More than 40,000 of us walk the UCLA campus every day. And 400,000 more have called Westwood home at one time or another.
We come from a diverse set of backgrounds and grapple with more than 100 fields of study, which doesn’t always leave much common ground. Still, we are all Bruins.
“Bruin” is the most common of our titles, perhaps the one that can define us all, but it often falls short of recognizing all the things we participate in, advocate for and accomplish during our time at UCLA.
Within our Graduation Issue, you will find stories of singers, comedians, athletes and parents – to name a few – who have gone about exploring their passions in very different ways. As a community newspaper, these are the stories we’re committed to telling, but that sentiment doesn’t stop with these pages.
We want to hear about your path, how it was formed and what it will be defined by. Using the hashtag #BeyondABruin on Twitter and Instagram, tell us what has shaped your UCLA experience and what will shape the years to follow.
Thanks for reading,
It’s always been hard for me to leave the Daily Bruin office.
Three years ago, I started as a reporter and every day I would sit in Kerckhoff 118 on the couch in the news section. I’d watch the editors type furiously at their keyboards, staffers from all sections running around the newsroom, talking to sources on phones and designing layouts. I could feel an energy buzzing in the office.
There I’d sit, engrossed, taking it all in. Like most underclassmen, I had been desperately searching for my place at UCLA and once I had found it, you couldn’t pry me away.
After those first couple of months, the Daily Bruin office was the only place I wanted to be. Between classes I’d be there, absorbing the atmosphere, eagerly studying student government documents and budgets and reading the day’s paper, hoping to learn as much as I could so I could be a part of the newsroom.
People would tell me to leave the office, to stay away while I could, before I was an editor and had to spend all of my time there.
Three years later, I’m a little less eager and lot more tired, but I’m still in love with the Daily Bruin.
This year has been a rough one, undoubtedly one of the hardest for the Daily Bruin as an institution.
In the face of drastic declines in advertising revenues, we lost our invaluable adviser and made other cutbacks. We battled threats to our editorial independence and fought against attempted censorship.
Still, even on the toughest days, I never wanted to leave. That’s the beautiful thing about working for a daily newspaper – you get to come back the next day and try to do better.
Looking back on these three years with clear eyes makes it harder to leave now.
I remember the delirious late nights spent putting together special issues, racing to make printer deadline.
I remember live-tweeting student government meetings for hours, and the feeling of fulfillment when students appreciated the information and cared.
I remember the emails I received, every so often, from sources or readers touched by a story.
I remember seeing myself in the newly accepted interns’ faces, and knowing what was in store for them.
I remember first meeting the coworkers who have turned into lifelong friends.
And now, as I write my final piece for The Bruin, the last time my name will appear in these pages, I can’t help but stall. It has taken me a long time to finally get myself to write this, and I wasn’t sure why until now.
Sure, it’s hard for me to write without the pressure of an approaching deadline, but that’s beside the point.
I haven’t wanted to write this column because when I’m done it means I’ll have to leave for good this time. I’m worried about the future. I don’t know what’s coming next for me – or the Daily Bruin.
The day-to-day ups and downs of producing a newspaper have been an amazing yet insanely bumpy ride. And I wouldn’t change a second of it.
But, I’d better go. It looks like they’re kicking me out of the office again …
Beck was editor in chief from 2013-2014, assistant news editor from 2012-2013 and a news reporter from 2011-2012.
This is my California love story.
It began with John Alexander Abbay, a Kentuckian and blacksmith, and Nancy Draper, a Missouri native who came to California as a young girl.
John came out to California in 1849 in a covered wagon. He soon met Nancy, and some years later, in 1857, they married in Santa Ana.
The newlyweds moved to Yolo County. John opened a blacksmith shop and Nancy worked on what a local paper called “the famous rose arbor.”
The two would be remembered in newspaper records for a meeting at John’s blacksmith shop, where local residents voted to approve the construction of a switching station to bring the Vaca Valley and Clear Lake Railroad through the town. For his donation of 40 acres of land to allow the progress of the railway, local businessman Theodore Winters would be the town’s namesake.
Today, many generations after John and Nancy made their home in Winters, my family is still incapable of staying away from California. Despite our upbringing in the Midwest, both my sisters, just like our father, received University of California degrees – a group I look forward to joining in a few short days.
I thought about John and Nancy often last summer on long drives from Sacramento to Los Angeles, a trip I would make as often as possible while juggling an internship at the Sacramento Bee with my responsibilities at The Bruin.
