Category Archives: Health and Well-Being

Reflections on ASA – Seattle and Some (Sage) Advice

Fem(me) Sem in Capitol Hill during ASA 2016 (Seattle, WA)
UT Austin grad students enjoy some award-winning Seattle clam chowder during ASA 2016.

Now that we’ve had time to come down from the hustle and bustle of a busy ASA in Seattle, WA, UTAustinSOC checked in with some graduate students on advice they have for first-timers to make the most of any conferences they attend, especially during their first time at ASA:

I will say know your personality. Recognize that ASA can be a lot all at once and build in breaks if you need it. Don’t be overwhelmed by the fear of missing out and be strategic about the sessions you attend while also remaining open to pop into a session that does not immediately seem relevant. Remember to take walks if you can and try to spend a few hours each day away from the hustle and bustle of it all. Check out the city the conference is in. You did not hustle your way there to only look at the four walls of the convention center.

Anima Adjepong

Attend both the graduate student receptions and the section receptions. These tend to be a much more laid back way to meet people (Twitter is also great for this, by the way). New graduate student friends can be a great way to meet faculty at other institutions – somebody is probably advised by the person you’re dying to meet and your new friend(s) can make that introduction less awkward. This is a good way to land invitations to co-organize panels at future ASAs or other conferences (such as SWS), and just generally get the word out about you and your work/interests.  Also, take time to go eat some good food at a local spot. Make sure to enjoy yourself!

Shantel G. Buggs

So far, my approach to the overwhelming experience of ASA is to step out of my comfort zone a bit more every year that I attend ASA. Although networking with students and faculty from other universities is of vital importance, it’s also one of the most intimidating aspects of any conference (in my opinion). A good first step is to join a few sections and attend their receptions and/or business meetings. More good advice about conferencing can be found in this blog post from The Professor Is In.

Rachel Donnelly

I think for your first time, the best thing that you could do is observe talks in your interest area and see what people are currently working on. Network within those talks. That’s the best way to maximize your involvement in your first year, unless you’re also presenting a paper. The content of those presentations is new and unpublished, so it’s a good way to see what’s going on in your area. The big events can be intimidating if you don’t have a presence or a reputation already in the field. The smaller talks are less intimidating and more relevant to what you’re doing anyway.

Shannon Malone

Go to the panels from your favorite authors and sociologists, whose papers you’ve read and really liked. Meet graduate students who are working in the same area you’re working in and talk to them about ideas. Try to talk to one professor you really like to discuss your ideas and what you’re working on.

Ruijie Peng

Before my first ASA, I was so worried I would feel paralyzed and intimidated by other scholars, but the opposite happened. Learning what other gender scholars are up to gave me inspiration and helped me think creatively about my own research. Don’t feel pressured to attend sessions. Go only to the ones you find interesting, even if they’re out of your wheelhouse. Also, make friends with graduate students outside of UT, especially those with similar research interests. You can get a real sense of validation and camaraderie from grad students who are in the same boat, and I learned a lot from chatting with them about my ideas. Section receptions and happy hours can be exhausting, but I also found them rejuvenating (and in some ways, energizing) after a tough first year.

Katie Rogers

ASA, especially your first couple times, can be quite overwhelming. I always suggest only going to two panels a day in order to be selective (and hopefully go to the best ones) and to not have a brain melt. Aside from panels, you should try to go to other receptions and caucus events in order to connect with other graduate students (who make ASA a blast) and to start building connections with faculty members involved in those sections. Going to a section business meeting is a great way to start integrating into a sub-discipline or two as well!

Brandon Andrew Robinson

Look up what time the section event you want to be a part of is. The first year I went, I went the day that Sociology of Education was not meeting for anything, and I missed out on all of my networking opportunities. Also, get an Airbnb instead of a hotel room (it’s cheaper and you can get a fridge). A lot of sections host dinners. They can be expensive and may not have an option you want, but they’re also great socializing opportunities.

Robert Ressler

It wasn’t as intimidating as I was expecting it would be. We have a really good program here at UT, and you’ll be prepared if you’re presenting. So don’t be nervous! I also have advice based upon what I didn’t do and wish I would have done. I wish I would have downloaded the app sooner and looked through the schedule and organized the sessions that were of interest to me. I didn’t download the app until I had already gotten to the conference, and I didn’t realize until after the fact that I had missed out on some things that I really wished I would have attended.

