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:


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!
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
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