Their story spoke to me, as many of my journalism experiences have, of California’s great promise, its forward-looking attitudes. But my contemporary understanding of the Golden State is one grounded in dualities – in its tragedies and successes, in progressive hopes and unequal realities.
But the more I contemplate my time here, I see that my understanding of this state is made up more by the patchwork of narratives I’ve written for California newspapers than by any individual arc of my own.
It’s the story of Simon Martinez, a 34-year-old veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who became homeless on the streets of San Diego after his third deployment. Martinez, who hoped to start a trucking company with a friend after leaving the Navy, returned with post-traumatic stress disorder, unwilling for years to seek treatment.
Only a month after meeting Martinez for an assignment for the U-T San Diego, I wrote the obituary of a young San Diegan Marine in Afghanistan, killed with two others by an Afghan man wearing a policeman’s uniform.
Scott Dickinson, a staff sergeant at the time of his death, joined the military after high school and looked forward to leaving Afghanistan for a post in an embassy, where he would have more time to spend with his wife.
Writing about these two faces of the United States’ foreign wars – conflicts whose longevity defies the public attention span – left me with few conclusions and deep frustration. After so many years of war, a constant presence from the childhoods of so many millennials, the most visible products of the conflict at home were headlines recording the latest casualties and documenting the failing safety net for our returning men and women.
I also found such dualities on the California border – a little closer to home but no easier to process.
Take the stories of Javier Sicilia – a Mexican poet and journalist mourning the death of his son amid drug-related violence in the country – and Tru and Don Miller, parents who moved from Orange County to Baja California’s Guadalupe Valley after their son’s fatal car accident.
After his son’s passing, Sicilia drove the length of the United States to protest cartel-related violence in a caravan that made its way along the Southern border and up to Washington, D.C. The Millers moved South, finding refuge in the scenic northern Mexican wine country, founding a winery and building a hacienda-style inn in their son’s memory.
Hope for Sicilia lay in action, speaking out to condemn senseless bloodshed on both sides of the border. The Millers followed their son’s passion to Mexico, settling in the wine country their son so greatly loved.
These are only a few of the faces that make up my most lingering memories of California.
On the eve of my graduation and impending departure for the East Coast, I intended to use this column to transcribe what I could of my California love story.
That can wait. Instead, I’ll leave this column open, my time at UCLA a chapter in a story I’m certain will bring me back to California again.
Hostetter was managing editor from 2013-2014, opinion editor from 2012-2013 and assistant opinion editor and assistant news editor from 2011-2012.
I have been composing this senior column in my head since I first heard of it my freshman year. But when I sat down to finally write, all these trite truisms started flowing. I felt like I was composing a crappy commencement speech.
So I went back and read the columns of years past for inspiration. I thought I would write about Daily Bruin camaraderie, the long days and nights spent together munching on empty calories, staring at computer screens and getting to know how people tick. You learn a lot about your friends when you work side by side with them in a hellishly hot, windowless office.
The newsroom is, as a writer for The Awl, one of my favorite online magazines, aptly put it, a “clubhouse run by flighty, inexperienced, earnest kids who were behind on their homework.”
Correction: earnest kids who never did their homework.
But every column I read mentioned the “lifelong friends” made in the office, how it serves as a kind of second home on campus and helps people find their niche at UCLA.
So, for a while, I considered writing about the challenges of journalism today. But I am tired of hearing about the challenges, and I still do not feel like I can offer any solutions. All I can say is that we are trying. And that, to me at least, spending all day producing a print paper often felt like trying to resuscitate a dinosaur.
Rather than write about the obvious, I want to use this space to write what I feel is necessary. For me, the hardest part of journalism is not choosing what to put in the story, but rather what to leave out. So I will leave out the truisms, and share some things I still do not understand, even four years later.
I still do not understand why some people trust us with their most intimate stories, and I am still learning how to handle the weight of telling those stories.
A month ago, after spending nearly 14 hours in our office finishing an investigative series on sexual assault at UCLA, I returned home at 2 a.m. and let myself fall face first onto the cushions of my couch.
It had been a rough few months.
The relief of finishing that story hit me all at once. The tears started to flow, and soon I was doing the full-on “ugly cry.” Before bed, I opened up my iPhone notes app.
Empathy is a journalist’s greatest strength and greatest flaw, I typed.
Looking back, it’s just another truism. But at the time, it felt so revelatory to finally understand the full weight of telling a story after four years of “doing journalism.”
One morning a few months earlier, my roommate had asked me why I was continually locking our bedroom door before bed. Even though most of the survivors I interviewed were raped by acquaintances, I realized I had become afraid of the world. I was angry that sexual violence was so prevalent and haunted by these stories of loss and trauma.