Kris Velasco

Cultivating Resilience – a COLA Mental Health workshop

ER3aMany thanks to the College of Liberal Arts Office of Research and Graduate Studies  for hosting a broad based conversation on Resilience and Mental Health. Associate Dean Esther Raizen started the conversation by noting an increase in the number of graduate students who are seeking accommodations from the Office of Students with Disabilities.  Kelli Bradley, SSD Executive Director confirmed that thirty four percent of new applications from  over 240 graduate students cited mental health and anxiety related concerns.

This is a steep rise in graduate student request for services that have traditionally focused more on undergraduates.  Some thoughts on why graduate numbers also continue to rise at the Center for Mental Health Counseling include: fear of and the stigma of failure, financial and academic stress  and more students who have been engaged with psychological counseling.  To encourage self-care,  CMHC has launched a new iPhone app Thrive at UT. Thrive consists of seven topic areas. Topics include community, gratitude, self-compassion, mindfulness, mindset, thoughts and moods. In each topic, students will find an inspirational quote, a short video of a UT student sharing their own story, some light reading and an interactive activity.

The job market may intimidate those who already carry the burden of student loans, including grad students who may not have a tenure track trajectory. International Students face additional anxiety stemming from language insecurity, living far from home and limited access to external funding sources.  The CMHC also offers cultural adjustment resources to offset the potential for isolation, loneliness and depression.

Dr. Leonard Moore of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement talked about the micro aggressions and feelings of being in a very small minority that students of color experience, both in their cohorts and in seeking minority mentors.  He suggested admitting students of color who can cluster in cohorts, so they do not feel so alone.  Encouraging students of color in administrative directions as well as tenure track positions would help to build a more diverse and inclusive culture in the academe and should be encouraged.

Susan Harnden, from the Employee Assistance Program recommended Susan Dweck’s Mindset, The New Psychology of Success as a resource for encouraging resilience in the face of challenges.


1075722Dr. Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez has given talks on health and well being in the Sociology department, orienting incoming students as they transition into graduate school and encouraging them to find a balance between work and life. She shared tips on cultivating resilience as students face the challenges of completing their PhD.

  • learn to tolerate some suffering
  • resolve to be healthy and have a real life while working on a PhD
  • create a small network of good friends
  • get a life, don’t forsake your humanity
  • take care of yourself – sleep and eat
  • schedule fun without feeling guilty
  • have at least one supportive faculty mentor who really cares
  • become more comfortable with uncertainty – transitions are a part of life
  • keep the big picture in mind, the reason you came to make positive changes in the world
  • learn to accept a certain amount of pressure and take breaks
  • be receptive to help and advice
  • cultivate basic emotional intelligence and be honest
  • find your unique rhythm for productivity
  • remember to reach out for help if you need it
  • do not routinely overwork
  • practice compassion for yourself and others

It is getting harder to avoid the feeling that our world is in turmoil. The  tension between the old and the new can be overwhelming, particularly when uncertainty and negativity are part of the 24 hour news cycle.  Cultivating the resources we need to survive and thrive during these time of transition are not only advisable, they are necessary.  UT Austin has so many resources, for both the individual and the community, please use them and share generously.


Advice to prospective colleagues from UT Austin graduate students

12828924_483543678495471_1359198197756623076_oOn March 23-24 we will welcome  our prospective 2016 cohort members!  Spring is such a beautiful time to come to Austin and we look forward to sharing our city with visitors who may become  new friends and colleagues.

I asked our Sociology graduate students what advice they would give to those considering a move to UT Austin. Their responses and cohort years are included below.

Julie (2012)

Two of the greatest strengths of our department at UT are the sense of community and wealth of resources. So, take advantage of them! Immerse yourself in the department by joining lab groups, attending brown bags, having lunch with guest speakers, and participating in the various events the department holds. In this way, you’ll make connections and become part of a broad network of scholars that will share knowledge, give feedback on your work, and inspire you to grow professionally and personally.

Robert (2013)

As far as Austin is concerned, it’s an incredible city. It’s a pretty big one with a small city vibe. There’s a ton of outdoor space and events because the weather is wonderful.

Everything else here is also pretty affordable. There are a lot of two dollar happy hours around town and you can have a good night out for under $20. Barton springs / deep eddy during the summer cost $3 for the whole day and every other Wednesday there’s a free outdoor music festival called Blues on the Green. Some of my favorite events include Eeyore’s Birthday, the Pecan Street Festival, movies at the Long Center or Central Market and Bat Fest. Long story short, Austin’s pretty awesome and definitely worth the visit.

