University of Vermont

First Semester of RGSA Sees Big Success

RGSA Chili Cook-Off Winners (left to right): Jon Katz, Monika Derrien, Ryan Morra, Judge Suzanne Levine, Cook-Off Coordinator Nathan Reigner, and Ellen Rovelstad
RGSA Chili Cook-Off Winners (left to right): Jon Katz, Monika Derrien, Ryan Morra, Judge Suzanne Levine, Cook-Off Coordinator Nathan Reigner, and Ellen Rovelstad

The Rubenstein Graduate Student Association (RGSA), of all RSENR graduate students (formerly embodied as the Graduate Student Advisory Board), can say with confidence and pride that its inaugural semester was a success. Working to create a healthy, vibrant, and welcoming graduate student body in RSENR, the RGSA carried out some new initiatives this semester, like the undergraduate mentoring program, and continued with some time-honored favorites, including the monthly social hours and the Chili Cook-Off.

Social Hours: Whether enjoying local flavors at a downtown establishment or wondering who was going to eat the last deep-fried Oreo in the Old North End, the Rubenstein graduate community turned out in good numbers to the Friday afternoon social hours. Gatherings were hosted at a variety of venues and created opportunities for graduate students, faculty, and staff to chat with new and returning community members.  Each event saw commendable attendance of 25 people (or more!).  The RGSA is hopeful that the enthusiasm for these social events will continue to grow and extend into the rest of the academic year.  Remember, everyone from the Rubenstein graduate community (that means you, faculty and staff!) is invited and welcomed to attend these fun Friday evenings.

Chili Cook-Off: Also on the social front, the 3rd Annual Chili Cook-off was once again a hit with 14 graduate student chefs showing off their culinary wits, vying for the best vegetarian and meat chili in a contest attended by over 80 staff, faculty, and students from across the university. The chilis ranged from some classic recipes – like the “Good Ole Fashioned” and “Texas Clay,” in the meat category to more eclectic recipes like “Pumpkin” and “Cinderella” in the vegetarian category. In the end, it seemed that the participant-judged contest favored the most non-traditional styles, with the winners as follows:

1st place meatMonika Derrien for her “Quail Cashew Chili”

1st place vegetarianRyan Morra for his “Moroccan-Style Chickpea Chili”

2nd place meatJon Katz for his “Yo Mama(‘s Chili)”

2nd place vegetarian - Ellen Rovelstad for her “Mele Chilikimaka”

The first issuing of the Suzanne Levine Award for best overall chili was a tight contest, as stated by Levine before donning the award. Associate Professor Suzanne Levine meticulously tasted each chili in a separate room, washing her bowl between tastes, and consulted a set of official Texas chili-judging criteria to evaluate each dish based on flavor, texture, and aroma. Suzanne, a self-described chili aficionado, gave her eponymous award to Ryan Morra for his “Moroccan-Style Chickpea Chili.” Funds raised from the event support the Rubenstein Graduate Student Association, and a portion will also be donated to charity. Looking for recipes? Feel free to contact the chefs directly! Looking for more culinary com-PIE-tition? Stay tuned…

Mini-Grants: The RGSA once again showed support for its own RSENR graduate students by doling out highly coveted mini-grants to graduate students to aid in costs related to conducting their research. The lucky recipients from the fall of 2012 included:

Peter Euclide(MS, Aquatic Ecology & Watershed Science),

Christopher Hansen (MS, Forest & Wildlife Science),

Mitchell Jones (MS, Aquatic Ecology & Watershed Science), and

Jakob Schenker (MS, Natural Resources).

Another round of mini-grants will go out in the spring, as well, so keep your eyes peeled!

Undergraduate Samantha Smith (NR '14) meets with graduate student mentor, Nathan Reigner.Mentoring Program: This fall marked the first time when graduate students volunteered to pair up with an undergraduate student to meet on a monthly basis and provide mentorship on navigating the waters of school, jobs, graduate programs, and to hopefully make lasting connections across the RSENR community. If you are an undergraduate student who did not participate this semester but you have interest in being paired up with a graduate student mentor in the spring, contact Becca Pincus at for more information.

UPCOMING EVENT – RGSA All-Members Meeting: The RGSA will hold its first All-Members Meeting in the spring of 2013 to discuss issues important to the RSENR graduate student body and to make recommendations to the RSENR administration for follow-up. Are you a RSENR graduate student? If so, you are a member of the RGSA and should come to have your voice heard! The meeting will be structured as an open house where students can drop-in to chat with members of the RGSA Executive Committee and certain faculty and staff involved in graduate education within Rubenstein. Look for details at the beginning of the spring semester.

UPCOMING EVENT – RGSA Holiday Social: The fall semester’s festivities will round out with a holiday celebration on Saturday, December 15th from 7:00pm – 10:00pm at North End Studios, Studio B (map Refreshments will be provided. Faculty, Staff, and RSENR Graduate Students and friends of the RSENR graduate community are enthusiastically welcome. Come make the last social of the year a great time! Of course, monthly RGSA social hours will pick up again in January and continue through the spring semester.  Watch your email for announcements! We hope to see you there and carry on the success of these meetings in bringing together our graduate community.