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.

 

March 7

Health is the Real Wealth

A wise man once said “when in war, pray not for an easy opponent, but for a sharp sword”. Same can be applied to life. One must not hope for an easy life but gather the strength to fight back. The most powerful weapon one can ever have is their mind and body. It’s important to have them function at their best. Being in graduate school, one tends to neglect their health and fitness which is no surprise as once we start getting busy, we want to spend as much time as possible on our academics.

When I was young I used to be a very active child, playful & mischievous, running around all the time. But later when I got into school I had to cut down on my fun and focus more on studies. Still I had put quite some time into athletics and thus I became a good sportsman and maintained a certain level of fitness. But when I got into college that is when things started getting serious. For a whole semester, I never got the chance to step on the field. Later, when I got some free time and started playing basketball I could clearly observe that I had a clear drop in my stamina, and beyond that my mind was not functioning impulsively as it used to, I got less immune and started becoming lazy.

That is when I realized that I am doing something wrong. I started going to the gym and after a few months I started feeling right again. Being experienced both sides of life I can guarantee that no one would want to go back again. I know that people in college would rather spend the hour in a lab studying rather that in a gym. But here is the thing that most people do not understand. By being fit, our mind and body work much more efficiently and we can accomplish a lot more than we normally would. Studies have shown that the brain of an athlete works up to 40% better than an average human being. So, in the end, spending some time on exercise gives the body the capability to be able to work quicker and for longer durations. Hence in the long run we are only saving time with a bonus of great health.

By keeping fit I don’t mean that one must go to the gym every day or spend hours and hours on it. Even small things like walking makes a huge difference. Every time I walk, I try to walk a bit faster and that is a good workout by itself. If I don’t have a lot of time I just go for a run around a few blocks for a couple of minutes. That sure does build up a sweat. I try playing games and sports as any outdoor game is a fun exercise.

Being an athlete, and trying to be fit through my life till date, I can promise that it is an experience that one would live and cherish. A healthy and fit body can make a massive change in life. It is like a habit that makes us better and even today I am surprised by how much I stretch capabilities of my body and by the way it responds. It’s unbelievable what the human body can do with the correct training.  Having experienced the beauty of fitness, I always encourage people to do whatever they can and just take a step towards trying to make life better. The University of Texas at Arlington is doing a great job by offering immense opportunities for the students to indulge in some activity. Let’s try to use them and bring out the better person within us.

About the Author 

Goutam Kolla is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington, pursuing his masters in Industrial Engineering. He has been an active member of the Graduate Student Senate and is currently serving as the Chair of the Outreach Committee.

January 2

GSS Fall 2016 Social

The video below showcases the Graduate Student Senate’s events and activities from 2016. Thank you to all who participated! A special farewell to the outgoing members of the Executive Board, Sahana Vemuri and Tarun Nukala Reddy!

November 3

Introduce Young Students to Research Early

When I was a freshman in college, I set my sights on attending medical school by way of a fancy Biomedical Engineering degree. I was aware that to even be considered, I needed to showcase a heavy role in research. So what did I do next? I requested to volunteer with any professor that would take me in. Unfortunately, I was faced with the harsh reality that many undergrads don’t get to participate in research until it’s time to embark on the Senior Design project. Why is that? Well the most common reason I was given was that I had not completed enough courses yet to prepare me to even hold a beaker. Also, it seemed that not too many other students my age were interested in doing research. But what they did not understand was that at the very least, I just wanted to watch and listen in the background.

It wasn’t until my Junior year when a Biomechanics professor allowed me to assist in research. I remember being in awe with all the machines, sensors, equipment that were being used for just one experiment. As soon as I arrived home I immediately began researching all the methods and biomechanics that inspired the project. I loved the research so much that I would be in the lab on Saturdays at 6am since this was the only time the Orthopedic Surgery residents were available to run experiments. After a few short weeks in the lab, I had learned more basic science and biomechanics than I had in 2 years of engineering classes. It did not take long for me to find my true passion in research and ditch the MCAT prep books.

Now that we are in graduate school we have a stronger focus on the career path we want to follow. But think back to your undergraduate days, surely there was somebody who influenced you to pursue higher education in your given field. As graduate students, we are continuously working hard to further advance our fields, and we should begin to foster the passion we have for our field in the younger students. As a GTA or GRA, I encourage you to invite the undergrads in your classes to tour the lab and learn more about research. Not only is it a great experience for them to get out of the classroom, but it will further develop your own understanding and teaching methods. Engaging younger students to participate in lab activities can also improve student performance.

The Office of Graduate Studies currently hosts the I-Engage Mentoring Program, in which a Graduate Student can bring in an Undergraduate for a summer-long research experience. I recommend for you to look into this program by visiting the website.

