Most likely, there are relatively few places where you can say that while you’re at work you usually have your lunch break taking a walk in the woods, but for the graduate programs coordinator at UC Santa Cruz’s Film and Digital Media Department, Rachel Grad, that’s a regular experience. An avid outdoors person, she also enjoys biking from campus on the main bike path that offers a sweeping view of Monterey Bay as one zooms down the rolling hills of the Great Meadow.
Rachel grew up outside of Chicago with a hardworking family and attended the University of Washington, where she earned a B.A. in English. She also recently completed an M.S. in instructional science and technology from CSU Monterey Bay.
“I’ve had a winding career path, but I’ve always focused on working in places where I agree with the institutional mission,” she says. “While things are complicated when it comes to practicalities and competing needs of a complex world, I’ve never settled for anything less as a starting point.”
Now approaching her sixth year working at UC Santa Cruz, Rachel appreciates so many of the unique aspects of being a part of this special campus. Some of her favorites are graduation time when students and their families pose in front of the UCSC sign at the front entrance, and the knowledge she gains from talking with various faculty and students. “It’s also kind of like a small town,” she says, “So I often bump into people I know on campus and have ended up working with people in different ways over the years.”
She appreciates that UCSC is made up of 34% first gen students and has the highest ranked social mobility status. She says students inspire her on a regular basis: “When I see new students who understand what we have here, and you can just tell they’re not going to waste a single moment or let a single opportunity slip by.”
Rachel is also a longtime meditation and dharma student. A few years ago, she participated in an extended study at University of Wisconsin that investigated brain states through a net of 220 sensors temporarily glued to her head. “They collected information while meditating and while not meditating and did all kinds of tests. We also did a sleep study at the end, which was very cool. We know so little. They monitored our brains and woke me up every time I entered REM sleep via a speaker in my ear. Then they asked questions about what was in my mind. I was woken up about five times and it was interesting to see the progression in what I could report.”
Outside of working at UCSC, Rachel is active within the local community and volunteers. “I often get into various volunteer opportunities and am always diving into random hobbies and interests – cultures; vinyl; uranium glass; baking; instruments; symbols,” she says. “I like all kinds of outdoor activities like camping, backpacking, kayaking, hiking, and snowshoeing. More than anything I love my partner, Mel, who has the purest heart in the entire world.”
To find out more about UCSC's Film and Digital Media Department: https://film.ucsc.edu/