April 5

Grad life in Kinesiology

I arrived at UTA in January of 2016 excited to be a part of the freshly created Kinesiology doctorate program. It was my second major move in 2 years, I thought I had the stencil figured out for adapting to life in a new city. It turns out I was wrong, Arlington was more than a new city, it was a completely different world than what I was used to- life as a PhD student is markedly different than the previous roles I’ve been cast to as well.

My beginnings in academia were at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, my hometown. Edmonton was small enough, and I was well enough established that no matter where I went or what I did, I could always find a common link with someone I knew. That could mean making friends playing shinny, seeing the regulars at the local ski hill, or bumping into a mutual acquaintance mountaineering. It was easy to meet like-minded individuals and establish a social network. Between the tremendous opportunity to meet people through social activities and sharing experiences with peers thrown in the same situation starting university, I had no desire or capacity to expand my friend groups when I started graduate school (also at the University of Alberta). As a result I was almost entirely absent from graduate student life at the University of Alberta.

Then came my first major move, way down under to Melbourne, Australia. To set the stage, Melbourne in brief is a city of 6 million+ people, divided into several suburbs all of which have a remarkably local and home atmosphere. The lifestyle is incredibly active and social, and if I learned one thing from moving to Melbourne, if you visit in winter, bring pants. I was still a master’s student while I was in Melbourne, but under rather unique circumstances. I was not at a university, I had no classes, and was in the not quite finished wing of a research institute with a desk just on the other side of the wall from an MRI helium pump that went “pfew…pfew…pfew…” all day, every day. To say the least, graduate student life was non-existent. But, similar to Edmonton, you would meet people no matter where you went- couple hour drive to go surfing on the coast, cycle clubs, or even down at the park for après work wine and cheese.

So when I set off for Arlington in January of 2016, I was ready. I had already made the leap from relatively small Edmonton to big city Melbourne, and had made lots of really good friends, found my niche activities, and integrated myself nicely into the Australian way of life. As I said earlier, it turns out I wasn’t ready for Arlington, it was a serious case of culture shock- not the same nauseating culture shock feeling you get when you drive on the left side of the road for the first time, but the kinds when you have absolutely no idea how to act properly.

It’s only fair that I set the stage for Arlington as I have for Edmonton and Melbourne. Arlington is a city of half a million, just one of the cities representing the hyphen in D-FW. Contrary to popular belief, Arlington is not in the desert, and in accordance with popular belief, Arlington is scorching hot, taking the crown for most mundane weather with 4 months of consecutive 98 degree cloudless days followed by 3 other seasons that the rest of the world would describe as “mild” or “quite pleasant” rather than Fall, Winter or Spring. Opposite to more polar regions, summer is the season of hibernation, and space is anything but a concern. Being in a metroplex of 7+ million means a long drive to leave the city, without living in a big city.

Now, my usual integration strategy didn’t have the chance to work or fail here; 10 hours to the nearest Rocky Mountain and a flight to the nearest ocean wave, you’re not going to find all that many Arlingtonians making either trip. And between the fire ants and stifling heat, you won’t find them relaxing outside either. However, there are unique opportunities that have been presented by UTA.

UTA is widely considered a commuter school. This is certainly apparent between terms when the campus is a ghost town, save for the international students and graduate students (most of whom are international). This core of students can always be found on campus, and have found their niche activities. For myself this has been any number of the facilities provided at the MAC- the indoor climbing wall, indoor soccer arena, ping pong, beach volleyball, and fitness center. There’s always a friendly smiling face around or a pick-up game to join which makes the MAC a tremendous resource for maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as meeting peers with a shared interest. To me, these facilities are very underused, and I highly encourage more students to become cognizant of their health and social opportunities. These facilities are entirely free to you, use them!

Graduate student life within the department of Kinesiology is an asset, and one of the best aspects of UTA. The department highly encourages student involvement and healthy living, as healthy living is one of the department ideals. The department often sponsors or makes a presence at events and ensures graduate students are aware of opportunities to participate. The department boasts heavy involvement in events such as the Homecoming 5 Km race to student sport games, their positive presence is refreshing. Further, graduate students are granted the opportunity to interact with undergraduates at research days, and we are always in need of healthy control subjects for research so don’t be afraid to approach your TA and ask about research opportunities. Participation in research is one of the best ways to learn about research, and about your own academic interests and future opportunities.

Graduate student life in the department of Kinesiology makes you part of a small community of really phenomenal students, and provides you with the start of your niche, critical for your success. Although it is not widely talked about, your enjoyment inside and outside of school is absolutely critical for your mental and physical health; which in turn is critical for your academic performance. The department of Kinesiology and the MAC provide innumerable opportunities for this, I highly encourage other students to test the waters!

About the author

Rhys Beaudry is a current Kinesiology PhD student at UT Arlington, UT Arlington FitSTEPs for Life clinical coordinator and research assistant in the iCARE laboratory under Dr. Mark Haykowsky. His primary research interests are in human cardiovascular physiology and cardio-oncology, specifically, the study of heart failure related to breast cancer and breast cancer treatment.

 

March 21

Mavericks Conduct Experiment for Distance Learner Representation

By Jen Blankenship

 

Mavericks in the Graduate Student Senate are stretching to reach new distance goals.

An experimental non-voting member was invited into GSS this spring. Leah Sperry, in the graduate social work program, now serves on the GSS Resolutions Committee via remote access. She is the first distance student to ever do so. She volunteered to help the group carve out more representation possibilities for the growing distance learner population.

UT Arlington Distance Learners include military personnel from around the planet, people who didn’t complete their education at younger ages and those seeking more education to enhance their job market competitiveness, among others. For the experiment, distance learners are defined as students enrolled in on line courses only.

Sperry’s remote access has been temporarily accepted as a non-voting member of the committee specifically to conduct this experiment. Voting membership carries privileges and includes travel awards. GSS has always required members to be physically present in order to become voting members, a policy that currently excludes distance learners.

The addition of Sperry required the Resolutions Committee to adjust immediately by creating a sub-committee team of five which includes her. Three students on the team are reviewing the GSS Constitution and By-Laws to determine what policy changes may help transition remote participants to voting members.

The team leader, Parham Asgari, also has some team members reviewing software and hardware changes that may be needed to help the experiment succeed. He is a chemistry graduate student with leadership experience and plenty of remote meeting experience. He anticipates the overall hardware needs will be minimal. Specifics won’t be available until the experiment is completed.

Two team members promptly became Sperry’s remote assistants to help monitor her live participation. Shannon Hoffman and Kevin Vilbig, both social work graduate students, make certain Sperry can see, hear and experience the meetings. Unfortunately, there have been many connection hiccups so far. Vilbig noted an additional leadership position as a remote assistant may be required at GSS general body meetings if this experiment becomes successful at the team and committee level.

That success may also mean altering voting methods at GSS general meetings where a shift to roll call methods rather than ayes may be needed to adequately include remote attendees. Currently, any graduate student can attend the general body meetings in person to become a voting member but the number of distance learners who might become voting members in the future may be limited by technology, assuming the experiment is successful and reaches that point.

The experiment results could also open options for students who normally attend GSS in person. It is possible that they, too, could be present by remote access on a limited basis, according one of the remote meeting models Asgari discovered.

The team plans to continue its experiment as long as needed, under the direction of the Resolutions Committee and GSS Executives. These Mavericks view it as a doorway to include more graduate students in GSS and to help prepare them for remote meetings in the work place.