Grad Students Show Lawmakers Value of UC Research


How can California better prepare for droughts and floods? Tashiana Osborne, a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is studying atmospheric rivers—the primary source of rainfall in the region. These ribbons of water in the atmosphere make the difference between a prolonged dry spell and an unusually wet winter.

“Being able to predict when and where these storms will land, and with what intensity, will support California in managing its water resources and preparing for extreme weather events,” she said.

Osborne recently shared this message with state lawmakers in Sacramento during UC Graduate Research Advocacy Day, which took place April 19. Osborne and Jahmese Fort, who is pursuing a doctorate in communication at UC San Diego, were part of the delegation of UC graduate students who traveled to the State Capitol to impress upon legislators the value of graduate research.

“Our graduate students apply their creative energy, passion and expertise to address issues critical to California, from health care to energy to education,” said Kit Pogliano, dean of the Graduate Division at UC San Diego. “They help teach and mentor undergraduates, launch startups, and go on to become the next generation of leaders in academia, industry, government and public service.”

In a series of face-to-face meetings, Osborne and Fort, along with UC San Diego government relations staff, met with local legislators and their staff including: Sen. Joel Anderson ( R-38), Sen. Pat Bates (R-36), Assemblymember Rocky Chavez (R-76), Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-78), Sen. Ben Hueso (D-40), Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (R-77), Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R-75); and Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-79).

Fort explained her research on the U.S. Census and why some groups choose not to participate. Rather than simply being apathetic, she found that some people boycott the headcount as a means of political activism—to impact how the government allocates resources and funds.

“Words like ‘apathetic’ and ‘poor citizen’ are often used when interpreting why someone chooses not to participate in a civic activity,” she said. “But when you look at the context for the decision, a different picture emerges. My research suggests we need to broaden how we think about civic participation.”

The meetings were also an opportunity to talk with legislators about supporting UC’s effort to enroll an additional 900 graduate students. The University of California currently trains and supports more than 26,000 doctoral students. In addition to pursuing original research, these students serve as teachers and mentors to UC’s 200,000 undergraduates.

“Most people recognize the value of higher education as it relates to earning an undergraduate degree,” said Fort. “After today, I feel more confident that the lawmakers we met with have a better sense of the valuable research being completed by UC graduate students, as well as the contributions we make to campus life and the training of undergraduates.”

Osborne added, “Speaking to lawmakers at the State Capitol was truly a memorable experience. I saw firsthand more of the moving parts that must come together in state budget division, especially regarding science, education and innovation that ultimately help California flourish.”

For more information about graduate education at UC San Diego, visit To learn more about supporting UC research, visit the UC Advocacy Network.

- Kristin Schafgans

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