About the Author:

Academically, Anthony N. Khoury is a Ph.D. Candidate and Clinical Research Assistant in the Bioengineering Department at UTA. He conducts research with his Ph.D. guide at Hip Preservation Center, Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. Anthony currently serves as the Chair of the Programs Committee of the Graduate Student Senate.

 

October 18

Campus Involvement as a Graduate Student

Love Kelly

Love Kelly, the author of this article, is a current graduate student in Social Work at UT Arlington.

The stereotype that graduate school is generally seen as a period to be very focused on academics and the days of being involved in student organizations and leadership is over is so far from the truth. As a current graduate student who is more involved in campus life, I want to break the stereotype and encourage graduate students to get more involved in campus life. From my experience I have learned that being involved in a student organization on campus as a graduate student is important because it a great way to meet students outside of your program, it offers leadership opportunities and learning experiences, and opportunities to network with professionals on and off campus.

I understand there are some factors such as having children or a full-time job that could hinder a graduate student from participating in campus activities. However, graduate students who are able can get involved through UT Arlington Mavorgs or by obtaining a sports pass to attend UTA games on campus. Mavorgs helps students find organizations that interest them, find an event on campus, and records your involvement in various organizations.

When I first transferred to UTA as an undergrad I didn’t see the value of being involved on campus. As a commuter student, I always used the excuse of living far from campus as a reason to not be involved. My first campus involvement I was when I decided to be an active member and an officer for the Social Work Constituency Council. I still wasn’t as involved in extracurricular activities and it remained that way until I graduated. As I choose to further my education at UTA, I made the decision to be more involved on campus and I am enjoying every minute of it. I am still a commuter student but compared to when I was an undergraduate student, I work around my school schedule to go to on- and off-campus games, events, and trainings. Personally, it has been very beneficial in helping me develop skills to balance my time between school and my involvements, I have made new friends and met more faculty and staff members, I am more aware of my passion and strengths, and finally I have a much better appreciation of UTA. GET INVOLVED. You’ll be amazed about the difference you can make through your involvement on campus.

About the Author:

Love Kelly is a current graduate student in Social Work at UT Arlington. She is a member and Community Chair for the Social Work Constituency Council, a member of the Student Publications Committee, a member of the Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society and the Co-Chair for the Graduate Student Senate Outreach Committee.

 

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.

September 27

Coffee with the Graduate Student Senate

Come to the ‘Coffee with the Graduate Student Senate’ this Thursday, September 29, 2016 from 4:00 – 5:30 PM in the Palo Duro Lounge, UC.

Have Coffee, meet your UTA Graduate Student Senate representatives, learn about the resolutions GSS is taking up and see what GSS is doing to make the life of graduate students better at UTA.

Show your support and put forward your concerns and see what GSS has to offer for you. See you there!

For more, visit:
uta.edu/gss
facebook.com/utagss
twitter.com/utagss
gss-gg-poster-2

 

March 1

GSS Student of the Month – November 2015

Kaci McCourt was the November Student of the Month for the GSS. Here is a brief bio about Kaci!
IMG_0286
I am pursuing my PhD in English. After graduation I plan to continue teaching Literature, Communication/Writing, and Rhetoric/Composition at a university. My goal is to be able to teach while doing research in my field of Medieval British Literature. I joined GSS because I believe that having an organization at UTA with a specific goal of helping all graduate students is a vital part of the university community. Being a part of this organization has given me the opportunity to serve on university committees, receive travel awards for presentations and research, and attend professional development workshops and programs. Being a part of the GSS means not only helping myself in my own academic and career goals, but also participating in an organization that will continue to help all present and future graduate students at our university. What I like most about the GSS is the awareness that it has given me of the needs that all graduate students face. Often graduate students can feel disconnected from other departments and colleges in our university, but the GSS is the one organization that can connect and benefit all graduate students. Being able to listen to others, and have my own voice heard, has given me a better appreciation for my university and the amazing opportunities that graduate students have while attending UTA. One of the interesting facts about me was after my 6 days at Disney World I finally achieved my dream of meeting all the Disney princesses!

October 22

College of Engineering and English Department Collaboration

As part of a new experiment in including writing instruction into more courses, the English Department has teamed up with the College of Engineering to include weekly instruction from English GTAs as a regular part of ENGR 1300. The English Department coordinator for the program, Dr. Peggy Kulesz, describes it as follows:

ENGR 1300: Introduction to Engineering
Six Graduate Teaching Assistants from the UTA English Department are part of the first year implementation of a new collaboration with the College of Engineering. Sarah Shelton, Julie McCown, Alison Torres-Ramos, Jennifer Caro-Barnes Miriam Rowntree, and Kaci McCourt were selected to be the first group of instructors for this new course. ENGR 1300 is the result of a partnership between the English Department and the College of Engineering, and it is the first college-wide required course for the College of Engineering. It is based on a problem solving model for the process of applying mathematical principles to solve real-life engineering problems and technical writing assignments. Weekly writing instruction is included as part of class lessons and activities. Writing assignments have been developed to assist students in the basics of written communication, including strategies for improving organization, summarization, close reading, and professional communication. Issues of audience and rhetorical situation inform the way in which students are asked to think about the specific purpose of each writing assignment.”

