Graduate Division Dean's Update: 7/12/24

Dear Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars,

Wow… I survived my first two weeks as Interim Dean! Who knew how many ways my attention would need to be divided? I’m exhausted but also energized. Just about a month ago, I had the honor of sitting on stage during the Grad Hooding ceremony and two other school graduation ceremonies. And I have to tell you a secret… it’s the best. Truly. I get the best view of each student as they come up on stage and hug their mentor. I see their families standing and screaming at the top of their lungs, waving heartfelt signs with your faces blown up onto posters. 

I watch all the undergrads with their First Gen sashes, see your nervous but proud faces, and hear the entire arena’s pride. I’m a softie, and every time, I get a little misty-eyed thinking about what your families did to help you get here. What your partners did. Your best friend. Your grandmother. Your grandfather. Your professor. You. What you did to get here. It’s truly remarkable.

I’ve had so many invigorating meetings these past two weeks. I know… the words “invigorating” and “meeting” rarely go together, but I mean it! I’ve learned about all the initiatives people are working on to help each of you meet your goals. In these moments, my heart starts pounding, and my brain starts thinking of all the collaborations that can happen between departments. I think of all the students who never even thought about grad school, eventually walking across that stage to be hooded. I think of the bright futures that each of you have.

I never aimed to be in upper administration. I always joke that I got here because I simply talked too much in meetings. But what really happened is that 17 years ago, I started teaching full-time. I got to know the students and began to understand the university system bit by bit. Over the years, I was asked to be the chair or leader of many different UCI councils or projects. I always said no. I was worried it would take too much away from my research or that I wasn’t the right fit. When Dean Hayes asked me four years ago if I wanted to act as Associate Dean at Graduate Division, I was hesitant. Then she told me that my position would be to help students holistically thrive. 

That was the beginning. 

That was exactly what I wanted to do and felt like a deep part of who I am. I want to help you thrive in all the ways I can. But this relationship with you is a partnership. I need you to come to us before it’s too late. I need you to send the SOS signal before you are failing courses, before you start running out of funding, before you’re getting disqualified. I have a whole team of amazing, intelligent, and passionate people who are here to help you. You just have to let us know when you need help. Now, not later.

With that, a student recently told me that none of you actually read the introduction or conclusion of these emails. That you really just jump straight to the part about funding opportunities. But I’m still going to work really hard on these every two weeks. I’m going to always work to be transparent, to listen, to see you, and to be available to you. I’m honored to be in this position.

Upcoming Office hours
I will still be holding office hours, just like Dean Hayes did. Please see the times below. Just as as before, they are first come, first serve:

Monday, July 15th – 10 AM
Tuesday, July 23rd – Noon

Temporary Limited In-Person Office Hours
The Graduate Division office will be closed from July 26 to August 16 due to building maintenance. Graduate Division staff will be available remotely during this time.

  • Students who need to pick up documents can schedule to do so on Mondays or Thursdays.  Please email ahead of time to schedule a time.
  • The drop off box outside of 120 Aldrich Hall will remain accessible for students and staff who need to drop off documents

Now on to this week’s news and events:

Looking for Next Gen Pathway Mentors

Click here to sign up

We are looking for alumni, faculty, and advanced graduate students who are interested in mentoring first-year graduate students. If you want to help new students transition smoothly into graduate school, you’d be a fantastic addition to our team!

The Next Gen Pathways program aims to support first-year graduate students by helping them navigate the complexities of grad school and the hidden curriculum. Our mentors are dedicated to guiding new students as they find their footing within the UCI community, connect with peers who have faced similar challenges, and ultimately feel a sense of belonging.

Time Commitment:
While we do not require a specific number of hours, we recommend mentors meet or check in with their mentees at least once a month. Participation in Next Gen Pathways events is also encouraged to maximize the benefits of the program.

What You’ll Gain:
– A Mentee with Similar Life Experiences: Our custom matching surveys ensure mentors and mentees are paired based on shared experiences and needs.