I began to resent the fact that it felt so necessary to write that story.
Success in journalism sometimes feels like profiting off of someone else’s failures and miseries. This is another thing I still do not understand. My freshman year, I wrote a story about a woman who recorded a YouTube video ranting about Asians in the library. The clip went viral. She received death threats. I eventually won an award for the story. Her academic career was ruined and mine was just beginning.
None of it felt fair. I still find those realities hard to reconcile.
To everyone I’ve spoken to during the past four years, I carry your stories in my heart. Your fears, your nightmares, your successes and most importantly, your bravery. To our readers, I can only hope that our journalism allowed you to carry a piece of someone else’s story in your heart for a little while. I hope reading others’ stories enraged you, enlightened you and most importantly, left you feeling exquisitely and completely human. I hope some stories lifted you up. I hope you kept reading the ones that felt too heavy.
I wish I had more space to write about the immense bravery of those six individuals who spoke to me for the story on sexual assault. How they refused to be defined by what happened to them. How they relived trauma because they felt it was important to tell their story in the hopes that it might change someone else’s story one day. They taught me how to free yourself of what haunts you, to write truths instead of truisms.
At the end of it all, I’m only just beginning to understand.
Parkinson-Morgan was digital managing editor from 2013-2014, blog editor from 2012-2013 and a news reporter from 2010-2012.
I want to tell you a story. And then I want you to forget it.
Nearly three years ago, I drove the 10 Freeway from the East Coast to the West Coast carrying everything I thought I would need from my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., to the sunny, breezy hills of Westwood. Most of your stories start out this way, with a journey from home. Perhaps your daily story still starts out that way.
Regardless, we all take this journey, and in my case, I was largely defined by it.
I am still asked why I decided to attend UCLA. I still find many of my personal values stem from traditional Southern and Asian views of how people should conduct themselves. I am still a Jacksonville Jaguars fan (and a Tim Tebow fan) forever.
These elements of my life – both the facts and the questions asked of me – represent the interaction of the world I hail from with the multifarious environment of UCLA.
Perhaps the most hilarious and poignant moment of my three years at UCLA occurred not in a classroom – though you’d be surprised by some of the conversations I’ve had with professors over the years – but at a Filipino cultural fair.
As a mixed woman who grew up mostly around whites, I wanted to connect with my Filipino culture. I wanted to make up for all of those years living in whitewashed ignorance. I also wanted to belong to something else for once because I had always been mixed, had always been “other.”
So I was rather disconcerted when I was asked by a full-Filipino student sitting at the sign-in table if I was “a quarter (Filipino) or just exploring?”
My half-bitter, half-amused laugh likely distracted him from the shocked expression on my face.
“I’m actually half,” I said.
I don’t remember if he apologized, and I don’t remember if I said anything else to him. I do know that I never really felt Filipino after that moment.
Maybe I can cook you Filipino food. Maybe I have relatives in Manila. Maybe I will have my grandchildren call me “Lola” one day.
When it’s all said and done, my ethnicity is not fully rooted anywhere. And the knowledge that ethnicity – like so many other categories in life – occurs on a spectrum has set me free.
I have related this story to many people in different contexts. I use it as a way to demonstrate my experience as someone with an ambiguous ethnic phenotype. I also use it to make people feel better about misidentifying me.
These contexts and my story are all words, at a certain point. The only thing that truly matters is that I am telling them to you.
You must remember the importance of the fact that I have traveled here and am writing this to you. Our world is only changed by the interaction of people with different experiences. My experience is not your experience, and the mere deliverance of that message is more of an accomplishment than any term paper or final exam.
I am writing this to you. Now forget it, go somewhere, and tell other people your story.
Aquino was a sports reporter from 2013-2014, a news contributor from 2012-2013 and a sports contributor from 2011-2012.
You should major in English.
Why? Let me tell you a quick story.
I was sitting nervously in a conference room in the world’s largest accounting firm waiting for my third consecutive interview with the company when the senior manager walked into the room.
He sauntered in, mentioned that it had been a long day and that he would go easy on me. Lounging in his seat, he picked up my resume, scanned it and then paused.
“You’re an English major,” he said. I nodded nervously.
He leaned forward. “This is why we need more English majors in accounting,” he said.
We proceeded to have a 30-minute conversation about how the accounting industry needs English majors. In the world’s largest accounting firm. It was awesome.
