May 2021 COGS Connection

Important Upcoming Date

  • Tuesday, May 11: Tuition payments due for classes starting May 18.
  • Saturday, May 15: COGS May Commencement Ceremony at 4 PM.
  • Tuesday, May 18: All summer 12-week, 1st 8-week, and 1st 4-week classes begin. 
  • Tuesday, May 25: Last day to drop a 1st 8-week or 1st 6-week course with a full refund and no record. 
  • Friday, May 28: Last day to drop a 12-week course with a full refund and no record.

May Commencement Information

Quick Details:

  • Face coverings are required. 
  • Graduates are expected to arrive at Wisdom Gym inside the Kinesiology Building no less than 1 hour prior to the commencement ceremony. 
  • Following the ceremony, graduates will be led from Memorial Stadium and will be dismissed onto Rudder Way (North side of Wisdom Gym). 
  • Designate a place to meet your guests after the ceremony outside of Memorial Stadium.
  • We anticipate ceremonies lasting 90-120 minutes. Please plan accordingly. 
  • Live streaming will be available for the graduation ceremonies.

For more information regarding the day of commencement, please see our Commencement Day Information page on the Tarleton Graduation website.

Get Your Work Published

Tarleton has a read and publish agreement with Cambridge University Press. Tarleton students and faculty can publish their articles open access without any article processing charges.

Join Cambridge Press for a webinar on Monday, May 10, from 10:00-11:00 AM focused on the basics of Open Access (OA) and how you can benefit from our publishing agreement. 

2021 Pathways Research Symposium

The 2021 TAMUS Pathways Research Symposium will be held at the Texas A&M campus in Bryan College-Station on November 18 and 19. Each system school will send undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students to present their research in a friendly institutional competition like no other. It promotes and highlights research from each campus and illuminates a “pathway to the doctorate” for students in the Texas A&M System. More details will be forthcoming from A&M. In the meantime, mark your calendars!

Graduate Student Spotlights

Shayne White is the GA for the College of Graduate Studies. Shayne will graduate this month with her M.S. in Agricultural and Consumer Resources. She was recently accepted into the Ph.D. program in Agricultural Communications and Education program at Texas Tech University and will begin courses this fall. We are going to miss Shayne and her exceptional service. We wish her well on her new journey at TTU. Congratulations, Shayne!

Lauren Penner is our May 2021 COGS commencement speaker. Lauren will be graduating this month with her M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. After graduation, Lauren will be working at a counseling practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate while she earns hours toward full licensure as an LPC. For the last two semesters, Lauren has worked as a counselor intern at Tarleton’s Student Counseling Services. Thank you for representing Tarleton so well, Lauren! 

Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Lora Helvie-Mason, professor and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Tarleton State University, has been named the Texas Women in Higher Education’s Institutional Representative of the Year for 2021.

The annual award recognizes a TWHE member who has made outstanding contributions to the organization. 

The Center of Educational Excellence is accepting applications for the Student Scholarly Travel Grant. All currently enrolled graduate and undergraduate students who have been accepted to present at a virtual conference can apply for the grant of up to $1,000.

The award is intended to help defray costs associated with virtually attending professional conferences, exhibits, and performances for the purpose of presenting research results and other scholarly or creative activities. Applications are due by Wednesday, May 12.

For questions or assistance with the application process, please contact Dr. Abu Ghazaleh at or Dr. Bozer at

Scholarship Application Reminder

We encourage all graduate students to keep an updated scholarship application on file with Tarleton’s Scholarship Office. To be considered for summer 2021 scholarship funding, you must have a 2020-2021 scholarship application on file. To be considered for fall 2021 scholarship funding, you must have a 2021-2022 scholarship application on file. 

Did You Know?

The Daytripper, Chet Garner, recently made a trip to Stephenville to explore Tarleton State University. His visit consisted of going to his first Tarleton Texan football game, a chat with Dr. Hurley, and he even shared a meal with some of our Purple Poo. Check out The Daytripper’s visit to campus and experience what makes Tarleton so special. 

Spotlight Search

The College of Graduate Studies is always looking to feature our students, faculty, and programs who are doing great things! We share spotlights on social media, our blog, and in monthly issues of The COGS Connection. Do you know someone whose story and/or success should be shared? Submit their information below.

