Associate Dean Don Lubach.

Lesson one: Register your bike. My family has a lot of bikes and I was behind on getting them all registered. A registered bike has a better chance of being recovered. It is also still the law that all bicycles on our campus must be registered. Since I changed the frame on my cargo bicycle, I had not had the new frame registered. I was ashamed to share this with my friends in the UCSB Police Department. You can bet that when I collect my bike this week, it will be registered. After our fall startup of registrations, students can go to the Police Department’s Community Service Organization headquarters and get their bikes registered for just $10. While we are in the Week of Welcome, you’ll find CSOs at locations all around campus registering bikes.

Lesson Two: U is for University and also for U-Lock. The article that I sent to Corporal Stern covers, among other things, how stupid it is to use a cable lock. The author points to a study from another bicycle Mecca, Minneapolis, finding that 90% of bicycles stolen were locked with cable and not U-locks. Mine was locked with a combination cable lock. I have now ordered one of these locks.

Lesson Three: Friends and family are amazing. I am grateful to have a caring network. As word got out about the missing bike, I received an amazing amount of support from friends and family. My sister gave me insurance tips; my mother worried for me; my friend, Steve, sent me an admonishment about using a poor lock; and a lot of friends offered to help catch the thief. A fellow student affairs professional even created and posted a Find Don’s Bike bulletin to her social network. My fellow members in the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition also expressed support and provided ideas. Eventually, two of my friends recovered my bike.

Associate Dean Lubach's bicycle was recovered by UCSB police.Lesson Four: Keep faith in strangers. An MTD driver saw my Craigslist post and the picture of my bike. He remembered seeing the bike while driving on his route. He sent me a response with a phone number. I waited to call until I contacted Corporal Stern. The call turned out to be authentic and Nick shared the location that resolved the case. I have witnessed MTD drivers doing many kind things while at the wheel. The fact that Nick took time to contact me after his shift is incredible and far beyond the expected job description of a driver.

Lesson Five: The UCSB Police Department provides a great service to our campus. Even with what I consider their much more important priorities of preventing assaults and other unsafe behaviors, our department makes time to attend to the needs of cyclists. I appreciate when I see our officers using bicycles instead of Crown Victorias as they do their important work. I am happy to see them issuing warnings and citations to sidewalk riders and those who ignore stoplights. The Community Service Organization, a branch of our department, does great work when it comes to bicycle safety. Their supervisor posted a photo of my eccentric bike and challenged them to find it.

For years, Associate Dean Don Lubach would take his daughter to school by bike. Credit:

Happy ending! When we got a tip about the location of the bike, Stern drove his police cruiser over to the spot and recovered it. While he was there, Ignacio Gallardo, a friend and co-worker who had also spotted the bike, stopped to recover it. Two of my friends finding the family bike at the same time – what a wonderful coincidence. My admiration for my friends, UCSB professionals, and the goodness of strangers has been renewed and secured in my heart – this time with a sturdier U-Lock.


Editor's note: Dr. Don Lubach is Associate Dean of Students and Director of First-Year and Graduate Initiatives.


Graduate School Tips for Success

In the following article, guest writer Ariel Schindewolf, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, shares her advice for successfully navigating graduate school.

I've learned a lot and made A LOT of mistakes in my five years of grad school. Ideally, by sharing my lessons, maybe I can help a few of you not make some of the same mistakes I have made. However, I'm sure you'll still come up with your own creative variety, which perhaps you will prevent future generations from making.

1. Do things while you're thinking of them. As I have learned so many times from not taking notes while reading, I often I don't remember what I read, and then I have to reread!

Demystifying Dissertation Writing book cover2. Read skill books such as "Demystifying Dissertation Writing" EARLY and OFTEN! And, for Applied Linguistics students, read books such as "Writing an Applied Linguistics Thesis or Dissertation: A Guide to Presenting Empirical Research" LATER. The first one should really be read either at the completion of your M.A. degree or at the VERY beginning of your Ph.D. It helps you learn how to organize everything from the very beginning stages. If you read a book like this too late, it's still helpful, but when you don't have all the previous structure built in, it's so much harder to make up for lost time. Read it once at the beginning of graduate school and then refer to it along the way when you've inevitably forgotten what it said. 