These days, common knowledge dictates that the STEM majors are where the jobs are, that the humanities are fading and that majoring in the humanities will lead to certain unemployment. My younger brothers were the first to assure me that the English-major factory opening down the street would hire me when I graduated.
There is a comic that sums this up – it’s called “Perks of Being an English Major.” In it, the character uses his English major prowess to pick up all the girls by reading poetry, get all the jobs, analyze Shakespeare for the president and earn mountains of cash.
The irony in the comic is painful, as I wish it was true. Throughout my career here as a UCLA undergraduate, I have been well aware that no one is going to hire me to read and analyze Shakespeare. Trust me, I wish.
But that’s the problem with the common perception of the English major and the humanities in general. There is a commonly held belief that a degree in English will only open the pathway to very specific jobs such as teaching or publishing, much like an engineering degree will lead to a job as an engineer.
I believe that’s the wrong way to view an English degree. Yes, I am an English student because I love to read and analyze literature, but at the same time, I am a competent writer and a skilled communicator. That’s what my major has taught me.
As I sat in the conference room with the senior manager that day, those are the skills he was so excited to see in me. Those skills are what make English, and the humanities, valuable as majors.
I admit that I am starting a career in tax accounting, utilizing my accounting minor more than my English major immediately upon graduation. However, I believe my major is what set me apart from all the other applicants. My skills as an English student are in high demand. As an added bonus, there will be a time when someone is needed to analyze a Shakespeare sonnet and I’ll be there to step in and save the day.
And that’s why you should be an English student.
As a non sequitur, my thanks to every person over the past four years who has edited my writing, be it a Daily Bruin article or an essay. It only took me four years to learn how to properly use a comma.
Stewart was senior staff from 2013-2014, assistant graphics editor from 2012-2013, a graphics contributor from 2011-2012 and a news reporter from 2010-2012.
I’ll be the first one to admit it – I haven’t done a damn thing for the Daily Bruin recently. I’ve taken very few photos, pitched zero story ideas, rarely spent any time in the office and missed meetings. You can count the number of contributions I’ve made to the paper in the past quarter on one hand, even if you’re missing a finger or two.
Before you label me a slacker, though, let me tell you that it was not always this way. There was a time when I would eat, drink and breathe the Daily Bruin, and that time wasn’t very long ago. I served as an assistant photo editor from 2011 to 2012, and that was the main thing I did that school year. I’m proud to say that I did it well.
I loved it, but I hated it, and it wore on me. School took a backseat, and I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. I watched many of my peers continue on that same arc, using their time at the Daily Bruin as a springboard for careers in journalism. I was proud of them, and I considered trying to do something similar. But I decided that wasn’t for me.
So I moved on. I made school my priority again and kept an eye on the post-graduation horizon. I developed interests, picked up a minor, traveled, gained work experiences, wrote a thesis, got a job. I broadened my worldview, then hardened it. I was getting a degree and thinking about a career.
It’s all over now, so it’s time for nostalgia and hindsight. I’m excited about the future and happy with the choices I made to get myself here, including the choice to move away from journalism. Focusing my energy on my academics and career development during the last few years was one of the best decisions I made at UCLA.
The single best decision, though, was joining The Bruin in the first place. I have been reflecting recently on whether my time at UCLA has prepared me for the real world, and I’m just now realizing how much of my education took place in Kerckhoff 118. I learned here what it means to honor a commitment – to stick it out for myself, for others and for something larger than any of us. I learned how to do a job responsibly but creatively. I learned how to be a leader who can identify and cultivate talent in people. I learned how to be good at something and to enjoy the satisfaction that comes with that.
Then there are the friendships. What tighter community is there than one made up of 20-somethings who work together five days a week to create something they’re tremendously proud of? We all have no choice but to remain lifelong friends.
And of course there are the memories. Photographing a football game in a snowstorm. Walking to the podium with my fellow photo editors two years ago to accept the “Best Section” award, one of the most satisfying moments of my life. Standing amid euphoria as the UCLA women’s soccer team celebrated a miracle semifinal comeback in December, listening to Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Could Happen” and knowing that school championship number 110 was on the way. Being thrown into a completely spontaneous volleyball game with a colleague, four sources and six random guys while on assignment in a small Mexican fishing village. Photographing March Madness, my single favorite sporting event.
To anyone who wants to be part of the Daily Bruin and plans on pursuing a career outside of journalism, let me be the first to tell you this: It will help you get there. It will prepare you more than you can imagine.
There may be a time to step back eventually, but you’ll know when that is, and you’ll handle it well. You’ll move on to the next thing, but you’ll take memories, lifelong relationships and a pretty underrated workplace education along with you. You might have a few regrets, but you’ll know you did well.
Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.
Atmore was photo senior staff from 2012-2014 and assistant photo editor from 2011-2012.
I arrived at my apartment at 1:59 a.m. on June 10, 2012, so tired I felt nauseated and my body was shaking. It took me a good few minutes to get the key into the door and open it.
Yet somehow I remembered to text James Barragan, the editor in chief of the Daily Bruin at the time, that I had gotten back safely. Yes, I scrolled back two years of texts to find that exact date and time.
I had just spent 36 hours straight – with a four-hour nap somewhere in between – in our stuffy and windowless office designing Graduation Issue (aka my first issue as design director). A few tear-soaked napkins, a broken pair of Panda Express chopsticks and a now-overplayed “Glee” playlist were casualties in the process.
Those 36 hours were a character-defining experience. They also came to largely define my time not just at The Bruin, but also at UCLA.
I finally felt like I belonged and like I was good at something. It’s something I never would have expected to experience upon my first encounter with the Daily Bruin. When I first arrived at UCLA, I was a sprightly, ambitious pre-med student ready to take on the new world of possibilities before me – The Bruin being one of them. But, on Sept. 20, 2010, I was almost discouraged from joining the Daily Bruin.
I arrived at the Enormous Activities Fair, not letting the heat or the crowd of potential competitors deter me, and went straight for The Bruin’s booth.
No one was at the booth.
“Maybe they don’t want any recruits and fate is telling me I shouldn't join – stick to pre-med clubs,” I thought, feeling quite disheartened since I loved working at my high school paper.
About an hour and too many free samples of Jamba Juice and Taco Bell later, I decided to give The Bruin a second chance. Two staffers were there this time around. I told them I wanted to be a designer and got a flyer. They told me good luck, and a few weeks later I was an intern. That was the beginning of my journey into the world of the Daily Bruin. Maybe it was all meant to be.
To some people, the Daily Bruin may just be an oversize, inky-finger-inducing paper with a crossword puzzle. To me, it is the definition of hard work and dedication. There are awards as proof (AAJA Trivia Grasshopper Champs two years in a row, hell yeah!). But the people I’ve had the chance to work with are the real winners. I give so much credit for who I am today to the family I’ve created at The Bruin.
They have taught me how to be a leader. How to be confident. How to be a better designer (at least I hope so after designing at least 100 layouts). How to accept mistakes and move on. How to write (though this is my first, and last, byline). How to communicate with 30 people at once.
And some not so resume-worthy things that are just as important. How to take care of someone when they’re drunk. How to know what makes me beautiful. How to unleash the K-pop fangirl within me (cue “Fantastic Baby,” “I Got a Boy,” "Into the New World," “Give It To Me,” “Growl,” “Something” - stop me now or I will convert you into a K-pop fan). How to awkwardly dance in a flash mob. How to stalk or meet celebrities (though meeting CeeLo Green was entirely by chance). And most importantly, how to be myself. I could go on, but that’ll just make this go beyond the inch count, and that’s never a good thing - I would know.
I’ve changed a lot. Coming into UCLA, I was 100 percent pre-med. Two years later, after flunking out of the first physiological science upper-division course, I was thinking I would switch to Design | Media Arts, but it was too late. The summer before my senior year, I thought I could somehow get a master’s degree in architecture with my biology degree and print design background. Right now that’s my goal, unless I get into the music business.
Although my career prospects kept changing throughout my time at UCLA, the Daily Bruin remained the one constant. Even though I will be losing that constant, what I’ve gained from it will stay with me as I get thrown into the scary world of adulthood. Help!
Fong was design senior staff from 2013-2014, design director from 2012-2013, a design staffer from 2011-2012 and a design contributor from 2010-2011.
November 9, 2013. I exploded up and out of my failed all-nighter attempt in a cold-sweat. The 6:20-something alarm achieved what 20-some missed phone calls could not: awaken me for a 5 a.m. road trip to Tucson, Ariz. for UCLA football coverage.
I threw dress clothes into a paper bag and scrambled for my backpack, set on greeting two photographers and a fellow beat writer outside of my apartment complex.
Upon sprinting for the door, I realized that I didn’t know the location of my game press pass. Five to seven minutes of tearing through my room and bag later, I recovered the creased and worn slab of cardboard from my backpack’s rear pocket.
Victory proved fleeting. My nearly lifeless phone confirmed what I did not see on the street – the carpool had rightfully left some time ago.