Caitlin (2015)

  • trust your gut feeling and emotions based on correspondence and the visit. Social warmth matters.
  • location and context matter, don’t overlook them. This is your life.

Be open-minded when it comes to training and opportunities, even if you come into a graduate program and you know what you’d like to learn and work on.  If a faculty member is willing to work with you or gives you an opportunity to get training in an area you are unfamiliar with, be open to widening your networks and your skill set.

Robyn (2011)

1. Be open to all methodological approaches and take as many methods classes as you can
2. Always have a Plan B
3. Make friends beyond the academy
4. Exercise
5. Meditate / Journal
6. Set boundaries between work and non-work
7. Run, don’t walk, to a therapist’s office
8. Read fiction
9. Don’t be an jerk
10. See number 9

Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson has some great advice on resilience and Dr. Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez continues to inspire us to maintain a proper work/life balance and to understand how making the decision to come to graduate school will result in many life changes.

(Un)Soundness of Being: Feminist Approaches to Health and Healing

The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies will be hosting its 23rd Annual Graduate Student Conference on March 23rd, 2016.


Several members of the Sociology Graduate Community will be presenting! See their papers and abstracts below and go support your fellow graduate students:

Anna Banchik: Photography and the Spectacle of Race

In 2008, families in Libya began protesting in order to seek information about male relatives who had been forcibly disappeared, and subsequently killed, by the government. Despite the prevalence of forced disappearance cross-nationally, these mobilizations in response have seldom been studied from sociological point of view. This paper seeks to understand mobilizations in response to forced disappearance from a sociological perspective that considers the role played by mourning and trauma in social movement organizations. Social movement scholars have recently considered the significance of emotions in collective organizing but have focused primarily on dynamics related to pride, shame, anger, and indignation, among other emotions. While some scholars have addressed grief, there has not been a sustained focus on issues of mourning and trauma in social movements. I focus on the case of Libyan mobilizations around disappearance to argue that grievances over the disappeared body are characterized by expressions of mourning and the experience of collective trauma, which serves to sustain their movement. Families engage in protest tactics that both commemorate and reframe the lives of their loved ones and express grief for their loss. This study contributes to our understandings of how the missing body and protracted mourning have the potential to motivate and sustain social movements.

Shantel Buggs & Ryessia Jones: Disciplining Olivia Pope: Race, Gender, Family, and the Power of Whiteness

While much of the discussion regarding race and gender in Scandal is reserved for its portrayal of interracial relationships – specifically the sexual relationship triangle between Olivia Pope, President Fitzgerald Grant, and Jake Ballard – the majority of Olivia’s interactions are informed by, and enacted through, whiteness. Olivia has relationships with White men, wears the “white hat,” associates mostly with White colleagues, and consistently uses her resources to save the careers and lives of White political figures. This essay explores the ways in which whiteness emerges in the television show, Scandal, a scripted show created by Shonda Rhimes and starring Kerry Washington, both Black women. More specifically, this chapter reveals how whiteness is utilized as a mechanism for policing and disciplining the Black female body, specifically through an analysis of Olivia’s relationships with Fitz, Jake, Mellie Grant, Abby Whelan, and Olivia’s father, Rowan (Eli) Pope. As Frankenberg (1993) argues, “whiteness” is the means of producing and reproducing dominance, normativity, and privilege (236); thus, White people have a “possessive investment” in its success (Lipsitz 2007). Because whiteness is a social construction, it informs not only how we understand constructions like gender and race in the “real” world, but it our fictional worlds as well.

Prisca Gayles: Re(membering) the Past and Recovering the Present: Black Activist Responses to Controlling Images and Stereotypes of Black Women in Argentina

