New Grad Student Voices: Spencer Kerns, College of Natural Sciences




Meet Spencer Kerns (Inorganic Chemistry)
I am from Mobile, Alabama and recently graduated from Auburn University in May 2014 with degrees in Chemistry and Spanish. I chose to pursue postgraduate studies in inorganic chemistry. I am interested in how we as chemists can mimic biological structures at the most fundamental level in order to apply them to creating solutions that relate to energy.

Why did you choose UT?
I learned about the strong reputation of UT’s Chemistry department from two professors that I participated in undergraduate research with at Auburn. On my visit, I felt comfortable with the other graduate students and the professors. In the end, I believed that UT and Austin would provide the best environment for me to be challenged and also enjoy myself during my graduate school career.

What are you most excited about as you begin your graduate studies at UT-Austin?
I’m very excited to see what kind of growth I experience over the next few years through this overall process. I’ve always been impressed at the breadth of knowledge of my chemistry professors, but I’m still not convinced I can quite attain that level. I have heard that the coursework and schedule during the first year is challenging, but very focused in assisting our research progress in the future.

Have you visited Austin? What were your first impressions, and what part of Austin’s cultural scene are you most interested in experiencing?
Since visiting Austin in high school for a swim meet, I think that I always knew that I would end up living here at some point in my life. I visited Austin on two more occasions before deciding to attend graduate school here, but never had the opportunity to fully enjoy all that the city had to offer. I have now been working in a research lab in Austin for nearly a month and have really enjoyed morning runs on Lady Bird Lake, exploring SoCo, and hitting up as many food trucks as possible.



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New Grad Student Voices: Lizette Barrera, Moody College of Communication


Voices: Lizette Barrera

Lizette Barrera joins the Moody College of Communication in pursuit of her MFA in Film & Media Productions.

Meet new graduate student Lizette Barrera.
Raised in Texas, Lizette did her undergraduate degree in filmmaking at The University of Texas at Arlington and has worked as a Camera Assistant on numerous projects including Blue October’s Music Video, ‘Angels in Everything’. Lizette’s goal is to create films that make others rethink their life and the world around them, as well as experience the ‘Raw, Authentic, and Beautiful’, the three themes she explores in her films. She also enjoys traveling, dancing, and sipping wine.

I’m excited about …
I’m excited to meet new ambitious people who are ready to take on the world for the better of humanity. Getting to know someone deeply can be an extremely humbling experience. Not only do we get to learn about someone else’s up bringing, but it forces us to dive internally and learn more about ourselves. Perhaps it forces us to even question our own identity and tests our own believes. But that really is the the divinity to life and all forms of humanity.

First impression of Austin was …
My first impression of Austin was the great food, the sense of freedom & community amongst the residence, and the bountiful hills. It’s so green and full of joggers!

Ask me about :
My travels and my heritage

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New Grad Student Voices: Will Flagle, LBJ School of Public Affairs

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Voices - W. Flagle

About Will Flagle, a new graduate student in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs:
Born and raised in Golden, Colorado, I graduated from Grinnell College in 2009. While there, I studied abroad in Botswana and earned a degree in Political Science. Since graduating, I have worked as the Assistant Manager of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore and as a Development Associate at the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center in Baltimore. I have also been involved with efforts to support socially responsible financial institutions and assist men with making feminist interventions in their own lives (the former more successful than the latter).

My main policy interests relate to U.S. social and economic policy.

I am motivated by the belief that everyone should have access to the means to enjoy a flourishing life, including the substantive agency to direct their individual and collective existence. I have recently enjoyed learning about more “utopian demands” like establishing a universal basic income or a reduced workweek as a means of combating climate change, reducing unemployment, and sharing the gains from increased economic productivity. I am also excited by recent efforts to establish more egalitarian institutions like the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio.

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New Grad Student Voices: Caleb Alexander, Chemical Engineering


Caleb Alexander

Meet new graduate student Caleb Alexander
I was born and raised in Houston, TX and I got my BS in Chemical Engineering at UC Berkeley. I am interested in improving alternative energy technologies and reducing the human impact on the environment.

I chose UT-Austin:
I chose UT because not only are the people here smart, but they’re also really fun to hang out. Also, the city has a vibrant college life and most importantly the faculty in the university are top notch.

I’m excited about:
I’m really excited to learn more Chemical Engineering so I can test out my ideas and, when successful, start my own company.

First impression of Austin was:
My first impression was that Austin is a city where you could have a lot of fun —  from 6th street to kayaking. For me, this is nice because I tend to work hard and I need interesting ways to de-stress.



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New Grad Student Voices: Stefanie Carter, Department of History


S. Carter Pull Quote

I am Stefanie Carter [Department of History], and I am  …
… the first in my family to get a bachelors degree. I am certainly the first to go to graduate school. I feel like I’m jumping into the great unknown, but I am rather ridiculously excited about it – especially at such a great school. I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am right now.

I am here because …
… I received a grant in 2012 that sent me to London for a few weeks to do research, and to present my findings at a research symposium back in the US. It was amazing to have the chance to go, since there’s no possible way I could have afforded it otherwise. I worked in several major London archives, as well as the Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 archive. I also had the chance to spend time in the museums and sites around the city. That project, as well as my further research interests, tend to revolve around class relations in terms of the experience of the working class and those who sought to improve things for them.