Read a book specific to your topic when you're starting to write your dissertation. The book above is geared toward my topic, but this type of book is very helpful if, like me, you struggle with the organization of such a large paper and how to organize ideas in a purposeful fashion.

3. If you feel like an imposter, you're NOT alone. Try not to dive into the feeling that you're the only one who doesn't know what you're doing, and therefore, you are ashamed to admit that you need the kind of help that you think you shouldn't. I'm pretty sure we've all felt this at some point, if not on a regular basis. This leads to ...

4. Ask for the help that you need. Never be afraid to seek counsel and advice from those around you. Ask your advisers, ask your peers, ask Google, whatever it is, never be afraid to ask!

5. Support each other. It's a long road through grad school, with lots of twists and turns. The more you feel like it's a team effort and that you're not alone, the less likely you are to suffer the odd health issues and depression of many grad students before you. (This is NOT at all scientific fact, just my sense.)

6. If you plan to continue in academia, your dissertation is NOT your end point. You're expected to have plans for ongoing scholarly work that is related to what you're studying now. When you have ideas for related topics or tangents that you want to go on, write those ideas down and save them for your five-year plan.

Source: Microsoft Office7. Write early and write often. Write as much as you can as you go. Write up your methods as you do them, or right after. Don't wait until you have all of your data collected and analyzed to start writing! If you're writing about literature, write your thoughts down in complete sentences, particularly the ones that connect one idea to another. Also, insert your references as you write. Make sure to get an electronic reference program, such as EndNote, Zotero, or Mendeley. Don't be afraid of writing. The earlier you start writing, the more time you have for revising to appease that inner perfectionist.

8. Share your ideas at conferences. Conferences are not as competitive as I thought. For those of you in literature, please, please try to break the mold and don't just read your papers out loud during a conference presentation. Find a way of expressing your ideas in a way that's comprehensible to listeners. If you can't do that, at the very least, make sure the paper isn't so long that you're speed reading; less is more. The concept being that ideas should be shared. If they can't be understood, it's neither engaging nor fruitful. Remember, don't be afraid that your ideas aren't good enough – they'll get better and more clear the more you share.

9. Find your own voice and don't lose your passions. One of the biggest parts of grad school is becoming a scholar in your own right. Start developing your own perspective and writing about others' work from your own unique perspective early on in grad school. While your focus is on becoming a scholar, I highly recommend continuing to be a whole person. Don't forget that there are other things in life and there are bigger reasons you may have come here. Get out there and be creative and be your whole person. Life doesn't start when you graduate – it's happening every day. Cultivate your best self.

10. Never be afraid to fail. I've learned more from my failures than I ever could have hoped. While I may complain and whine and blame, at the end of the day, I figure out how to pick myself after having fallen from the heights of being the bright student in class to the one who has studies that fail and struggles to organize herself well enough. Being a good student does not equal having an easy time of getting a doctorate. If anything, battling my ego has created some unexpected obstacles along the way. But ultimately, many times in life it turns out that my failures have led to my greatest achievements. If I hadn't failed, I don't know that I would've succeeded.

Reframe the negative into positive and push against the constant wave of negativity by embracing your failures and your weaknesses. Counterintuitively, this can become your greatest strength in an environment full of fragile egos.

To those of you who have made it this far, thanks for wondering what I've learned. This isn't all of it, but it's a good start. Please feel free to engage in a conversation about these lessons, share your own, and ask questions. I hope that something I've learned will help at least one of you.

Con mucho cariño,



Beauty’s All Around You at UCSB – Enjoy It!

Campus Point Beach on a sunny and warm August day. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

As I was taking a lunchtime stroll along Campus Point Beach and the UCSB Lagoon the other day, I reflected on how fortunate I was to have such incredible natural beauty within steps of my office.