This paper examines Black activism in Buenos Aires from a Transnational Black Feminist and Subaltern perspective. The present project is necessary because Afro-Argentine women have either been erased from or misrepresented in Argentine historiography and are currently situated in a system that threatens to reproduce this injury. I begin with a review of the ways hegemonic historiography in Argentina has contributed to the present day myth of non-existence of Afro-Argentines. I then examine the trivialization of actions, assumptions, and practices in Buenos Aires that violate the black female body by assigning her a static and/or stigmatized role. I do this with an analysis of the vendedora de empanadas (the empanada seller), the most reproduced image of the Afro-Argentine woman of the nation’s past, who today is represented with blackface practices. I ask in what ways this controlling image is related to the injurious experiences of black women in Argentina today. Although I locate the simultaneous invisibilility and hypervisibilty in the figure of the vendedora de empanadas I do so as an example, only one in a myriad of ways in which this is true for black women in Buenos Aires. Finally I draw on Black activist responses to contest the relegated role of black women paying particular attention to “recovery work” in the visual field and the experiential knowledge of Black female activists. The intent of this paper is to argue that subaltern analyses are incomplete if they only write about subjugated groups. The gaps that subaltern projects seek to fill are enriched when they not only interpret the silences but also draw upon the experiential knowledge and transgressive practices of the groups they seek to represent. Thus, a Transnational Black Feminist approach to understanding the work of black female activists in Buenos Aires must necessarily be coupled with the subaltern approach.

Emily Paine: “Not…dead lesbians”: women’s experiences of sex in the midlife across same-sex and different-sex couple

I examine the experiences of women navigating sex amidst midlife transitions within same-sex and different sex long term couples. Data from in-depth interviews with women in 18 same-sex and 18 different-sex couples were analyzed to reveal how transitions related to caregiving, health and aging work to change women’s intra- and interpersonal experiences of sex and sexuality. I extend theories of gender and sexual scripts to examine how women framed and made sense of their changing sex lives in light of larger cultural schemas of gender and sexuality. For example, lesbian women negotiated their discordance from heterosexual scripts by framing their changing sex lives as either similar to those of heterosexual long term couples or too different to be understood through such scripts. Whereas straight women cited their alignment with the script of sexless long term heterosexual marriages, lesbian women negotiated stigmatized heterosexist scripts of lesbian asexuality. I introduce the term of lesbian “bed work” to describe the sense of responsibility and work undertaken to keep up sexual relationships discussed by lesbian women.

Samantha Simon: Male Strip Clubs as Revolutionary Sexual Spaces

In this paper, I argue that male strip clubs offer women an opportunity to destabilize normative forms of heterosexuality by actively and publicly desiring sex and that some of this transgressive behavior can become sexually violent. The existence and popularity of male strip clubs and bachelorette parties denaturalizes women as asexual by demonstrating that women actively desire sexual experiences. Though scholars disagree on whether these spaces either reinforce or disrupt gender norms, I argue that the mere existence of these spaces and their acknowledgement of female sexuality destabilize normative expectations of gender and sexuality. Some of women’s transgressive behaviors in male strip clubs could be described as violent. Interestingly, male dancers and the researchers who study these spaces do not describe them as such. These researchers may inadvertently be reinforcing conceptions of women as non-threatening and passive by describing patrons as “wild” and not “violent.” I argue that social discomfort with these transgressions is corrected for in the description of these events as not violent. Though I certainly do not condone this kind of behavior, I do argue that if we are able to acknowledge the existence of violent women and vulnerable men, we can contribute to the disruption of gendered norms of sexuality that lead to violence against women.

Maro Youssef: The Algerian state’s creation of terrorism and the “Islamist ghost”

The Algerian civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002, consisted of infighting among various Islamist militant groups that also were also engaged in warfare with the Algerian state. There were between 200,000- 300,000 deaths and at least 10,000 disappearances (7,000 of which the state later recognized). Following the civil war, the state created the “Islamist ghost” as Algerians demanded answers about the disappearance, abduction, torture, and death of at least ten per cent of the population during the war. The state constructed narratives of haunting and trauma using the “Islamist ghost” in order to create a docile population that would later re-elect the same president four times since the war.

Amina Zarrugh: “This vigil of ours is a vigil of truth”: The Role of Mourning and Trauma in Social Movements

In 2008, families in Libya began protesting in order to seek information about male relatives who had been forcibly disappeared, and subsequently killed, by the government. Despite the prevalence of forced disappearance cross-nationally, these mobilizations in response have seldom been studied from sociological point of view. This paper seeks to understand mobilizations in response to forced disappearance from a sociological perspective that considers the role played by mourning and trauma in social movement organizations. Social movement scholars have recently considered the significance of emotions in collective organizing but have focused primarily on dynamics related to pride, shame, anger, and indignation, among other emotions. While some scholars have addressed grief, there has not been a sustained focus on issues of mourning and trauma in social movements. I focus on the case of Libyan mobilizations around disappearance to argue that grievances over the disappeared body are characterized by expressions of mourning and the experience of collective trauma, which serves to sustain their movement. Families engage in protest tactics that both commemorate and reframe the lives of their loved ones and express grief for their loss. This study contributes to our understandings of how the missing body and protracted mourning have the potential to motivate and sustain social movements.


