Inside the UCR Grad Division:Why We Love Working with Grad Students

By Christina Trujillo |

There is no denying the fact that the last few weeks have been rough for a lot of us. Between all classes moving online, social distancing physically separating us from everyone but our housemates, and the frustration of trying to find one single roll of toilet paper, our day-to-day can feel a little overwhelming. People who are far wiser than I am suggest doing little things to help add a level of calm to your day, like treating yourself after completing a difficult task, introducing short meditation sessions into your week, or making a daily list of what you’re grateful for.

That last one got us here in the GradSuccess Office thinking. You see, this week is Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week. While we always appreciate our graduate students, we don’t always get a chance to explain why we appreciate you out loud. We decided to chat with our fellow UCR Graduate Division staff members to make a list of all the reasons we appreciate getting to work with you—our amazing UCR Graduate and Professional students—as our version of a “things we’re grateful for” list.


[Image Description: Spongebob Squarepants opens a list. The list is so long it continues to unfold over Gary the Snail, the table, the room, and down a pipe.]

Pictured: Out list. Don’t worry; we’re giving you the highlights


First, can you share with us your roll in Grad Division?

  • Hillary Jenks: I’m the Director of GradSuccess
  • Ertem Tuncel: I am the Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs. 
  • Kara Oswood: My role is the Director of Graduate Academic Affairs. I decode campus and systemwide policies for students and get them to the right resources.
  • Carlos Rivas: I work at the Deans’ Suite as a Financial Services Analyst. I support the Deans and some operations at Grad Div.
  • Cheryl Gerry: I’m the CFAO in the Graduate Division, but have been working with graduate students from several different graduate programs during my 25 years on campus.
  • Amanda Wong: I’m a  Student Academic Advisor.
  • Julie Lakatos: My role is Graduate Admissions Specialist.
  • Yelda Serin: I am the Coordinator of the Graduate Quantitative Methods Center (GradQuant).
  • Maria Pimentel: I am a Financial Aid Analyst.
  • Christina Trujillo: I am the Coordinator of The Graduate Writing Center


[Image Description: The Rolling Stones, singing: Please allow me to introduce myself.”

Pictured: Hi


Alright, on to the fun stuff now! What do you like most about working with graduate students? 

  • Hillary Jenks: I'm deeply grateful that I have the opportunity to work with graduate and professional students. I spend my days surrounded by curious, motivated people who are committed to intellectual inquiry and devoted to making a positive difference in the world.
  • Ertem Tuncel: I like helping graduate students when they encounter problems with their faculty advisors, when they hit a snag in their progress, or face any other problem in their studies. 
  • Kara Oswood: What I enjoy most about working with graduate students is seeing the progression from new student to academic. There is no bigger joy than congratulating that student who has worked so hard over many years.
  • Carlos Rivas: I enjoy being part of a family composed of faculty, staff, and students that share a common goal for all grad students: Success.
  • Cheryl Gerry: UCR students are the future drs., scientists, etc. who will shape our world.
  • Amanda Wong: It’s very rewarding to help a graduate student resolve a problem or issue, then see them thrive and eventually graduate and get a great job.
  • Julie Lakatos: I enjoy helping prospective students who are just embarking on their journey, seeing that their dreams are turning into a reality when they are going through the admissions process.
  • Yelda Serin: Graduate students from all across the campus visit GradQuant. What I like most about working with them is to get to listen to the exciting and diverse research projects they work on. In GradQuant, while we hear one student talking about singing birds in one consultation, another one talks about digital storytelling or machine learning. I'm fascinated by our graduate students' excitement and dedication for their projects. It's also a joy to get to witness their progress in graduate school and see them move onto successful careers after graduation.
  • Maria Pimentel: What I enjoy the most about working with graduate students is assisting them. School is already stressful enough, so I try my best to help them find a solution rather than making it harder for them. 
  • Christina Trujillo: Graduate students are in the process of creating new knowledge, adding depth and unique perspectives to the knowledge that already exists, and pushing boundaries with their research and creative works. The most exciting part of my day is always when I get to help our grad student fully convey their ideas in writing. The range and variety of topics UCR students research are exciting, and I learn something new each time I have a writing consultation!


