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Meet Gillian Moise, the 2020-2021 Graduate Student Advisor to the Dean and Chancellor

Thursday, November 19, 2020 - 12:00am

Gillian Moise, a UC Davis Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, has assumed the role of Graduate Student Advisor to the Dean of Graduate Studies and to the Chancellor (GSADC) for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Moise will serve as the primary student representative for graduate students at UC Davis, serving as a voice for graduate student concerns, needs and perspectives. Over the course of a year, she will work closely with Chancellor Gary May, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Jean-Pierre Delplanque, Graduate Council and other campus leaders.

Prior to assuming the role of GSADC, Moise served as the Graduate Student Retention Coordinator for the UC Davis Cross Cultural Center, where she coordinated programming designed to help underrepresented graduate and professional students navigate the rigors associated with pursuing an advanced degree. Moise also participated as a peer mentor in the First-Gen Grads Initiative Pilot Program developed to address the unique needs of first-generation graduate students. Working as a teaching assistant for the Department of Sociology, she has assisted undergraduate students better understand complex sociological theories.

Additionally, Moise has a long history of serving school-aged children from marginalized communities. After attaining a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at St. John’s University and Master of Public Policy at George Washington University, she has worked at elementary and secondary schools where she created and implemented thought-provoking curricula designed to close critical gaps in standard education and prepare students for life beyond high school.

Appointed for a one-year period, the GSADC's term starts on September 1 and continues through October 1 of the following year. The position pays a stipend, plus full tuition and fee remission during the position's tenure, and the student receives a dissertation year fellowship from Graduate Studies for the year following their term of service. The GSADC frequently meets with graduate students and various graduate student groups and organizations, and provides the opportunity for professional development during which the GSADC may hone their leadership skills while also becoming familiar with university administration, particularly in relation to graduate education.

The GSADC also participates on the Chancellor's Graduate and Professional Student Advisory Board, which advises the Office of the Chancellor and advocate on the behalf of graduate and professional students. The CGPSA board is composed of 15-20 current graduate and professional students representing a variety of departments, graduate groups, professional schools, and perspectives on graduate student life. To this end, the board includes representatives from academic graduate programs as well as the professional schools: the School of Law, the Graduate School of Management, the School of Nursing, the School of Education, the School of Medicine and the School of Veterinary Medicine. The board’s membership also reflects the diversity of graduate experiences and identities across gender, race, class, ability, age, sexuality and nationality.

Getting to Know Gillian Moise

Tell us about yourself and what motivated you to become the Graduate Student Advisor to the Dean and Chancellor. 
I’m currently a Ph.D. candidate in the department of sociology. Prior to starting my graduate program at the University of California, Davis, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at St. John’s University located in New York City—my hometown. I then went on to pursue a Master of Public Policy from George Washington University in Washington, DC.

For over a decade, I’ve worked professionally in the non-profit sector and at elementary and secondary schools serving school-aged children from marginalized communities in several cities across the United States. In these positions, I strove to create and implement thought-provoking curricula designed to close critical gaps in standard education and prepare students for life beyond high school.

More recently, I’ve gained experience working on behalf of students in higher education serving as a teaching assistant for undergraduate students and as the Graduate Student Retention Coordinator (GSRC) at the UC Davis Cross Cultural Center (CCC). I chose to pursue the Graduate Student Advisor to the Dean and Chancellor (GSADC) position because I recognized the importance of the platform I had to support my fellow graduate and professional students as the GSRC for the CCC and I wanted to both extend that work and learn more about the governing structures of higher education.   

As a key representative of graduate students and professionals, how has your experience prepared you to succeed as the GSADC?
In my role as GSRC for the CCC one of my central tasks was to relaunch and coordinate the GSoC Mentoring Program, which is designed to help graduate and professional students of color at UC Davis navigate the rigors of graduate school through mentorship from faculty dedicated to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. More generally, the GSoC Mentoring Program aims to increase the pool of faculty of color in academe. Working towards these goals, I matched over 40 underrepresented graduate and professional students with over 40 faculty members across the campus community in the 2019-2020 academic year.

I also participated as a peer mentor in the First-Gen Grads Initiative Pilot Program designed to address the unique needs of first-generation graduate students.

In these roles specifically, I’ve honed the key leadership and organizational skills that will allow me to better support fellow graduate and professional students and juggle the multiple priorities associated with the GSADC role.

What inspired you to pursue your area of study? How does it align with the GSADC position? 
My specific areas of research in the larger sociological discipline include race, environmental sociology, animals and society, and the sociology of culture. I’m inspired by theorists who argue that all systems of oppression share a common, fundamental root. Sociologist Patricia Hill Collins (1990) encapsulates this idea with her concept matrix of domination and sociologist David Pellow (2016) extends the idea by adding species and other nonhuman natures as important categories of difference that are all too often excluded.  

To further explore these ideas empirically, I’m currently working on a dissertation project that uses qualitative data gleaned from vegans of African descent to explore the intersections of racism and speciesism.

In the same way I plan to amplify the voices of my fellow graduate and professional students in my role as GSADC, I hope to use my research to raise the visibility of marginalized human and nonhuman natures.

As we begin the 2020-2021 school year, what are potential challenges facing the graduate community given the current state of the world? What are some solutions that UC Davis should consider? 
Based on conversations with my peers across the UC Davis community, I’ve surmised that the following set of concerns are of paramount significance for graduate and professional students: finding mentorship from members of the academic community who share similar backgrounds and experiences, mitigating financial insecurity, and navigating the various resources offered through the university. These preexisting concerns have only been exacerbated by the unprecedented conditions we face in the 2020-2021 academic year.   

Given this, I plan to serve as a liaison connecting fellow graduate and professional students to important resources on campus that could help to allay some of the aforementioned issues. And where gaps remain, I hope to work with campus leadership to highlight and hopefully address the unmet needs. For instance, as we continue to operate remotely in the midst of a global pandemic, one idea that could greatly benefit all graduate and professional students in general and international students in particular is a move toward wide-scale implementation of asynchronous learning models.

Ultimately, what I’ve realized as a graduate student is that oftentimes the resources are indeed there, but the individual strands comprising and connecting the network of support need to be both strengthened and made visible.  

What do you want to achieve in this role and what steps are you taking to get started?
Mentorship continues to be an important and much-needed resource for graduate and professional students. What I’ve especially come to learn is that underrepresented graduate and professional students are yearning for opportunities to connect with a diverse set of advisors who can speak to traversing the academic terrain from particular positionalities. Simultaneously, UC Davis alumni are seeking to contribute to the university in substantive ways and make meaningful connections with current graduate and professional students. This is a perfect opportunity to combine two objectives in order to offer students pursuing advanced degrees another source of mentorship outside of faculty and peers.

My plan to achieve this goal is two-pronged: 1) collaborate with key Graduate Studies staff to invite UC Davis alumni to give informal, seminar-style presentations on topics ranging from work-life balance, to pursuing a career outside of academe, to impostor syndrome, to juggling family and a career, to writing a dissertation; and, 2) build the framework for an alumni-graduate student mentoring program that would be piloted in the winter and spring quarters and implemented on a larger scale in subsequent years.

What do you like to do outside of your position?
When I’m able to find time outside of working on my dissertation and carrying out my responsibilities as GSADC, I take time to enjoy some of life’s simple pleasures such as hiking on calm and peaceful nature trails, reading for leisure, and cooking wholesome vegan meals.  

About UC Davis Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes over 100 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.
UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.

For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.