Related: Student Association officersThe newly elected Graduate Student Association (GSA) officers participated in a Q-and-A to help the Rice community get better acquainted with them. Their responses appear below.
Name: M. Goat Domeracki.
Department: Religious Studies.
Originally from: Boulder, Colo.
Why I came to Rice: I came to Rice University to work with April DeConick (the Isla Carroll Turner and Percy Turner Professor of Religious Studies) and the Religious Studies Department. Rice is a very collaborative environment, and I knew coming here I would have an opportunity to learn from different faculty members in other departments as well. I love the diversity and encouragement the university offers to the students. It has been an incredible experience, and I couldn’t be happier here at Rice.
Why I joined the GSA: I joined the GSA to give back to a community that has given me a lot. From professional development to improving academic resources, the GSA has done a great deal for the graduate student community, and I look forward to continuing this tradition with the other officers.
Name: Michael Sinai.
Office: Internal vice president.
Department: Rice School of Architecture.
Originally from: Montreal.
Why I came to Rice: I came to Rice because of the School of Architecture’s excellent reputation as having a dynamic and energized program. Being such a small program, it allows students unrivalled access to its fantastic faculty. I studied philosophy as an undergrad, and Rice’s focus on architectural theory and criticism made (coming here) an easy decision.
Why I joined the GSA: In the GSA I recognized an incredibly powerful agent for the exchange of ideas and positive change that I wanted to be a part of. The GSA fosters personal relationships, promotes professional development and unifies an incredibly diverse student body. I’m honored to be able to represent the graduate student body as its internal vice president.
Name: Jonathan (JD) Dornell.
Office: External vice president.
Department: Biochemistry and Cell Biology.
Originally from: Houston.
Why I came to Rice: I decided to pursue my graduate studies at Rice University because it is a prestigious institution that I was very familiar with while growing up. The community is ripe with diversity, innovation and outreach, which are all very important values to me. Coming to Rice as a graduate student has proven to be one of the best life decisions I have ever made.
Why I joined the GSA: I joined the GSA because this group has made my time as a graduate student very enriching. With everything that Rice and its community have provided for me so far, it is only fair that I give back in an adequate way. I also joined GSA because I love to make new connections with people from familiar — and unfamiliar — backgrounds. Considering how diverse the GSA at Rice University is, it was a “no-brainer” for me to become more involved.
Name: Navid Sakhavand.
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Originally from: Tehran, Iran.
Why I came to Rice: Rice is one of the few institutions that takes up the multibillion-dollar industry of concrete with the latest and most advanced techniques in analysis, scientific research, engineering and economics and wraps them all together in a perfect symphony. Moreover, Rice offers students of all backgrounds and talents many opportunities for involvement beyond the textbook. Rice earned a powerful reputation for being a springboard for those who change the world.
Why I joined the GSA: I seek to step outside of what is familiar to me in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and reach out to fellow academics. I am a student of more than just the textbook and laboratory. I desire to learn from others as well as share my knowledge. When knowledge, wisdom and talents combine, the power of the group rises exponentially. GSA provides such opportunities in many forms.
Name: Melissa Venator.
Department: Art History.
Originally from: Dallas.
Why I came to Rice: To study with top modernists in a city with incredible public art collections.
Why I joined the GSA: To strengthen the graduate student community at Rice.
Name: Cheryl “Cherrie” Thompson.
Office: Community service chair.
Department: Master of Liberal Studies (MLS).
Originally from: Barbados.
Why I came to Rice: The Rice MLS program was just what I was looking for. It offers me the opportunity for intellectual growth and to gain a deeper understanding of things that interest me most, such as classical works, world history, philosophy, science and world issues.
Why I joined the GSA: As long as I’ve been a student, I’ve been actively involved in student government and other leadership activities. I found those experiences to be extremely fulfilling, and they have made a huge impact on my life. I look forward to representing the interests of graduate students at Rice.
Name: Anne Hellebust.
Originally from: Carlsbad, N.M.
Why I came to Rice: The proximity to the Texas Medical Center and the opportunities it provides was one of the major selling points since I work on early detection of oral and esophageal cancer. But the collaborative and friendly graduate student environment here at Rice is what sold me.
Why I joined GSA: GSA does so many wonderful things that add to the quality of life for the graduate students here at Rice. I wanted to do my part and contribute to all of the fun activities that GSA sponsors.
Name: Michelle Downey.
Office: Publicity and marketing chair.
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB).
Originally from: Lorena, Texas.
Why I came to Rice: I decided to enroll in the Rice EEB program because of the talented faculty and great resources and support available to graduate students here.
Why I joined the GSA: The GSA mission is important, and I wanted to make my contribution to help all grad students have a great experience here at Rice.
Name: Christopher Dohna.
Office: Lounge manager.
Originally from: Oceanside, Calif.
Why I came to Rice: For the opportunity to have someone pay me to do philosophy for five years.
Why I joined the GSA: To get away from all these philosophers.
Name: Barbara Redeker.
Office: International student liaison.
Department: Master of Liberal Studies (MLS).
Originally from: Houston.
Why I came to Rice: Rice’s MLS program is unique to Houston and the best of its kind in the country, bar none. MLS allows me to study for the pure joy of learning and fulfilling a personal need and drive to be a life-long learner and discoverer of new ideas. John Freeman, director, and Rebecca Sharp Sanchez, assistant director, are wonderfully supportive too.
Why I joined the GSA: I joined GSA to become actively engaged on campus by volunteering my time and services to create positive and memorable experiences for all students at Rice.
Name: Kiri Kilpatrick.
Department: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Hometown: Carrollton, Texas.
Why I came to Rice: The friendly community and innovative research.
Why I joined GSA: I joined GSA because GSA provides a valuable service to graduate students by sponsoring programs that enrich graduate student life and presenting unique opportunities for students to grow academically and professionally.