The lighthearted melody of a piano could be heard from a small performance room in the Frost School of Music. Inside, a woman with a green University of Miami polo shirt, black slacks and sandals concentrated on the piano keys. Her fingers seemed to dance around them, gently moving like a subtle breeze. Neither a smile nor a frown emanated from her face, just pure focus.
Playing with such tenacity and passion, Julia Mortyakova brings the same characteristics to her leadership roles, like as president of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and CEO of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students. Mortyakova, who has a Master’s in performance from New York University, is about to complete her doctoral degree at UM in keyboard performance. She has performed around the world, lobbied in Washington D.C. for graduate rights and brought classical music to downtown Miami.
As the GSA president at UM, however, Mortyakova had the difficult task of heading an organization with a fragmented targeted audience. The number of UM graduate students totals about 5,000, yet the GSA only had 26 members. Graduates had no opportunity to interact with other graduates from different fields and the GSA provided social networking who would not otherwise meet.
“Through GSA, I have been exposed to and inspired by people from other fields of graduate study,” Mortyakova said.
In her two years as president, Mortyakova created important policies such as the teaching and research assistant differential funding policy, as well as the Provost Research Fund.
“Her insight, experience, and knowledge of university policies [were] a tremendous benefit to the GSA,” said Mechelle Francis, the current GSA vice president, who will take over as president on May 15.
Mortyakova’s experience as GSA president led her to lobby for nationwide graduate student concerns as CEO of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students.
As a musician, Mortyakova was involved in leadership roles on campus as well as in the greater Miami community. She was a member of the College Music Society, Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in education, the Frost School of Music’s Dean Advisory Board and president of the Music Teachers National Association.
Mortyakova’s love for music inspired her to reach out to others who had not heard of classical music or seen it performed. She served as the co-founder and artistic director of the Downtown Community Concert Series, a program that offered affordable access to classical music performances.
Since this is Mortyakova’s last semester at UM, though, she spoke of a few college teaching jobs for which she applied. For now, she teaches after-school private piano lessons at the Mendelshtam Theatre in Gulliver/South Miami campus for children and works on her own recording.
With a passion for music and helping others, friends say Mortyakova has shown that success can be achieved through hard work. Said John Constantinides, the GSA parliamentarian, “Julia’s academic talent and leadership both help increased the academic profile of the university.”