Birds look majestic in formation over the ocean at Campus Point. Credit: Patricia MarroquinBirds were soaring in formation overhead, families were beachcombing, joggers and bicyclists were flying past me, and one man was taking in the panoramic scene from the cliffs.

The nation has also taken notice of our beauty. When I was back in my opaque-windowed office later, I did a little online searching and came across a 2012 article that reported UC Santa Barbara ranking No. 8 on a list of 25 Most Beautiful Schools.

Newsweek and College Prowler teamed up to consider such factors as architectural aesthetics, weather (including the number of sunny days a year and the average “comfort index”), and even the attractiveness of the student body.

I didn’t need a study with its rankings to tell me that UCSB is beautiful. I have proof here in these cellphone photos from a single, hour-long lunchtime walk yesterday, where all I had to do was look up, down, and around. On this outing I didn't have time to get over to the Labyrinth, but that's another great place to visit for beauty and serenity.

Women bicycle around UCSB Lagoon, with Storke Tower in the background. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

On my walk, I even encountered a woman on the beach who tried to get me to remove my slip-on athletic shoes and walk barefoot on hot sand rather than wet sand because “it’s good for your health.”

I can’t deny that going for a walk amid beautiful surroundings in great weather is bound to make me feel healthier and happier.

So grad students, go out and enjoy the beauty around you for better mental and physical health!

A man takes in a sweeping view of Campus Point Beach from the cliffs. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Doing a little beachcombing. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

A man takes a jog on the beach and a woman rides solo on a bicycle built for two at UCSB Lagoon. Credit: Patricia Marroquin


UC Santa Barbara’s Year in Pictures, 2012-2013

Rusha al-Rawaf, 2013 Graduate Division Commencement student speaker. Credit: Patricia MarroquinThe Office of Public Affairs and Communications has taken a look in pictures at the 2012-13 academic year at UCSB in a slideshow called “Convocation to Commencement: A Year of Discovery and Innovation at UC Santa Barbara.”

The university’s faculty and you, the students, generated revolutionary research and conducted groundbreaking work over the past year. The campus was recognized with prestigious honors, from a Guggenheim Fellowship to an Academy Award.

UC Santa Barbara this year was ranked second in the world – ahead of Harvard, Stanford, and Yale – in terms of its research impact for the sciences. Guests enjoyed enthralling performances by the likes of Wynton Marsalis. The university also started work on its new state-of-the-art library complex.

Take a look back now in this 2-minute video with dozens of photos from the past year. But don’t blink or you may miss Graduate Division’s student speaker for our 2013 Commencement, Rusha al-Rawaf. She appears at about 1:38. 

Congratulations, everyone, on a great year!

UC Santa Barbara 2012-13: The Year in Pictures from UC Santa Barbara on Vimeo.



UCSB Recreation Summer Adventure Programs

KayakingInterested in exploring the outdoors this summer?

UCSB Recreation is offering all sorts of fun outdoor adventure programs. Here are a few of the notable programs:

  • Santa Cruz Channel Island Hiking & Camping
  • Sierra Backpacking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Climbing for Fitness
  • Kayaking
  • Adventure Ropes Course
  • SCUBA Certification Course

To learn more about these programs, go to the UCSB Recreation Online Regisration site, click on "Register for Programs & IM Leagues," and then select "Adventure Programs" on the left-hand navigation menu.


Working From Home? Here's How to Increase Your Productivity 

PhD Comics: Summer To Do

This summer I will be collecting and analyzing data for my dissertation. Other than spending a few hours a week at the Graduate Student Resource Center, I will be conducting my research and writing from home.

While working at home may seem ideal, it's amazing how easy it is to get distracted by cleaning, cooking, turning on the TV, or playing with pets. While I strongly encourage you to take breaks and do any of these things, when you work from home, you need to make sure you can meet your goals and deadlines and continue to be productive regardless of all of the distractions.

If you are interested in learning how you can increasing your productivity from home, check out the MakeUseOf article, "How to Be More Productive When Working From Home." The article features a lot of helpful tips and ideas.