April 2021 COGS Connection

Important Upcoming Dates

  • Thursday, April 15: Comprehensive Assessment results must be submitted to the COGS office.
  • Friday, April 16: Last day to drop a 2nd 8-week course with a Q or a W. 
  • Tuesday, May 4: Last class day of the spring 2021 semester.
  • Tuesday, May 18: All summer 12-week, 1st 8-week, and 1st 4-week classes begin. 

Graduation Tickets

May 2021 Commencement tickets will be mailed beginning Monday, April 19. Each graduate will receive a total of 8 tickets. Tickets will be mailed to the address provided on the graduation application. If you have questions regarding tickets, please email

*For more information regarding upcoming commencement ceremonies, please visit the Tarleton graduation website

The College of Graduate Studies is looking to hire a Graduate Assistant to begin working in the office this summer. In the COGS GA role, you will work directly with the COGS team members and will be responsible for the following duties:

  • Assist current and prospective students by answering questions via phone and web chat
  • Track student admission applications 
  • Assist with social media content management and creation
  • Help with COGS graduation ceremonies
  • Other duties as assigned

All interested applicants should submit their cover letter, resume, and course schedule to Elizabeth Rawlings at to be considered for the position. We look forward to reviewing your application! 

Money Monday Webinars

Cost does not have to be a barrier for your graduate school dreams. Join us for one of our live, in-depth presentations regarding the many resources available for funding an advanced degree from Tarleton. We have two Money Monday topics we are covering throughout the month: 

COGS Spotlights

Sophia Stice
Sophia Stice will graduate with her master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in May. Sophia was nominated for this month’s spotlight because she was recently accepted into the Ph.D. in Counselor Education program at Texas Tech University. She will begin her doctoral studies there this fall. Congratulations, Sophia!

Dr. Michael Luera
Dr. Luera is currently in his first year as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Luera is the director of the Human Performance Laboratory, where he studies neuromuscular and physiological adaptations with exercise and biomechanical analysis of sport performance. He also started the Kinesiology Journal Club at Tarleton this last fall semester as an opportunity for students to become familiar with research through peer reviewed literature. The club meets weekly to discuss relative topics in the field of Kinesiology. Learn more about Dr. Luera by visiting his Google Scholar profile.

Spotlight Search

The College of Graduate Studies is always looking to feature our students, faculty, and programs who are doing great things! We share spotlights on social media, our blog, and in monthly issues of The COGS Connection. Do you know someone whose story and/or success should be shared? Submit their information here.

Tarleton Adds ‘Texan Smart’ to Accreditation Review

Tarleton State University announced Texan Smart — an educational focus on financial wellness and well-being — as its Quality Enhancement Plan for 2021-2026. “Texan Smart will provide students the know-how and confidence they need to be financially fit today and long after they graduate,” said Dr. Karen Murray, Tarleton Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The sooner we can prepare our students for real-world financial scenarios, the better.” 

Learn more about Texan Smart here.

Did You Know?

The story of the red brick used in many iconic Tarleton buildings began early in the 20th century. Coaxed by Tarleton benefactress, Pearl Wiley Cage, brick plant owner, Edgar Marston, donated material in 1902 to build the campus’ first red brick building. Marston and other business owners later provided funds to make Tarleton part of the Texas A&M University System. Today, much of campus boasts an actual Acme Brick color, Tarleton Blend.

Learn more Tarleton facts.

Program Spotlight

Tarleton’s New Engineering Building

The College of Science and Technology recently added a master’s degree in Computer Engineering to its list of graduate program offerings.

We visited with Dr. Eric Wyers, assistant professor in electrical engineering, to gain some insight into the new degree. Dr. Wyers’ background is comprised of extensive industry as well as academic experience. Wyers worked in the Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area before transitioning into academic-level work after completing his PhD at North Carolina State University. Wyers is starting his sixth year at Tarleton and looks forward to seeing the graduate engineering program continue to grow.

Learn more about Tarleton’s Master of Science in Computer Engineering in the following conversation with Dr. Eric Wyers.