Much of a 500-mile solo journey down the 10 Freeway took me through barren landscapes and after just three hours of sleep, my foggy brain was ripe for another folly.
I pulled into a gas station a few hours into the trip then killed the ignition, set my keys down, locked the car and stepped out into Indio, Calif.
I closed the door, leaving my keys inside.
An unfolded paperclip jammed into a door keyhole simply bloodied up my finger.
Because I was thirty minutes away from the area where the locksmith usually operated, it took a couple of calls to confirm that the place where I was stranded actually existed.
Salvation cost $156, an amount I wasn’t sure I could pay, since my wallet had been sitting out-of-sight in the car.
Just after dark, I parked in a neighborhood a mile out from Arizona Stadium and power-walked my way into the press box more than an hour before kickoff.
In an unexpected turn of events, my story basically wrote itself: Freshman linebacker Myles Jack became a two-way national sensation with a 66-yard touchdown rush. I even notched a win in the post-game media huddle, having to remind Jack of the name of Keenan Graham, the defensive end whose block sprang Jack into superstardom.
Apparently oblivious to all the misfortune I created, I elected to return to Westwood immediately. Wars with blunders gave way to a battle with drowsiness.
But after a nap in an Arizona supermarket parking lot, some self-administered punches to the face and up to an hour of yelling songs interspersed with gibberish, I made it back to bed.
I completed perhaps as incompetent a day ever experienced by a member of the Daily Bruin.
The constant threat of mistakes and missed opportunities defined much of my four years at the Daily Bruin. I rarely chose to read print or online versions of stories that I copy edited or wrote.
As a copy editor, there always existed the potential of thinking up a wittier or more accurate headline post-production, or spotting a mangled representation of Associated Press style or the English language. Being a sports writer, there was always a worthy observation that didn’t make it into the story, a better way to write the beginning and end.
As my senior year wound down, I began to laugh at those problems. I still flirt with and outright defy deadline through text messages to my editor that redefine “15 minutes” to mean “an hour,” and I’ll need to address those issues in any kind of future I have.
But no matter how deep and often those issues cut into me, their importance feels so minuscule in comparison to that of putting timeless feelings and moments into words that allow people to empathize with and appreciate those around them.
The very real prospect of being fired over a possible game absence never took root in my head during that Arizona odyssey. All I thought about through those humbling mishaps was doing what I naturally wanted: to tell a story as well as I could, no matter how long I took or how often I tripped myself up.
In a lot of ways, that was Daily Bruin life. Those four years were never consumed by concerns about impressing anyone, how many dollars and grade points I didn’t earn, or even the building of a career.
Sharing in the human experience, by listening to and preserving stories of journalists and athletes alike that often go overlooked or completely untold, provided all I needed to arrive at a life calling on my own.
A day after getting back, I looked at my game wrap in the Monday newspaper. The word “hollow” was mistakenly printed as “hallowed” somehow in the editing of my first few paragraphs.
Should I ever need to remind myself what my Daily Bruin career meant to me, I’d defer to the word choice which immortalized one last mistake in print.
An inaccurate description.
Ronquillo was sports senior staff from 2013-2014, slot editor in 2013, sports contributor from 2011-2013, copy editor from 2011-2012 and copy contributor in 2010.
This is weird. Writing this column after my own -30- has come and gone. I already did this, I already ran my hands along the cool brick of the physics building where I spent countless hours scribbling and tinkering, already scrunched my bare feet in the Daily Bruin’s green carpet at 2 a.m., uploading the paper for the campus to read in the morning. Already packed my bags. Already left.
I wiped the sweat from my brow, finished my degree 10 weeks ago. Ten weeks has granted me shit wisdom. I’m just where y’all are standing, still looking down at my feet, then up and out, wide-eyed. I have a steady job, I’m doing journalism, I made it! And yet.
You know that moment everyone has in college, when standing in ratty ladybug pajama shorts in a whitewashed kitchen, and you realize you can have peanut butter on burnt tortillas for dinner again and no one is watching?
I know I’m late figuring out my freedom, but these moments happen to me every day. I can nail shelves to my wall! I do my laundry every day or drive a couple of hours to have dinner with my parents or camp all weekend. I grow squash in my front yard.
I could lay down roots if I wanted to: I could stay here forever.
And every morning the future tumbles out in front of you. And you could just leave it all behind too, climb in your car, on your bike, on the train, and glance back just once to acknowledge you’re leaving. No one is watching. Everything tastes new. Whatever structure you think there is after college, you have to build it.