My favorite tip is to create a to-do list the night before. I am a big fan of to-do lists. They are great for accountability and for improving your sense of accomplishment.

What works for you? How do you stay productive from home?

Share your advice in the comments section.


Reflections on the Digital Media & Learning Summer Institute

Torrey Trust DML instituteAs a 2013 Digital Media & Learning Summer Fellow, I had the great fortune of attending a weeklong summer institute in San Francisco. The week was filled with presentations, working with mentors, peer-reviewing papers, and of course, fun things like exploring the California Academy of Sciences and taking field trips.

I had the opportunity to receive feedback and brainstorm ideas for my dissertation research from two fabulous mentors: Jabari Mahiri, a professor in Education at UC Berkeley, and Carina Wong, the Deputy Director of Education for the College Ready Work Team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I also presented my dissertation proposal and received feedback from all of the DML Summer Fellows and Mentors.

I was lucky to have not one, but two, epiphanies during the week that helped me reconceptualize and strengthen my research. Through informal and formal conversations with the DML fellows, faculty, staff, and mentors, I realized that I had the opportunity to design a new conceptual framework to help researchers understand how learning and professional growth occur in social networking sites. I also discovered how my research could be applied across multiple informal learning contexts.

Exploratorium view of SFView of downtown San Francisco from the ExploratoriumThis opportunity demonstrated the value of working with and learning from others. In graduate school, you rarely have a chance to solicit feedback beyond your committee members. It is up to you to take advantage of opportunities that allow you to share your research with others and to receive feedback from individuals outside of your department (e.g., faculty-graduate student mentoring programs, graduate student seminars at conferences and networking). This requires being involved and active in your field. You can do this by becoming a member of a professional organization, participating in conferences, attending networking events, and signing up for listservs or online professional groups that share important announcements about events and opportunities in your field.

Additionally, it also helps when you can share your research with anyone. This will give you a chance to make your research accessible to a general audience and to solicit feedback. Salomon (1993) and Hutchins’ (1995) notion of distributed cognition is based on the idea that no single individual can have all of the knowledge in a field. Therefore, the more people that you talk to and brainstorm with, the better chance you have of making a new discovery, having an epiphany, and strengthening your research.


Salomon, G. (1993). Editor’s introduction. In G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hutchins, E. (1995). How a cockpit remembers its speeds. Cognitive Science, 19(3), 265-288.


Parenting and Expectant Graduate Student Resources

This week The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the Department of Education’s attempts to clarify the rights educational institutions must afford pregnant and parenting students. The Department of Education released a letter and a pamphlet with updates to a 1991 version of a similar informational pamphlet explaining pregnant and parenting student rights schools must observe.  

Exactly what rights do pregnant and parenting graduate students have and what entities ensure that students are granted these rights? According to The Chronicle, the major reasons parenting rights are an issue is due to retention problems. In the letter to educational institutions DE Acting Secretary for Civil Rights Seth Galanter added that institutions should encourage parenting students to continue their education rather than dropping out. Parenting students are more likely than non-parenting students to leave schoolbefore finishing their degree program.

Among the most poignantly outlined pregnant and parenting student rights in the newly released pamphlet are the following:  

  • Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against a student based on pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from any of these conditions
  • Under Title IX, it is illegal for schools to exclude a pregnant student from participation in any part of an educational program
  • A school must excuse a student’s absences because of pregnancy or childbirth for as long as the student’s doctor deems the absences medically necessary
  • Schools may implement special instructional programs or classes for pregnant students, but participation must be completely voluntary on the part of the student
  • Special services provided to students who have temporary medical conditions must also be provided to pregnant students
  • When a student returns to school, she must be allowed to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before her medical leave began

What resources are available at UCSB?

One of the more valuable gems of advice I re-received at a professional conference last week was that life does not come to a stop just because one is in graduate school. For some of us, that means that we must work hard to maintain active participation on non-curricular activities like hobbies or athletics. For others, this means that family planning cannot take a backseat to our degree work. 


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