– Training and Resources: Learn how to become a more effective mentor through our training sessions and access to resources.

– Networking and Social Events: Engage in opportunities to connect with others in the program through various events.

– Workshops: Participate in workshops designed to enhance your mentoring skills and support your mentee.

– Access to Resources: Utilize institution-specific resources and discussion guides available on the participant dashboard via the Mentor Collective website to support your mentee effectively.

Join Next Gen Pathways and make a meaningful impact on a new graduate student’s journey while enriching your own experience at UCI.

If you would like to learn more, check out our website here.

Register for Summer GPSRC Certificate Programs – Apply Today!

Public Speaking by Activate to Captivate Certificate Program 

August 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22

Tuesdays from 10am-11:30am (online) & Thursdays (GPSRC) from 10am-11:45am

Activate to Captivate is an interactive 6-session public speaking certificate program that focuses on content creation and effective delivery techniques. You will learn how to overcome nerves, distill your research into an engaging pitch, and learn the vocal techniques to captivate your audience.

Submit your Interest form here: Activate to Captivate Form

Improv for Teaching Certificate Program

August 13, 15, 20, 2
Tuesdays & Thursdays from 1pm-2:30pm
Both sessions held in the GPSRC

The goal of this class is to help you feel confident thinking on your feet while staying relaxed in unexpected circumstances. This highly interactive program will help participants learn to:

  •         Think on your feet
  •         Engage in active listening techniques
  •         Create a collaborative learning environment
  •         Expand your imagination to lead a dynamic classroom

Submit your Interest Form here: Improv for Teaching Form

Johnson & Johnson WiSTEM2D Scholars Award – 3 Minute Communication Challenge
Johnson & Johnson WiSTEM2D Scholars Award – 3 Minute Communication Challenge aims to fuel the development of female STEM2D leaders and feed the STEM2D talent pipeline by recognizing female graduate students and postdoctoral fellows for their excellence in communicating their research. Click here for more information on the application process.

Deadline: July 19, 2024

Take Advantage of Division of Career Pathways’ Professional Photo Booth
The Division of Career Pathways (DCP) is pleased to introduce our all-new Professional Photo Booth, a complimentary, walk-in service at the Division of Career Pathways offering FREE professional headshots for UCI students, staff, and faculty. These professional headshots are perfect for your LinkedIn/ Handshake/ Zoom profile, department website, and also works for UCI Digital ID photo requirements. 

Graduate Student Therapy Group

  • Every Tuesday | 9:30 AM – 11 AM PT
    A process-oriented therapy group for graduate students who would like to receive/provide support, learn about self and others, share their experiences, and discuss possible ways to cope with struggles. 
  • The focus of the group will be determined by the members; possible topics may include academic distress, personal growth, relationships, and work-life balance.
  • Pre-group screening required. Contact the Counseling Center at 949.824.6457 to schedule.


Apply for NSF GRFP Fellowship 
The National Science Foundation (NSF) offers fellowships to students in the early stages of pursuing a research based Master’s or Ph.D. degree. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) affords our nation’s research leaders of tomorrow exceptional funding with three years of graduate support worth thousands of dollars.

GRFP Fellows Receive the Following:

  • Three years of support
    • $37,000 annual stipend
    • $16,000 cost-of-education allowance to institution
  • Supercomputer access
  • Opportunities to apply for the NSF INTERN program

UCI NSF Programs (All programs held virtually) 

  • NSF Information Session
    • Wednesday, August 7, 2024
    • 1 PM – 2 PM
    • RSVP Here

Description: This session will focus on the basics of applying for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, including a brief history of the organization and fellowship program, basic eligibility, application materials and an introduction to the concepts of intellectual merit and broader impact criteria. 