So to wrap this up, you know what the Daily Bruin taught me? It taught me this: If you’ve got the chops and the gumption, you’re going to get what you ask for. So ask often, ask big.
I don’t mean ask for permission. I mean ask for things you can’t get on your own and you don’t think anyone will give you.
I did in my last months at school, and I do in my new job in Davis, and I’m always surprised because people almost always say yes. To a funded reporting trip to Mexico. To my own science podcast. To meet for lunch. To a camping spot at 8 p.m. on Saturday on a full Memorial Day weekend. To speak on a media panel in Washington, D.C.
My best advice, for what it’s worth: Be shameless. Be shameless and kind and hardworking and brave.
You’re only going to get what you ask for.
Case was a news reporter from 2010-2014, a radio and online contributor from 2013-2014, an assistant opinion editor from 2012-2013, and the illustration director in 2012. Case graduated in winter 2014.
“Eitan Arom knows nothing about racial struggle, right? He went to Beverly Hills High. If that does not say PRIVILEGE, what does?”
That’s a comment on a column of mine from October 2012, by a person who identified himself online as Jason Smith. There was an emoticon at the end, which I left out because I didn’t know how to put a quotation mark after it, but it looked like this:
As I mentally account for my college experience with nostalgia, appreciation and generally a lot of feels, I realize for some people, that column will be my lasting legacy at UCLA.
And in a way, it is. Having stared down faceless armies of online hecklers, I can say that learning to criticize your surroundings and yourself is one of most important things college can teach you.
Daily Bruin readers rarely failed to criticize me, some with reason, others with anger and a few with genuinely hurt feelings.
That particular column touched a nerve for a lot of people. It called on UCLA to review an admissions system that reportedly violated the state’s affirmative action policy. But it seemed, at least in one poorly worded sentence, to call for fewer black and Latino student on campus.
It evoked a bitter response.
In other words, it made a lot of people feel like this:
And I’m sorry for that. At the risk of sounding repetitive, there’s no reason to upset people for no reason, and I may have done that. But at other times, in the service of asking hard questions and disinfecting our collective wounds, it is natural and even desirable to make people upset.
At all times, it is key to treat institutions with suspicion and people with empathy. Doing the first without the second can get you in a good deal of trouble, as I found out.
What my nightmare, protest-inciting, trauma-inducing, community-embittering column tried to do was criticize institutions – in particular, UCLA. That’s what I tried to do in most of my columns, directing my scrutiny towards both UCLA-proper and the other institutions we are surrounded by as students: the student government, the Associated Students UCLA, the campus administration and the UCLA Health System, to name a few.
I firmly believe that if you love an institution, you should criticize it.
College is supposed to teach you to be critical. Undoubtedly, the Daily Bruin did that for me.
I’ll pause here to offer a disclaimer: I think asking graduating college students to give advice is a somewhat silly pursuit. We’re far too deeply enveloped in a cloud of nostalgia and existential panic to come up with anything coherent and smart to say.
But I’m still going to pretend as if you, the reader of this column, had asked me to give a piece of advice and I’m going state one.
Figure out how to ask the right questions and ask them. Ask them until you get an answer that withstands further questioning, and then treat that answer with unease. In particular, ask questions to yourself and about yourself.
Jason Smith made me ask if Eitan Arom, a white, upper middle-class kid with a vocabulary full of $10 words can think critically about important issues like race and education.
Well, I sure hope so. If the answer to that question is ‘no,’ I might as well quit while I’m ahead, move back in with my parents and develop a drug problem with their trust money. But I don’t plan to.
So I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like this:
Just know I was trying, like most of us, to do a service for the university.
To use in good faith my twenty-seven-thousandth of the power, prestige and energy we undergraduates bring here. To use it with understanding, humility and open-mindedness. To transform this place, just a little and for the better.
Thanks to everybody who helped me do it, and who kept me massively entertained and feeling at home while I did.
Arom was the opinion editor from 2013-2014, and news contributor and columnist from 2012-2013.
Imagine being in the same room for four years, reading day in and day out.
Your required reading is a queue of stories each ranging from 500 to 1000 words, give or take. Instead of writing papers, you’re writing headlines. Your assignments are to polish and perfect each story by checking facts, grammar and style before submitting it.
As a copy editor, you’re thrown into the deep end. It’s one of those jobs where each task has a lengthy description of its own. Copy editing requires paying attention to detail for mistakes and looking at the big picture before sending it off for print.
During my first few months as a contributor, I had no idea what I was doing. I opened a new article to edit, usually an opinion piece or coverage of a new Hammer or Getty exhibit, and relied on Google to give me the answers. I stayed far away from things I didn’t know: sports, news and, in the beginning, other editors.
