October 6

Lifetime Alumni GSS Member Reflects in Awe

While a young journalist decades ago my typing skills spread from the campus newsroom to a small closet at a nearby major publication. Typing late into the evenings in solitude at speeds justifying the nickname ‘smoking keys,’ the daily paper’s condensed version went online before the World Wide Web existed. Subscribers, among the first in the nation to do so, accessed the news with blinking green cursors and C-prompt commands. We students were mavericks at the dawn of a new era.

Mavericks can be defined as independent-minded people. Their trails saturate the university and stretch around the globe. As a Lifetime Alumni Member the maverick impact is stunning and easy to see now.

The boxy bulky computer monitors with green text The Shorthorn once cherished are a faded memory eclipsed by sexy small footprint computer technology. Few people recall the chrome ashtrays that once lined the hallways of Ransom Hall. Gone are the cozy Alan Saxe sofas from the Central Library and modern couches from the Palo Duro lounge where decades of alums proudly recall their naps. The fast-paced diversified campus now clusters multipurpose furniture groups, designed for form and function, to serve ambitious maverick students well.

Blankenship Photo 1987

Jen Blankenship when she first arrived at UTA.

Most of the gorgeous fraternity and sorority homes on Greek Row had an ugly era. The Social Work Complex was once a high school and Swift Center was an elementary school surrounded by vast open fields.

The stronger more beautiful campus screams so much purpose and creativity that even the squirrels look braver, better organized and more approachable than decades ago. Accessibility dreams that came true here spark emotions. Countless research accomplishments continually rolling out deserve tremendous respect.

Blankenship photo today

Blankenship as a returning student presently.

Swoon over the career center, campus shops, food and other services because these were once just a student body wish list. Gasp at the gorgeous high-tech planetarium, the courtyards and greenways encouraging personal reflection and sustainability. Use the campus shuttle system. Benefit from the wellness focus of the Maverick Activities Center. People decided to reach these goals and persevered.

Mavericks carve new paths and turn adversity into successes, opportunities into history. They stretch to achieve and do not quit. Grab your idea and mold it into something useful. Earn your maverick status and continue the wonderful legacy of this university. The next Lifetime Alumni Member who looks back in awe may be you.


About the Author:

Jen Blankenship is a current UTA graduate student from CAPPA who has previously pursued degrees at UTA, first in 1987, then in 2008, and one at present. Jen is the current GSS Resolutions Committee Chairperson and a Lifetime Alumni Member at UTA. In 2009, Jen received the Outstanding Student Leader award.

April 10

Promoting Maverick Pride – Mahesh Biyyala

     With campus elections coming up, you are probably looking through the nominees for a familiar face…or a graduate student…or, let’s be honest, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about or that campus elections are even happening right now. As graduate students there is the tendency to become very focused on your academic career, which can keep you pretty isolated from the outside world. And rightfully so! Research, articles, teaching, and grading all top your to-do list and consume most of your free time. While some of us run from extra obligations, Mahesh Biyyala embraces them. Mahesh is currently pursuing his Master’s in Computer Science Engineering, but in addition to his academic responsibilities, he also actively participates in many campus organizations.

     During the Fall 2014 semester he was elected to be a UTA Ambassador. As a UTA Ambassador he participated at different university events such as: MavsMeet Convocation, UTA Night on the Town, Graduation Celebration, Parent and Family Weekend, and Homecoming, just to name a few. As a graduate student, Mahesh is a rarity in this organization, which is one of the reasons he decided to campaign for the position. Mahesh noticed that very few graduate or international students were ambassadors and he wanted to promote campus events/activities that focus on Maverick pride to these students. Mahesh stated that “I am so proud of the UTA Ambassadors because the honor of wearing a custom-made UTA bow tie is bestowed upon only the highly involved student leaders called UTA Ambassadors to show the maverick pride at high profile University events like Maverick Speakers, UTA Job Fair, Commencement Ceremonies etc.”

     As graduate students, life is often busier and being involved in on-campus activities can be difficult, but Mahesh hopes that more graduate students become involved and take advantage of the opportunities that exist on campus. In addition to his involvement with the UTA Ambassadors, Mahesh has been involved in the Leadership Center, Graduate Student Senate, Multicultural Affairs, is an event specialist with the Office of International Education, and recently won The Student Employee Award of Excellence. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a PhD in Leadership and Higher Education Administration to eventually work in Student Affairs. With his active involvement on campus, it should be an easy transition. And of course, you will see him running for campus elections this semester!