Holiday Cheer from UTAustinSOC

Happy Holidays from the Sociology department at UT Austin!  Many happy returns and best wishes for 2016!

Indigenous solutions to intellectual violence – stop talking and listen

Ilarion Merculieff, director of Global Center for Indigenous Leadership and Lifeways and Dr. Libby Roderick, Director of the Difficult Dialogues program at the University of Alaska

Intellectual violence in the academe is a hot topic and was the subject of an animated Sociology brownbag last year.  There was consensus about the problem, but no real solutions emerged.  So, when I signed up for the  Stop Talking – Indigenous Ways of Teaching and Learning workshop offered by the Humanities Institute, I was glad to discover valuable insights and techniques for creating civility in often heated academic discussions.

Co-presenters Ilarion (Larry) Merculief, the director of the Global Center for Indigenous Leadership and professor and Director of the University of Alaska at Anchorage’s difficult dialogues program Libby Roderick have co-authored and published two books.  The first provided the foundation for our meeting and the second, Start Talking: A Handbook for Engaging Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education is a companion piece for instructors teaching courses that deal with contentious issues. Ilarion, an Alaskan native, began by describing his life as a child growing up in a traditional aleut village. His family were hunters and fishers, members of a small Unungan community living on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea. From an early age, the children were taught to open their minds and their senses to the earth and sea and to listen. A typical greeting, translated as “The morning tastes good,” reflects their sense of well-being living in harmony with nature. Parents allowed children the freedom to roam and they were not chastised or punished for misdeeds, but taught communal values by elders and by their Aachaa, with whom they had a special spiritual bond. Time, attention and belonging were predicated on nature, on place, and on being one of the people who kept the balance of life by honoring and protecting the earth. People spent a lot less time talking and much more listening and communicating non-verbally. The foundation for respecting all living beings was given to Ilarion along with the challenge to communicate this balance of life, self and other to non-natives.

He began with a list of values that he felt most Alaska Native cultures have in common:

  • Treat each other with respect
  • Keep in mind that everyone has their own truth
  • Listen without agenda
  • Be polite, courteous and thoughtful
  • Refrain from interruption
  • Affirm other speakers
  • Do not voice disagreement or use violent words; instead, say something positive about the previous speaker and then simply add your own thoughts
  • Respect privacy: everything shared in confidence needs to be kept in confidence
  • Be supportive of each other

Clearly, a very civil agenda and one sorely lacking in most academic discourse.  The foundation of respect comes from the knowledge that the community is completely interdependent and rooted in love of the earth.  One of the first things workshop participants were asked to do was go outside for a 10 minute exercise in listening and opening our senses to the environment. We went to the turtle pond by the main building to enjoy the beautiful day.

This re-centering  and re-energizing exercise was one suggested method for engaging the mind/body and including the heart in the conversations to follow. Giving participants a chance to reflect before answering questions and building in spaces for silence slows the pace and gives introverts more opportunities to be heard.  Another useful technique employed in the workshop was to create listening pairs, setting aside five or six minutes at a time for each person to talk about what they were learning with the other actively listening.  Research has shown that using wait time as a teaching strategy to facilitate think time produces better responses to questions. Even issues that are divisive and contentious can be discussed if we allow each person to have their own truth and we are willing to listen without formulating a response. There will be additional posts from this workshop,from the Stop Talking handbook and from the Start Talking engaging difficult dialogues handbook. The value of these lessons cannot be overestimated and I am grateful to Ilarion and to Libby for sharing their wisdom with their southern compadres.


Spring 2014 Spider House Celebration

We’ve had so much good news this semester, it’s hard not to celebrate!

Anima Adjepong – Michael H. Granof Outstanding Thesis Award

Jorge Derpic –  Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies, Oxford University (£13,000) and the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) Fellowship (25K, approx.)

Jessica Dunning Lozano – $25,000 National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship for the 2014-2015 academic year.  Since only thirty awards were made from a pool of over 400 applicants, this award is a strong expression of the organizations’ confidence in your potential contribution to the history, theory, or practice of education.