COGS: What brought you to Tarleton?

EW: I had already worked in the engineering industry for a number of years and the main purpose of getting my PhD was so that I would be qualified to do academic-level work. Once I finished up my post-doc, I began looking for job opportunities. I applied to several positions all over the country. I’m not sure how well-known it is, but the academic job market is very tight. There was a position available at Tarleton and I decided to apply. I grew up in Illinois, but met my wife in Austin, Texas, so we enjoyed the idea of getting to come back to Texas. I was offered the position and happily accepted. I knew right away that Tarleton was the right place for me!

COGS: What began your interest in engineering?

EW: You know, most people when asked this question will say, ‘I spent my whole childhood building things’ but for me, it wasn’t like that. In high school, I had kind of fallen through the cracks. I did enough to graduate, obviously, but just did not feel like I had been challenged enough. Math and science had always been what interested me, and after visiting with my school counselor, I decided engineering might be a good fit. I learned that it paid well and that a lot of people tend to shy away from engineering because of the math and science components which is what I loved. I have always enjoyed using my brain to solve complex problems.

COGS: Tell us about the new Master of Science in Computer Engineering.

EW: We have a very talented pool of faculty in both the computer science and electrical engineering programs. Our blend of backgrounds is what made us see the need for a master’s degree in computer engineering. Computer Engineering is a combination of computer science and electrical engineering. The background that I bring to the table for this program is the integrated circuits area. Integrated circuits are computer chips, or chips in general. You can find these chips in just about anything such as your mobile phones and computers.

In the program, I focus on helping my students understand the challenges in chip design and how to do the design in different types of technologies. In my research, I am involved in engineering design optimization. This involves not only the design techniques but also how we can help designers do their job more efficiently: For example, getting a product out to market quickly by using robust tools and methodologies. I do have my own research interests but am highly receptive to what students are wanting to gain from the program as well. I try to find things that my students can take away and apply immediately.

COGS: What would you tell a student who has a bachelor’s degree in engineering that is considering a master’s in computer engineering? What are the benefits of earning a master’s degree?

EW: I would say to any student who is considering applying to a computer engineering master’s program to give Tarleton a serious look because we are doing cutting-edge things in Stephenville, Texas. It is only going to get better as we grow, recruit more students, and get more research under our belt.

As an undergraduate student, there is only so much design exposure you can receive. If you want to do design, getting a master’s degree is somewhat of an implied requirement. A master’s degree will prepare you to move into those more advanced positions.

COGS: Can you tell us a little about the job market?

EW: I would say that the demand is very high for those who obtain an advanced degree in engineering, especially for design positions. Finding a job in engineering is easy. It is easier to find a position in engineering compared to other fields because there is such a high demand for engineers. However, if you add the term ‘design’ in your job search, you will always find that a master’s degree is implied or required. There are all kinds of support fields for engineering, such as: applications, direct involvement with customers, going out in the field, product testing and others; however, without an engineering design, no other type of skill would be needed.

COGS: Is there anything else you would like to add that we have not covered?

EW: We are really growing as a program and our faculty are well-connected. We want to make this program top-notch. We are all keenly aware of the expertise that each of us bring to the table. The benefits that come along with going to a smaller program like ours is the faculty and student interaction. We truly care about all of our students and want each of them to succeed. Just because we are small doesn’t mean that we don’t offer a big university experience.

We opened our new engineering building in the fall of 2019. We need students like you to come to Tarleton and do some learning, some contributing, and get out there and show the world how engineering is done!

Learn more about Tarleton’s Master of Science in Computer Engineering here, or email Tarleton’s College of Graduate Studies at

FrontRunners Podcast at Tarleton State University

Tarleton’s FrontRunners Podcast recording new content

Tarleton’s FrontRunners Podcast was created in 2018 by Dr. Kayla Peak and three graduate assistants. The FrontRunners Podcast was originally created to be used as an educational tool to help kinesiology students, faculty, staff and alumni who wanted to keep up with topics of kinesiology. Over the last couple of years, the podcast has made a shift from strictly kinesiology topics, to the focus of involvement from students in every department at Tarleton.