    
Both the College of Engineering and the English Department are hopeful that this course will help engineering students improve their writing abilities and therefore their performance both in later engineering courses and their future careers.

September 14

Graduate Student Senate honors Jeff Sorenson

      Recently the UT-Arlington family saw Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Jeff Sorenson, off to what we all hope will be a long and happy retirement. Members of the Graduate Student Senate are certainly going to feel the loss of his wisdom and leadership. It isn’t that Jeff hasn’t earned a bit of down time after serving students here for nearly 40 years. But, for the GSS, which by the very nature of its mission, survives a dual existence of both longevity and instability—as a student governing body we have had an active presence for 38 years, but our leadership and membership is an ever shifting group with diverse needs and demands. Parking and tuition rates may be the only two problems that have emerged repeatedly over time. But, undoubtedly each GSS has had its own concerns and its own achievements. For instance, many of you may have no idea who I am, but I served in the Graduate Student Senate from 2005-2010. I was a co-chair of the Printing Committee—that’s right we had a committee and fought to have printing costs for graduate students covered. Jeff warned us when he thought our demands were too aggressive, and guided us as we drafted our proposal. He made sure our documents appropriately addressed the critical needs of students, and the growing concerns of administrators about increasing printing costs to the University. And we won, at least for a little while.

     I also served as the Public Relations Director and worked to create a unique logo for the GSS. On the GSS website calendar, the Aug. 27th activity icon, represents the logo we adopted during my tenure. Jeff listened patiently as I explained why I thought the GSS needed a logo separate from Student Congress. It may seem like a small matter, but it meant additional printing costs, and changing over promotional material. It meant we couldn’t simply use the materials for Student Congress. For a group that operates on a shoe-string budget, it was not a change that we could have accomplished without Jeff’s support. Proof of the shifting nature of our group can be found on the Sept. 3 event icon on the websites calendar. We have a new logo, and I have to say I think the update is a great improvement. Bravo.

     I was eventually elected GSS President only after Jeff called me in and said with little subtlety, but the firmness of a sage mentor, that it was time for me to step up. I respected him and he was hard to deny. I served as president from 2006-2008. In fact, I was president and worked with then Graduate School Dean Phil Cohen to create the first University-wide travel funding scholarship for grad students. TAGSS remains one of my fondest achievements. I hope all of the current GSS members will apply so that campus administrators will continue to recognize how valuable and needed these funds are for research and travel. Getting them was no small task. Jeff spent endless nights with me: me telling him each detail of my grievance about the process; he ceaselessly moving his chain link from one hand to the other. He often talked me off the ledge as it took almost two semesters to draft the appropriate documents, get the language just right, keep the support of administrators, and actually get the funding. The program was nearly scratched twice before we actually managed to get it approved at all the levels necessary. We might have failed had Jeff not provided instrumental guidance. He refused to let me give up even when it seemed the task had run its course. We owe him a great deal.

     Jeff participated and took great pleasure in what he did every day. His send-off celebration last month, which included a polling booth and election campaign buttons, certainly represented the leader that Jeff was for all those years. He approached every problem with humor as he supported a democratic approach to student leadership. He could diffuse the most volatile situations with a hardy laugh, and a simple request that never seemed to be an order: “Alright, let’s calm down.” He put students first. Always. He was quick to praise. He celebrated student achievement. He remembered everyone he ever met. He was eager to learn how those he had mentored were doing even after they had left his tutelage. He believed that representing student concerns contributed to the health and well-being of the university community. He helped guide student leaders in understanding how to honor and represent student concerns. Student voices always mattered and in serving them he was sincere. There is little doubt of that, but what made him so wonderful in his position is that he did this with every GSS president and every Student Congress president for all those years, and he did it with great cheer and with great charity. He supported me when I insisted that the GSS offices be moved and that we be allowed to paint our offices. He laughed, but did not flinch when we hunted down new furniture that was more playful that practical. And, while he shook his head when I often failed to acknowledge, or adhere, to our miniscule budget, he always helped us find the funding for the projects that were important to our members.

     And, let’s be honest, after nearly 40 years, Jeff clearly knew who could help us when he could not. And he could make the call when we couldn’t. His retirement, while well-deserved, means we are going to lose the wonderful mentor who served us unselfishly for all these years, and it is going to leave a hole in our collective soul. But while Jeff cared deeply about traditions at UT Arlington (bed races is only one example), he embraced change and innovation. We are going to experience change, but in his honor we will keep innovating and we will keep putting our members first. We wish Jeff all the best, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to miss him.

Tracey-Lynn Clough
PhD Candidate in English