November 5

Maverick of the Month – Jarryd Willis

This past September, Jarryd Willis, a doctoral student in psychology, was awarded the Maverick of the Month distinction. So who exactly is Jarryd Willis? Well, he is a graduate student, a social psychology instructor, a Huffington Post blogger, a TEDx speaker, and someone who is changing the world. Rather than just talk about things he wants changed, Jarryd created an organization to make change. As you can tell, there are many ways that Jarryd exemplifies The Maverick Way, but we are going to focus on his organization the DREAM Factory, which was the reason he was nominated and won the award.

     Jarryd is the President/Creator of DREAM Factory an organization he started to help undocumented students as well as those who are “DACAmented.” So what exactly does DACAmented mean? I’m glad you asked. Well, it refers to the 2012 US policy that allows undocumented youth to apply for deferred action on their status in the United States. Basically, it postpones the government’s decision to remove a person for as long as they are able to acquire DACA status. It goes without saying that the application process can be confusing and intimidating to fill out.

    Jarryd founded the DREAM Factory to help people with this process. The DREAM Factory’s primary service is to provide free deferred action clinics for undocumented students (and soon undocumented adults) in the DFW area. Jarryd states that “In our first DACA clinic on October 4th, we assisted undocumented high school & college students around the DFW area.” But his aspirations for this organization don’t stop there. He wants to create a safe place for DREAMers at UT Arlington by training a strong network of safe-zone allies (of faculty, staff, & students.) When asked why he started the organization, Jarryd replied that “It’s important to raise more awareness of immigration issues here in Texas and nationally so people understand that those affected by the immigration debate are their friends, classmates, and co-workers.”

    All students are encouraged to participate in this organization, regardless of their ethnic background or national origin. Jarryd emphasized that “This is not just a Hispanic issue – it affects all communities & everyone has a role to play.” The organization has a Facebook and Twitter account in addition to being on MavOrgs. Their second DACA clinic is at the Center for Mexican American Studies on November 15th (10am -2 pm.)

    While Jarryd is busy with his organization, he also has to find time to write his dissertation and plan for his future. Not surprisingly, when asked about his ideal career after graduate school, Jarryd’s answer was as varied as the many interests he currently pursues. His ideal career would be a dual lecturer for Social and Political Psychology courses. He noted that “I love watching my students grow & succeed – there’s something addicting about contributing to the success of our next generation.” He also listed applied statistician/consultant, public speaking, advocacy, and community service as interests that might direct his future career, ideally working alongside organizations like United We Dream, Voto Latino, and GLAAD.

    Jarryd is definitely more than capable of excelling in every one of these careers. He has the determination and drive to accomplish great things and we can’t wait to see where he goes after his time at UT Arlington. If you want to speak with Jarryd about the DREAM Factory or any of his other interests check out his Facebook and Twitter pages for the organization.

June 25

An Outstanding Mav Grad

The Office of Graduate Studies would like to congratulate Wasiu Adedapo Lawal for winning the Science and Human Rights Coalition Student Essay Competition! The essay he wrote entitled “Water as a Friend and a Right,” won First Place in the Graduate Student competition and Wasiu was kind enough to provide us with a brief explanation about the contest and why it was important to him.



The competition was about the intersection between science and human rights and my entry had to do with the water crises in poor countries and how the scientific community needs to see water as a human right and play an active role towards helping to find lasting solutions to the problem. For me, submitting an entry was an easy decision since the narrative behind what I eventually wrote was the reason why I decided to do my PhD in the first place. Having been raised in Nigeria, the water issue was a big thing for me and I decided to gain some expertise on the issue with the hope of going back someday to help, so this essay was a great opportunity for me to provide some analysis on the issue.

                                                                                    Wasiu Adedapo Lawal, MS, AMRSC



Here’s the link to the award site. http://www.aaas.org/news/science-and-human-rights-coalition-announces-2014-student-essay-competition-winners

Wasiu is the President of the Graduate Student Senate for the 2014-2015 school year, as well as a Doctoral Student in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.  

If you haven’t met Wasiu yet, come to a Graduate Student Senate meeting this fall and congratulate him. Click on the link to see what this organization is doing to make your graduate experience better.


This is just one of the many amazing ways that Mav Grads are making a difference in the world today! Have a story, let me know.