Read the following spotlight to learn more about Tarleton’s FrontRunners Podcast and how your department could be featured on an upcoming episode.

The following interview was with Kaitlynn Burris and Sydney Shippey, current Tarleton graduate students who both play a big role in the podcast production and advertisement.

COGS: What is the mission of the FrontRunners Podcast?

SS: Our mission is to connect with as many individuals across Tarleton as possible. Since we are only one of the two podcasts here at Tarleton (the other is the radio station), we want to give students a voice. Along with students, we want to give new departments a place to advertise and present their program information to students. We want to provide a platform for everyone who wants one.

COGS: How do students know and/or learn about the podcast?

KB: My official title for the podcast is ‘Social Media Coordinator’ and social media is one of the largest places we market the FrontRunners podcast. I run the Tarleton Kinesiology Twitter account and my co-worker, Sydney Shippey, runs our Instagram account. Since we both help with the podcast, every Monday and Thursday we publish social posts that let our followers know that there is a new podcast live and then provide the link to the FrontRunners’ Apple and Spotify accounts on the post.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay in the loop with the FrontRunners Podcast!

COGS: How many podcasts does your team produce a week at a time?

KB: When we first completed the revamp plans of being more inclusive across all majors, our calendars were packed full of participants that wanted to come in and participate. The closer we got to the holidays (November and December) we had to dial back to only releasing one a week. We hope to get back to releasing two each week again soon!

COGS: How do you make the selection of who you are going to feature on the podcast with you?

KB: We sometimes run into the issue of not having enough participation and involvement, so we are trying to reach out to all departments across campus to send students and/or faculty to visit with us on the podcast. We have a content area that we cover titled ‘Texans by Texans’ which is where we interview current Tarleton students. We would really enjoy participation from both graduate and undergraduate students. The goal of Texans by Texans is for students to come and share their Tarleton experience. Sharing challenges and successes provide an outlet for our listeners to hear from other Texans and relate to different things all college students experience.

COGS: What does the FrontRunners Podcast have in the works for new content coming out soon?

SS: We are hoping to meet with some individuals for the Purple Pantry on campus. The Purple Pantry is here to assist and connect students to food resources in the community. We have started a weekly campaign called ‘Recipe Sundays’. On Sundays we will share a recipe with our followers and it is always easy meals with ingredients everyone has in their pantry. We encourage our followers to cook with us and then show us their meal once they’re done. Students share their meals with us via social by submitting photos and videos of their food. When we stared sharing these submissions on our social accounts, we would tag the Tarleton Purple Pantry. The Purple Pantry actually put together a highlight reel on their page that showed all of our submission photos. That collaboration has been really neat to be a part of and we are looking forward to hopefully have some representatives from the Purple Pantry on the podcast very soon. So, be on the lookout for that!

Listen to Tarleton’s FrontRunners Podcast by visiting Spotify or Apple. To get involved, you can contact Kaitlynn and Sydney at

The Graduate Student’s Guide to the FAFSA

It is that time again- time to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, typically referred to as the FAFSA. As a current graduate student, I get it – that phrase may make you cringe, but what if it didn’t have to? Here are a few tips to make your FAFSA experience a little less stressful.

Tip 1: Did you know that you do have to reapply each year you are wanting to be considered for financial aid? True story. For example, if you are wanting to receive aid for the upcoming year, fall 2021 – summer 2022, then you need to file/renew your FAFSA application. The FAFSA for the 2021 – 2022 academic year opened on October 1, 2020, so if you have already filed your 2021/2022 FAFSA, you are good to go for next year.

Tip 2: One trick that I personally used when renewing my FAFSA for the upcoming academic year was the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. No, I promise it is not as scary as it sounds, in fact, it saved me a lot of time when filling out my application! The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows you to transfer information from your Federal Tax Return to your FAFSA, reducing data entry errors. Your FAFSA will ask if you would like to use this tool once you have started your application.

Tip 3: It is always good to file your FAFSA as early as possible. If you would like to be considered for financial aid opportunities, do not to wait to file until right before your fall semester starts. It does take some time for your FAFSA to be processed and your aid package to be available for you to review.