I chose UT-Austin because … 
 … the great reputation of the History program, but it also came down to the great reputation of the faculty in the department and the British Studies Program. I had heard that they were not only top in their fields, but also just generally good people to work with.

UT also has such an active research community, with regular lectures and events. I really look forward to becoming a part of that, and being able to expand my knowledge in so many different ways.

I’m very excited about …
… being involved in such a lively research community with so many events and visiting speakers and outlets for discussion. I’m also hoping to be involved in some of the digital projects, like the podcasts. As a British historian in particular, I can’t wait to get lost in the fantastic archives available at the Harry Ransom Center.

I’m looking forward to …
…  my kids being in a much better school system, for sure. As for Austin itself, we’re excited about actually having things to do without driving a few hours to ‘get somewhere.’ Of course, there’s also the great food. I’ve started a list of restaurants.

 If you’d like to add your voice to our New Graduate Student Voices series, simply contact us at

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New Grad Student Voices Series: Valerie Gaimon, School of Social Work



Valerie Gaimon joins the School of Social Work this fall semester to extend her work as a lawyer concentrating on restorative justice. She recently took a few minutes to tell us a bit about herself.

my work “I am passionate about looking at justice through a restorative, rather than retributive lens. I see myself as a bridge-builder between legal policy, academic research, and theoretical underpinning. One of the aspects of social work I love is the importance it places on real-world applications of the research. Having worked around the world I saw so many organizations doing a lot of great work that did not have the ability or knowledge to conduct research into what was working, and then communicate that information to policy-makers so failures could be learned from and successful strategies duplicated on a larger scale.”

free time I enjoy being in nature, meditation and yoga, connecting with family and friends, gardening and cooking, singing and dancing, reading and writing, art and music, and playing cards and Scrabble. I am continually inspired by life’s resilience.

ask me about Living abroad in India, South Africa, Australia, South America

living in austin “I feel blessed that there is so much natural beauty here, as well as creative and open-hearted people.”

?Are you a new graduate student? You can participate in our “Voices” series by contacting our communications department via email

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New Grad Student Voices Series


Dear Readers,

We are happy to announce that we will be spotlighting new grad students this summer through our New Grad Student Voices Series. The goal is to find incoming graduate students who are willing to share a bit about themselves and their areas of study. We will be featuring these students on our homepage through the months of July and August.

Although several students are already participating, we would like to see deeper participation throughout UT-Austin colleges and divisions. If you’ve already participated, THANK YOU! If you’d like to suggest a student from your area, please simply email their contact information and a bit about them (I’ll ask them to tell me more) to maskey [at]

Thank you and, as always, Hook ‘Em!

Meg Askey
Director of Communications
The University of Texas at Austin
Office of Graduate Studies

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Liberal Arts Career Services Offer New Workshops in Careers Beyond Academia

Cap ThrowContrary to what you might think, academia is not the only route to career success and happiness. One career path doesn’t fit all, and not everyone is interested in or able to enter the academic world after graduation. As a graduate student you can pursue a variety of training-related career opportunities, if you’re prepared to jump into the job search. This workshop series is designed to give you the knowledge, skills, and information you need to move forward with your non-academic career plans. Join us for one or all three of our workshops and learn about your career options.

How to Communicate Your Value | March 25, 12:00 – 1:00 PM, CLA 1.302B
Regardless of what career path you are pursuing, you need to know how to communicate with audiences outside of your discipline and outside of academia. This session will provide tips, strategies and sample content for explaining the value and relevance of your grad school experiences to different audiences with a focus on employers outside of academia. Topics include:
* Converting Your CV to a Resume – formatting basics plus content strategies you won’t find online
* Personal Branding – how to identify, communicate and build your brand

Register for the 3/25 now »

Making Your Move – Master the Transition from Student to Professional | April 1, 12:00 – 1:00 PM, CLA 1.302B
Whether you are looking to expand your network or looking for a job, this session will help you connect to people and opportunities outside of academia. We review public and private sector career paths that grad students commonly pursue and provide job search tips, interview strategies and resources specifically tailored to grad students’ needs. Topics include:
* Networking- UT, Texas, national and online resources plus LinkedIn – beyond the basics
* Identifying and Applying to Jobs Outside of Academia
* Interviewing – Questions to expect/ ask and strategies for case and behavioral interviews

Register for the 4/1 now »

Know Your Options (& Keep them Open) | April 8, 12:00 – 1:00 PM, CLA 1.302B
Don’t wait until your ABD to start exploring your Alt-Ac (alternative to academia) options. Contrary to what the term “alt-ac” suggests, preparing for careers outside of the academy doesn’t require you to step off the academic track. You can progress down both tracks simultaneously. This session will explore the broad scope of careers available to you and help you create a professional development plan that gives you multiple post-grad school options. Topics include:
* Myths and misconceptions that limit your potential
* Career opportunities in corporate, government, nonprofit and healthcare sectors
* Resources and strategies for identifying and pursing alt-ac options

Register for the 4/8 now »

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