David McClendon – University Continuing Named Fellowship – full year of support

Eve Pattison –  $15,000 Scholar Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood. The P.E.O. Scholar Awards (PSA) was established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral level degree at an accredited college or university. She was sponsored by Chapter CR of Austin, TX.

Marcos Perez: National Science Foundation  – $15,000

Vivian Shaw – Japan Foundation’s “Japanese-Language Program for Specialists in Cultural and Academic Fields” (6-month residential language program, tuition, accommodations, and other funding).

Chelsea Smith –  Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being—seeking innovations to prevent child abuse and neglect. $50,000 over two years.

Esther Sullivan – American Fellowships from the American Association of University Women. This is a $20,000 award for doctoral candidates in any field of study, and another $2,500 for outstanding field research.

Amina Zarrugh –  University Continuing Named Fellowship – full year of support

Andrew Krebs, Vintner in residence

Finding the Time to Make the Wine
by Andrew Krebs
Andrew’s full article Social Logical Austin

Grapefruit 1I would like to take this opportunity to share my balancing approach. For the past couple of years, I have been passionately involved in making my own wine. In a lot of ways, being a graduate student is like being a vintner. Really, there are just so many parallels. The more I think about it, the more I see that in order to make a fine wine, you’ve got to plan, prepare and look for inspiration. How is that not like conducting social science research? For instance, winemakers keep detailed notes about their recipes. Without a written log, the wine cannot be replicated or even tweaked for future attempts. Researchers, ring a bell? Winemakers, like published academics, also need to have patience through the process. Those of us who make wine understand that you can’t drink the solution right away. Similarly, most researchers can’t publish without a few rounds of revisions.

Gloria González-López Identities in Transition


Dr. Gloria González-López met with graduate students, some who are in their first year, others in their second, fourth, fifth and one graduating student who is on the job market this year, to engage in a dialogue about two interconnected human dimensions of academic life: transitions and identities.

All participants gave a word to describe how we felt in relation to:

Transition        Identity
meaningful       awkward
stressful             ambiguous
uncertainty       uncertainty
difficult              fluid
perpetual           messy
involving           generalizing
awkward           conflict
uneasy               dynamic
departure          adaptive
overwhelmed    involving
evolving             becoming
disruptive          collaborative

Clearly, this was a conversation worth having.

Gloria, as she wants us to call her, enrolled in a Ph.D. program 20 yrs. ago, and is in her 12th year, now as an associate professor of sociology at UT Austin. She shares her life lessons and insights below to help future professors handle their evolving professional lives.

(1) Change seems to be the only consistent, permanent thing in life, and reminding myself of it makes change and transitions more “normal” – transitions are a vital part of life.

Academic life is about transitioning and we need to be aware of this. Maybe this profession –more than others—requires a special skill to deal with it. This profession also goes hand in hand with personal transitions, so it is quite a challenge when we combine professional and personal transitions.

Life is not always nice, neat, clean, well organized – grad school and life as an academic have a dimension of messiness. We can become very miserable if we are not aware of it and if we don’t have a tool kit to take care of it.

(2) Keep a consistent routine as much as you can, taking care of yourself should be part of this. Always take care of the basics: eat, sleep well, and secure the financial dimension of your life. Stay healthy. So keep some kind of routine to have at least a minimal structure to organize your day.

(3) Transitions are not experiences to be fixed. They are life journeys to be lived. Transitions are about change, not about something not working right, or being dysfunctional. Sometimes you do not have to do anything about it. At times we want to fix something that does not need to be fixed, because transitioning does not mean that something is broken.

(4) Professional transitions have their own flow. Do not panic, do your best to be relaxed as you go through this ride.

(5) Do not rush the process. Always take one step at a time.

(6) Don’t deny change, denial does not work. One of the reasons going through transitions may become so challenging to graduate students is precisely because we are over-achievers and successful people: wow, I am in the Ph.D. program and my GPA is 4.0, and my GRE scores are so high, so how come I can’t deal with these feelings? It may become a good opportunity to practice humility. This can be very, very useful.

(7) Always remind yourself of the larger purpose, the larger picture.

(8) Think of other life transitions in the past – what did you do that worked effectively as you went through it?

(9) Change may facilitate other changes you may want to take advantage of it. Some people say that changes are opportunities for growth. Even simple things like cleaning up the office and getting rid of clutter.