Tip 4: If you are currently an undergraduate student but will become a graduate student sometime during fall 2021 – summer of 2022, then you will want to indicate that you are a graduate student when you are asked on the FAFSA. This is because you will be a graduate student during the specific academic year for which you are filing.

I hope that you found these four tips helpful as you begin your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Tarleton’s FAFSA school code is 003631. If you have any specific questions regarding your FAFSA, please contact Tarleton’s Office of Financial Aid at, or call them at 254-968-9070.

This post was written by Ashtin Kimple. Ashtin works in Tarleton’s College of Graduate Studies and is also currently a graduate student. You can contact her by email at

Dean’s Message

Welcome to Spring 2021!

I hope you had a restful and relaxing holiday break and are ready to begin the spring semester. There are lots of exciting things happening at Tarleton in the coming months, including the last leg of work in our strategic planning process to chart a course for the next decade.

As challenging as 2020 was for all of us in so many ways, a new year always seems to bring a sense of new possibilities. As we start this next semester, one goal I hope you’ll consider is to make a concerted effort to build your personal connections and professional network. Invest extra time to get to know your classmates and make new friends in and outside of your academic discipline. Our faculty and staff are fully committed to your success, so use them as a resource to help guide your path and reach your goals.

In addition to your peers and faculty mentors, know that the College of Graduate Studies staff members are here to help. If you encounter an obstacle, please reach out to our office. We can’t guarantee a solution, but I can guarantee that we will work alongside you to help you see all of your options.

I wish you well this semester and truly took forward to seeing you cross the stage at commencement!

Best wishes,

~ Dr. Credence Baker
Dean of the College of Graduate Studies

Connect with Dr. Baker on LinkedIn, and learn more about her and the rest of the COGS team right here on WordPress

Student/Staff Spotlight

Chad Head

Chad Head will graduate with his master’s degree from Tarleton State University in Kinesiology with a focus in Sport Administration on December 11, 2020. Chad started at Tarleton as a student assistant with the Tarleton Texan football team in spring 2019. He transitioned to a graduate assistant and is now a full-time staff member for the Tarleton football program. Chad has learned a lot during his time Tarleton, and he looks forward to the future of eventually becoming a coordinator and then a head football coach.

Read the following student/staff spotlight to learn more about Chad Head and how his passion for athletic administration has led him to a full-time position with the Tarleton football team at the young age of only 24.

COGS: Tell us a little about yourself.

CH: I am from a town east of Dallas, called Athens. I graduated from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, in December of 2018. I played football at AC all four years of my college career. Originally, I was planning on going straight into a high school football career where I would be teaching history and coaching football. Tarleton was actually a last minute decision I made and it has worked out really well for me both educationally and professionally.

COGS: So what made you make the last-minute decision to attend Tarleton?

CH: My stepdad, Robert Ivey, went to Tarleton for his undergraduate degree and played football for the Texans from 1985-1988. He was inducted into the Tarleton State University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007. So, growing up around my stepdad, it allowed me to become very involved with Tarleton. This made it an easy decision when he encouraged me to complete my master’s degree and become a graduate assistant for the football team. He said that if I became a GA and worked my way up, it would open the door for higher level coaching positions in the future.

COGS: So your stepdad knew that being a GA at Tarleton would be a good connection and good way for you to get into coaching?

CH: Tarleton is very well-known in the coaching world, all over the country actually. If you’re a big-time coach, whether it’s at the high school or collegiate level, you know about Tarleton State University. Tarleton produces a lot of coaches that have a high success rate after graduation. I look forward to being one of those coaches in the near future now that I have officially started my coaching career!

COGS: Do you feel like your master’s in kinesiology is going to help you excel in your future career?

CH: I definitely think so! When I started at Tarleton, I expected to be doing a lot of busy work, like I had done during some of my undergraduate degree, but at Tarleton, you have the opportunity to gain more hands on experience. My first graduate course I took here required me to travel to different athletic facilities across the state and meet with athletic directors. I had to take pictures and write up full reports on the state of their athletic facilities. I needed to determine what was good and what could use some work in regards to safety and whether the faculties provided an environment for success. If athletic programs do not have the means to provide the foundation of success for the kids, then it really can cripple the program and can be an unsafe environment for the athletes.