  • NSF Writing your Graduate Research Plan
    • Wednesday, August 14, 2024
    • 1 PM – 2 PM
    • RSVP Here

Description: This session will focus on the Graduate Research Plan document, covering expectations for this document, the differences between basic and applied research, and strategies for incorporating intellectual merit and broader concepts into your plan.  Participants will also be walked through a short exercise aimed at helping you to start drafting your statement.

  • NSF Writing your Personal Background and Relevant Goals Statement
    • Wednesday, August 21, 2024
    • 1 PM – 2 PM
    • RSVP Here

Description: This session will focus on the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement, which allows the applicants to tell their personal story to the National Science Foundation. Participants will be given an overview of this document, and learn strategies for speaking to their personal intellectual merit and broader impact.  This session will also include a short brainstorming activity to help participants get started drafting this document.

For more information about other Graduate Division programs and events, visit our Campus Groups Page

Other Graduate Division Resources for Fellowship Writing

Fellowship Mentors: Fellowship mentors are fellow graduate students who received the NSF GRFP who can help you with any part of the application process, stemming from pre-writing and strategizing, to providing feedback on already drafted documents.  Appointments can be made through campus groups (available in August).  More information about Fellowship Mentors will be emailed in August, once they are available for appointments. 

Writing Consultants: Peer graduate students who have strong writing experiences provide one-on-one writing feedback, including fellowship application materials.

Click here to make an appointment.

Fellowship Advising with Dr. Anderson-Natale: One-on-one meetings with Dr. Anderson-Natale to ask questions about fellowship applications, and to get non-writing feedback on applications.

Click here to make an appointment.  

If there are questions regarding the NSF GRFP please don’t hesitate to reach out to Kayleigh Anderson-Natale by email (

Call for Proposals – Addressing Bias and Building Community at UC Irvine Grant Program
The University of California has provided each campus with one-time funding to address and combat antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bias, bigotry, and discrimination at the university. Funds from this resource will support the Addressing Bias and Building Community at UC Irvine (ABC at UCI) grant program. The Office of Inclusive Excellence is now accepting proposals for up to $3,000 from UCI faculty, staff, and students.

Dean’s Recent Alumni Fellowship
This fellowship aims at easing the transition from graduate school into full-time careers either in academia or other industries. While the fellowship is unpaid, a recipient of this fellowship will receive access to resources that will pay immense dividends going forward and was developed in consultation with young professionals and alumni to provide resources they wished they had access to while in graduate school. Click above for more information and to apply.

  • Deadline: Rolling


ResearchAmer!ca’s Civic Engagement Microgrant Program
ResearchAmer!ca is awarding microgrants of up to $3,000 on a rolling basis to STEM groups led by master’s, PhD, postdoc, or professional students to design and execute projects that create dialogue with public officials, local community leaders, and the public around issues of common concern. These funds provide opportunities for grantees to develop skills in areas such as communication and program planning, along with an understanding of public policy and government to have an impact in their local communities. Click here for more information.

More information is located on the Current Fellowships page and 2023-24 Funding Timeline.  Additionally, please reach out to Turner Dahl ( with any questions you may have.

In Closing:
We’re in the second month of our summer break, and I want to remind you all that you’re a battery. You’ve got to recharge while you can. While many of you are still working this summer, either on research or writing, make sure you take some time to reconnect with yourself, with your family, and with nature. I promise you that the one hour you set aside this weekend for a walk will be worth it. 

I found this quote that I love by John Lubbock. He was instrumental in establishing archaeology as a scientific discipline, influential in evolutionary theory, a banker, and an important Member of Parliament. He was basically your quintessential late-Victorian liberal intellectual. But perhaps my favorite thing about him was that he was the first President of the British Beekeepers Association. He stated:

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.’

Take this to heart. Allow yourself the grace to rest and rejuvenate. You’ll return to your work with renewed energy and a clearer mind. Enjoy the summer, and take care of yourselves.

But wear sunscreen.  And drink water.  Eat a little something too.

All the best,

Jaymi Lee Smith
Interim Vice Provost for Graduate Education
Interim Dean of the Graduate Division