(10) Transitions cause confusion but once you know that you are confused and anxious you know what you are experiencing. Hey, I am confused and anxious and that is OK!

(11) Transitions are tricky and at times they might seem or appear to be an “existential” problem. We may approach life transitions as if they were existential problems, this is not always the case – we might get in trouble if we do. While this might be at times, it is not always the case. Be aware if a transition coincides with an existential concern.

(12) Try to keep your same, nice support system. Talk to someone you trust about these issues, at times that is all it takes to normalize it.

(13) Develop some comfort level with uncertainty and ambiguity – not easy in a culture that is so obsessed with certainty, efficiency, efficacy, precision, being in control.

(14) Be patient with the process. Don’t overwork yourself about it. Don’t be obsessed about it.

(15) Live in the present. Life has not given you all of the information yet. Do not anticipate. The future does not exist yet. Be present – that is all we have in the end.

(16) Making important decisions while transitioning might not be a good idea: e.g. I am lonely and confused as part of a transition and may get romantically involved with the person I might not have chosen under more stable circumstances. In retrospect you may go, “Wow, shocking! What was I thinking?!”

(17) You may go through transitions and some of your unresolved, past issues in life may surface. Watch out.

(18) Journaling may help you so how you are evolving. You can keep track of how you are experiencing the transition. People who like to keep a journal may benefit from this.

(19) Transitions in identity: there is some kind of grief always when it comes to the person you used to be and the one you are becoming. Be open to that. The one you used to be will always be with you. You could not be who you are without it.

(20) You may go through a transition and then in retrospect think about it and be clueless about what happened while transitioning (Eh, what happened?!). Not knowing more about what you went through is so human – accept that. I have gone through important professional transitions and in retrospect I don’t even know exactly what happened to me. At times it’s better not put your heart under the microscope, just simply let it be.

(21) Transitions pass, you will have a new life lesson, they will make you a more sophisticated human being, and now you have something to offer to the people you work with (e.g., a student will come to you freaking out because he/she is transitioning, very common when students finish college), family and friends.

(22) Some of us are always in transition because of who we are (gender, race, class, sexuality, citizenship, religion, etc). So we go from one context to another to another and have to transition into other ways of being. Some of us are always in the process of transitioning, in the process of becoming.

These tips for staying fluid in times of transition, finding support in community and in self-supporting regimens can make the difference between imbalance and stability.  We thank Dr. González-López for keeping the humanity in academia.

UT’s Gender and Sexuality Center, and Tips for LGBTQ Allies in the Classroom

By Shane Michael Gordon

gscThe Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) on the UT campus provides opportunities for any UT student and any member of the Austin community to explore, organize and promote the learning of gender and sexuality issues. The GSC has in the ten years of its existence made strong efforts to provide resources for anyone willing to learn and become informed of LGBTQ and women’s issues while offering outreach, education and advocacy throughout campus.

History of the GSC is rooted primarily in two organizations, the Women’s Research Center and the GLBTA Agency, formed in 1997 and 2001 respectively through the student government and headed by student directors. As the organizations’ services overlapped an agreement was formed to establish a joint center with a permanent office and full-time director. With help from the student government the Gender and Sexuality Center officially opened its doors in August 2004.

As one of its missions is to promote the understanding of the LGBTQ community, the GSC hopes to help instructors improve the classroom setting for LGBTQ students. Here are some tips for promoting a diverse, inclusive and respectful learning environment:

  • Do not immediately assume everyone in the classroom is heterosexual or traditionally gendered, as this assumption can segue into students making anti-LGBTQ remarks just because of an alleged “absence” of LBGTQ students.
  • Do use inclusive language in your syllabi, presentations and whenever possible, such as discussing civil unions as well as marriage and using the term “parent” in lieu of mother and father.
  • Do not make negative remarks or jokes aimed toward LGBTQ people.
  • Do work to set an example of proper conduct for students, especially if you encounter a biased remark, as this can be an important opportunity to set the facts straight about the LGBTQ community, along with promoting understanding while actively dialoguing with students to create an accepting and non-judgmental classroom environment.

The GSC is currently headed by its director Ixchel Rosal ( with education coordinator Shane Whalley ( and program coordinator Liz Elsen ( As the Center prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary it plans to continue the work it has been doing while expanding its programs throughout both the campus and the community.