COGS: Can you tell us the title of your now full-time position and tell us a little of what the transition was like going from a GA to a full-time staff member?

CH: I am the Director of Football Operations. I actually started as a student assistant when I began at Tarleton in January of 2019. I worked for free as a student assistant for the first six months, and then eventually transitioned into a GA position that was paid, luckily! GA positions only last about 18 months, so I was pretty limited on time to secure a full-time job. Our transition to Division I happened about halfway through the season last year and I knew there were going to be some new positions coming available. The Director of Operations opened up and I decided to apply, because ultimately, I had nothing to lose. Coach Whitten wanted me to complete the duties of the role for six months, and at the end, he would evaluate my performance and see if I had earned the position. Essentially, it was a six month long interview! He was happy with my work and I started my new role in September of this year.

COGS: How have things been changing internally since the transition to D1 athletics? How do you think that is going to change in the future?

CH: There has been a lot of changes already, and a lot more of change to come. The new stadium, jumbotron, and fieldhouse are all related to the Division I change. We are also working on updating the nutrition for our athletes. We were already doing good, but now it’s going to be even better for the overall health and well-being of our athletes. Grades have also been big! In D1 athletics there is an academic progress rate that must be met, and this was not a requirement in Division II. Recruiting will also look a little different for years to come. All student athletes must been in the top 75% of their graduating class for us to recruit them. Truthfully, we’d prefer our athletes to be in the top half of their class to ensure our athletes will perform successfully in the classroom, because ultimately, that’s why they are here, to receive a college education.

COGS: What advice do you have for a student interested in pursing a master’s degree at Tarleton?

CH: A lot of people are intimated by the title ‘master’s degree’. My leadership professor recently said that only 8% of individuals have their master’s degree, but I would encourage them not to get caught up in the thought of all of that and just do it. The professors at Tarleton want to help you and see you succeed. If you have completed your undergraduate degree, then you have already proven that you’re academically successful. If you’re considering completing your master’s, do it. If you don’t, you limit yourself and will miss out on the endless possibilities you unlock if you do complete your master’s at Tarleton.

Learn more about Tarleton’s Master’s in Kinesiology here, or email Tarleton’s College of Graduate Studies at

Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy During Finals Week

Student researching for Comp 2 Paper (photo by Robert Lewis / © Mississippi State University)

Eliminate Distractions – Yes, put away your cell phone! I promise, it will still be there after you spend some time with your study materials. It’s very easy to get distracted when your phone is constantly going off with messages and notifications, but allow yourself some uninterrupted time and put the phone away, or just turn it off for a while. You can always catch back up with your Facebook feed during one of your study breaks! 

Plan Ahead – Procrastination is not your friend during finals week. 

Ah, procrastination. Nice to see you, my old friend. It’s so tempting to do anything but study and prepare for your final exams, but it’s so important not to put things off. Before finals week, sit down and make a schedule that is tailored to your study habits. It’s important that you include multiple study sessions for each exam you will have, but don’t forget to add some time for breaks so you can stay focused. 

Take Breaks – Taking breaks are really important when it comes to final exam study prep. You can only stare at your notes for long. In order to minimize burnout, give yourself time to go on a walk, have a snack, call a friend or family member and catch up for a little while. Getting your mind away from the subject matter you’re studying on can help you come back with a clear mind.

Exercise – Whether you’re an avid exerciser or not, it’s good to always take time to get your blood flowing. Go on a walk with your dog, go on a run, lift some weights, just be sure to get up and continue moving during the days you log a lot of studying hours. 

Stay hydrated and eat well – When I mention staying hydrated, I don’t mean overload on coffee! Sure, let yourself enjoy some of your favorite brew for your probably much needed caffeine boost, but be sure you’re drinking water, too. It’s also tempting to grab food that is convenient when you’re super busy, but try your best to eat things that will give you energy and help keep you focused.

“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” – David Bly

This post was written by Ashtin Kimple. Ashtin works in Tarleton’s College of Graduate Studies and is also currently a graduate student. You can contact her by email at

Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Scott Cook on Tarleton’s Stephenville campus

Learn more about Dr. Cook in the following spotlight interview.

