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
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.

October 20

Careers in Higher Education Development

This week, October 20-24, The Versatile PhD is presenting an online panel that discusses careers in Higher Education Development.


What exactly is Higher Education Development?

      It’s an exciting and important career field that uses the skills you have developed during graduate school to raise money for colleges and universities in order to support their missions. How can you use the skills you have acquired in graduate school to obtain a job in this field? Well, within Higher Education Development careers, there are proposals to write, campaigns to plan, funding sources to research, and donors to inspire. As you can see, the ability to be successful in this field requires many skills that you have already acquired in graduate school.

      The panel this week focuses on the Humanities and Social Sciences, but anyone with an interest in acquiring a job as a Higher Education Development professional should visit the site. Additionally, this panel will benefit students in master’s and doctoral programs, so we encourage everyone to participate. There are six panelists who will answer any questions you have about this field, including how to get your foot in the door. This is an exciting and growing field, so don’t miss the panel this week.

How to participate:

      The panel is asynchronous, which means you can ask a question and the panelists who answer your question will respond throughout the week. The panel goes from October 20 until October 24. In order to participate, you need to register with the site. If you have not already done this, visit the UT Arlington Graduate Studies website in order to affiliate yourself with the university and get the benefits of member institutions.

Click here for the Graduate Studies Website to register

Once you have registered, enter The Versatile PhD website, click on the forums tab, then click on Humanities Forum. The panelists will all introduce themselves today and this gives you background information on their careers and the field in general. To see what people are asking the panelists look for any thread that begins with the word Panel. If you want to ask a question click on the “add topic” button, place the word “Panel” at the beginning of your title and ask a question.

Got it? Great! Then Click Here to visit The Versatile PhD.

September 25

Choosing a Mentor/Supervising Professor

It seems so simple…you apply to graduate school, start taking classes, and select a professor to guide you through the program who works on research that interests you.


Sometimes…but this isn’t how it always goes. Sometimes you choose the person who interests you the most and they don’t offer the guidance that you need. Or you select a mentor that is constantly in contact, but doesn’t encourage the research you want to conduct. This important decision is often left to chance, yet it doesn’t have to be. Just like you approached your decision to attend graduate school, or the methodical way you approach your research now, there are a few simple steps to determine who would be the best mentor for you! Do you want to learn the steps you should take to select a mentor or supervising professor? Then attend this workshop to learn more!

What if you already have a supervising professor? Well this workshop can help you learn how to approach that relationship and even how to obtain more mentors who will help you make connections in your graduate career. Additionally, we will discuss the appropriate ways to switch supervising professors as well…ways that won’t ruin your academic career.

Sign up to attend one of the workshops and learn more about this important process. At the on campus event there will be FREE FOOD and experienced graduate students who will answer your questions about the graduate-mentor relationship.

Thursday, September 25, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

On Campus:
Tuesday, September 30, 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. in the Planetarium Conference Room (located in the Chemistry & Physics Building on the 3rd floor)

Click here to register for either of these workshops

September 22

Careers in Consulting for Humanities and STEM graduate students

This week on The Versatile PhD there are panels in the Humanities and STEM fields that focus on Careers in Consulting. On both of the panels, you have the opportunity to ask questions to PhD’s who transitioned into the consulting field and find out more about careers in this field. Despite the focus on PhD’s, This panel is beneficial to master’s and doctoral graduate students. It’s never too early to start planning for your career!

In this week’s humanities panel, the experts have their PhD’s in Linguistics, Media Studies, Sociology, Religion, and History. The STEM panel features a Physical-Organic Chemist, Materials Scientist, Physicist, Oceanographer, and Meteorologist. The panelists have introduced themselves on The Versatile PhD, so you can look at their mini-biographies on the site under forums. Panelists will answer any questions you have throughout the week. Don’t be discouraged if none of the panelists are in the same field as you are, they can still offer helpful advice on how to break into the consulting field and be successful in your career!

If you want to ask them a question follow these steps to start the process:

  • Once you are in The Versatile PhD click on Forums at the top of the screen
  • click on the add topic button on the upper right of the forums
  • Begin the title of your thread with the word “Panel” and include a summary of your question in the title

  • Any of the panelists who can answer your question will respond to you throughout the week. Make sure you have your notification set to alert you when someone responds to your thread. If you get into The Versatile PhD and have difficulties, The Office of Graduate Studies is having online “open hours” on adobe connect. You can ask any question about The Versatile PhD and we will help you. We have “open hours” Monday, September 22, 2014 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm, and Thursday from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

    If you would like to learn more of the features of The Versatile PhD, attend the adobe connect online session Wednesday, September 24 starting at 5:30 pm where we will discuss all the features that are available to you as part of a member institution. Click here to see our website for more details.

September 16

Navigating the Career Search with Versatility

Worried about finding a job after you graduate?

Curious about the different ways you can use your graduate degree?

The Office of Graduate Studies is here to help you explore all the job opportunities that are available to you with your graduate degree. As a student at UT Arlington you now have access to premium content on The Versatile PhD, an online resource to help humanities, social science, and STEM PhD’s identify, prepare for, and succeed in non-academic careers. Even though the name of the website is The Versatile PhD, this resource is valuable to anyone in graduate school. It’s a useful tool to plan your career and get helpful advice from people who have used their graduate degrees to obtain careers outside the academy. This supportive online community is available to answer your questions in addition to many other valuable resources that are on the website. The Versatile PhD offers:

  • HIRED: Authentic resumes and cover letters that got real PhDs their first jobs away from the faculty track, with detailed analysis that describes how they made the non-academic pivot and shows the application and hiring process step by step
  • BIO: Inspiring first‐person stories by experienced non-academic PhDs describing how their careers evolved over several years after moving out of the academy, including promotions, advancement, and signature accomplishments
  • PANEL: Detailed inside information on a wide range of specific PhD‐friendly careers provided by PhDs in those careers, along with their answers to grad student questions. The first panel will be the week of September 22 through September 29, 2014. The panel will discuss careers in consulting for both humanities and STEM PhD’s.

The Versatile PhD also offers PhD discussion forums, local meetup groups, and job listings posted by members.

Worried that someone might find out you visited Versatile PhD? There is complete confidentiality on the site. That means nothing you write on the site will ever show up on the internet. Plus you can select your own user name, which means you can choose the level of anonymity that you want. Click here to register for The Versatile PhD and start planning your future today!

September 3

Starting Graduate School on the Right Foot!

Welcome back to campus Mav Grads! For those just starting this semester, Welcome to UT Arlington! It’s been a couple of weeks since the Fall 2014 semester officially started, and I hope that everyone is settling into a productive routine that provides you with some free time as well. If this is your first semester of graduate school, or even your first semester at UT Arlington, this period can be a little trickier to maneuver. For those new to graduate school, academic expectations are higher and the expectations are not always clearly communicated with you. With everyone in your department busy with their own research, there is little time to explain the ins and outs of this new level of education. Sometimes this means making mistakes yourself and learning from these mistakes. But this wastes precious time! Time that could be spent conducting research and completing your degree. The Office of Graduate Studies wants to help you use your time productively and we want to make sure you know the rules of the game, which will allow you to finish on time and be competitive in the job market. Interested in learning how to start off on the right foot? Then attend the Intro to Graduate School workshop! And there will be Free Food at the event on Tuesday!!!!

Tuesday, September 9 at 4:00 p.m. in the Planetarium Conference Room


Thursday, September 11, at 5:30 p.m. online

Click on this link to visit the Office of Graduate Studies website to register.

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.

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.