[Image Description: A little boy wearing a baseball cap with the word RESPECT written across it looks at the camera and lifts his hat to the viewer.]

Picture: Us, tipping our hat to you


What is most exciting to you about UCR graduate students? 

  • Hillary Jenks: Since the point of my job is to make it easier for them to succeed in making a difference [in the world], I go to bed every night feeling like my work mattered. Plus, I get to learn from incredibly bright and hardworking people who study everything from ancient Greece to how viruses work (which is pretty important to know right now!). How lucky am I? 
  • Ertem Tuncel: UCR students are motivated, hardworking, capable, and passionate! In my 17 years at Bourns College of Engineering, I have seen countless students graduate and find high profile, high paying jobs. 
  • Kara Oswood: I love being part of the office that gets to send students off into the “real world” once they complete their degree.  It’s also a lot of fun to organize the commencement ceremony and watch everyone get hooded. I love being part of a team that values the work that graduate students do and gets to communicate all the great things they contribute to the rest of the campus.
  • Carlos Rivas: Their outlook on life and where they are headed. UCR grad students are so research-driven, but also know how they are going to contribute to society and what they want out of life; they have a purpose. Some people search a lifetime for that. I’m also cheering for our international students. I am confident they will make a positive impact back home. They are future educators and researchers who might think they are making a small contribution but, in reality, will be making our world a better place.
  • Cheryl Gerry: Their passion for their research excites me. As a staff employee, I often don’t exactly understand their research, but their passion and excitement to make the world a better place is inspiring.
  • Amanda Wong: Their enthusiasm and creativity.
  • Julie Lakatos: I see the beginning stage of their “drive” to pursue that dream in their statement of purpose and other application materials.
  • Yelda Serin: I'm just blown away by their curiosity, determination, and dedication.
  • Maria Pimentel: What’s most exciting to me is their drive to continue their education. It is not easy, but they decided to continue with their education. Kuddos to them!
  • Christina Trujillo: Their dedication is one of the most exciting things to me. It’s a big undertaking to pursue a graduate degree, and each of our UCR students puts their heart into their work. I take pride in being a small part of their student experience. 


Lady Gaga



[Image Description: Lady Gaga speaking passionately, saying:  "Talented. Brilliant. Incredible. Amazing. Unique. Completely not ever been done before."]

Pictured: Basically, a summary of our points above


We have a lot to say on this topic, clearly! A few of our Grad Division staff members had additional parting well wishes and words of wisdom they want to share with you all!

  • Carlos Rivas: I had the opportunity to listen to research topics at this year’s Grad Slam. I was left speechless with all the presentations, even those that only participated in the preliminary rounds. I know those presentations are a tip of the iceberg. That they were just a preview of how great our grad students at UCR really are!
  • Cheryl Gerry: Keep doing what you are doing and don’t give up.  Ask for help if you need it and don’t be ashamed to do so. There are many, many people willing to give a helping hand without judgment. 
  • Yelda Serin: I want them to know that, while my office, GradQuant, serves to help graduate students with their quantitative methods, statistics, and programming questions, our door is open to all graduate students at all times for any reason. We are always here to listen to them and support them in whatever way we can. Graduate school can be quite isolating and taxing, but I want our graduate students to know that they are not alone! We're always here to listen to them and support them. 
  • Maria Pimentel: Good luck! Don’t give up. It will all be worth it at the end.
  • Christina Trujillo: Writing is one of my favorite things, but I know not everyone feels as comfortable and confident in their writing as they would like to be. Know that the GWC is here to help you with your writing every step of the way!

[Image Description: Jung, from Kim's Convenience, wants the viewer to move forward for a supportive hug.]

Pictured: The physical manifestation of our feelings about grad and professional students


Our day-to-day may be in constant flux, but there is one unchanging fact you can rely on—the UC Riverside Graduate Division appreciates our grad and professional students. We couldn’t do what we do without you!

Now you know what’s on our gratitude list; what’s on yours?