Dr. Scott Cook has been an associate professor in Tarleton’s Department of Mathematics since 2015. Dr. Cook is Math Club Co-Advisor, Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Mathematics, and Senior Research Scientist for the Center of Agribusiness Excellence (CAE). Dr. Cook received his PhD in Mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis in 2011 and was a post-doc at Swarthmore College in Philadelphia 2011-2015. He earned his undergraduate degree from Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma in 2002.  Though now a mathematician, he majored in chemistry and physics with a math minor.  Dr. Cook also worked as a reliability engineer for Raytheon, a large defense contractor. 

While at Raytheon, Cook realized that, out of all of the things he did in his job, mathematics was his favorite. He especially enjoys that math is the language for almost everything scientific and technological, and that exceling at math allows him to be involved in a wide range of research opportunities.  

COGS: What brought you to Tarleton? 

SC: What drew me to Tarleton was the job itself. Specifically, Tarleton had already established the Master’s Degree in Mathematics with emphasis in Data Science (originally called data mining) in 2011. Tarleton also already had a good relationship with US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Tarleton recruited me to build on this foundation. Every list of the best jobs includes data scientist, statistician, and mathematician right at the top. The demand for these skills is huge, and I wanted to help train the next generation.  However, that same demand also makes it difficult for Tarleton to attract people with PhDs explicitly in data science.  

COGS: Tell us about the graduate research assistantships you offer? 

SC: Graduate Research Assistantships are connected to our Mathematics Master’s program with an emphasis in data science.  In addition to their regular course work, these students apply the data science skills from their classes to solve real-world problems for our partners. Currently, we have two major partnerships: The Center for Agribusiness Excellence and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas (BCBS). While CAE is directly under Tarleton, they work exclusively for the USDA. The assistantships start in the fall semester and run for two years. We are hoping to continue adding more assistantships, but for now, I will be looking for at least three new GRAs for Fall 2021. 

COGS: What kind of student would be a good fit for these assistantships? 

SC: There is a much higher bar to get one of these assistantships than to gain admission into our graduate program. We do have both graduate teaching assistants and graduate research assistants. There are fewer research assistants and they must have a stronger coding, mathematical, and statistical background to be able to handle the demands of doing real-world data science for the USDA or BCBS. It also helps to have domain specific knowledge of the partner’s field. It’s really hard to find candidates who possess all of these skills, so coding, math, and statistics are the priority.  

COGS: How do you decide which students get the Blue Cross Blue Shield partnership versus the USDA partnership? Is it based on interests? 

SC: It is a combination of their interest and where we need their specific skillset. We place students on a case-by-case basis. 

COGS: What opportunities or connections will these students have after this program? 

SC: One of the top selling-points is the experience students have after completing our degree! Students spend two years in the classroom acquiring very marketable skills while also gaining job experience. These are the kinds of skills that put them at the top of all of the U.S. News and World Report lists of the best jobs. Aside from medical jobs, the top jobs involve data science, math, statistician, analysis, and coding. These are all skills that our program develops. These skills are valuable on their own account, but even more so when honed on real-world problems while working for the federal government or a major medical insurance provider. 

We are also pursuing several major potential new partners. Hopefully, these will allow us to help do the type of fraud, waste, and abuse detection we’re already doing for USDA and BCBS. The number of partnerships is already both useful and robust; however, we are always expanding. After degree completion, a student can say “I not only learned about data science, I also spent two years applying this information to real-world problems where the data is messy and hard to deal with,” which is what employers find most impressive. 

COGS: Is there anything else you would like to add that we have not discussed? 

SC: Yes! First of all, we pay really well. Our research assistants make $25,000 per year, which is significantly higher than most other graduate assistantships.  There is an asterisk with that. The research assistantships require students to work in the summer between their first and second year. We also have a 100% placement of our graduates into data science positions after they graduate. Most of the time, our students grow rapidly in their career, and reach management and leadership roles in a very short period of time.  Honestly, I get a little jealous because often they quickly make more than I do. 

To learn more about Tarleton’s Master of Science in Mathematics with an emphasis in Data Science, visit us online or email Dr. Cook directly at