Little did I know, those two sections would come to be my favorites and I would end up an editor for three years.
In a normal class, reading about confusing or uninteresting topics would trigger an automatic reaction: closing the book and saving it for “later.” But at The Bruin, I would attempt to edit a baseball wrap or coverage on divestment and exhaust every resource I had to make sure I understood, word for word, what I was reading. Naturally, the knowledge would pile up and I would constantly have to modify what I learned and then teach it to incoming contributors and staff. Camayak is the new K4. Pac-10 is now Pac-12. For football, the higher score belongs to UCLA instead of USC.
The tables turned as I tried to transform the newsroom into my own classroom as Copy chief. There are always new faces in the office, a staff that you need to train for a new year of production and a new obstacle that needs to be overcome. But as we tried to push out better and faster content for our readers, it placed a bigger burden on the people in my section, one I didn’t want to overwhelm them with. It was asking a lot from a staff that was still learning how to use a new program and meeting a print deadline.
We are still, first and foremost, students all learning to become better journalists, and I did my best to create a work environment that encompassed that idea despite the time pressure.
Beyond editing, I spent four years meeting and working with some of the most dedicated and intelligent people. When you spend your time reading stories about amazing individuals on campus, it’s not hard to remember that your coworkers have one of their own to tell.
As the year winds down and I reflect on my time in Kerckhoff, I’d like to think I know what I’m doing now. I had some big shoes to fill as Copy chief thanks to Kristine. But if there’s one person to thank for this entire experience, it’s her. Thanks for recruiting me as soon as I set foot on campus. Now four years have flown by, but the truth is time slows down for no one (and trust me, nobody knows that better than Copy).
The last article has been edited, the final shift completed, and my job has been passed down. The learning never stopped and it probably never will. Here’s to my first and final byline at The Bruin. I’m going to walk through the office doors once more, and maybe, I’ll leave on time.
Tran was copy chief from 2013-2014, assistant copy chief from 2012-2013, a slot editor from 2011-2012 and a copy editor from 2010-2011.
Saying goodbye isn’t one of my strong suits.
I’ve avoided having to say farewell for weeks now despite knowing my inevitable graduation inches closer by the second. At my very last event with Mentorship Program at UCLA, I didn’t have the kids I cherished so much sign a yearbook for me to remember them by. I haven’t delivered my senior will to my fraternity brothers. And I haven’t sent out texts to catch up with friends to reminisce about that one time freshman year.
But I am writing my final column for the Daily Bruin – my first home at UCLA since the fall of my first year – so hopefully this will provide some closure.
As I walk around campus nowadays I can’t help but stop and marvel at its beauty. With my days here numbered, these words incessantly come to mind: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
A Bruin said that. Well, kind of. It was Winnie the Pooh, who’s a bear, so that counts in my book.
You would think that after four years of attending one of the most prestigious universities in the world, I’d be mature enough to offer a quote from an academic or a philosopher. Well, UCLA provided me with quite the opposite.
I got a playground.
Curiosity sweeps through campus unbounded as students poke and prod their way to new discoveries. There’s even a jungle gym of tunnels underground – just don’t get caught climbing through it. UCLA allows the imagination to run wild because here, there are no limits – and if there are, as we’ve seen time and time again, a Bruin will break them down.
At the Daily Bruin, some of my best friends and I have stayed up all night telling stories of fear, perseverance and triumph – a sleepover of sorts, a stressful one at times, and in a stuffy, windowless office in Kerckhoff Hall.
And as an elementary school program coordinator for the Mentorship Program, I finally found people at my own maturity level. These kids often envision themselves going to UCLA one day, like I once did at their age and like I still do – I’d do anything to be able to have another four years here.
But as that one dreaded song by Vitamin C begins playing in the background, along with that other insufferable one by Green Day, I’ve come to the realization that this time, I won’t need to learn to say goodbye. I won’t need to say goodbye to friends because I’ve made a family here.
And that makes me feel even luckier to be a Bruin.
Chris Nguyen was sports senior staff from 2012-2014, assistant sports editor from 2011-2012 and a sports contributor from 2010-2011.
This is my story.
Unlike many of my fellow Daily Bruin graduates, I joined The Bruin during the fall of my third year at UCLA.
Although I had planned on joining The Bruin during the fall of my first year, I did not submit my application. Having designed for my high school newspaper, I figured that the natural progression would be to work for my college newspaper. However, I wanted to try something new now that I was in college. So, instead, I joined UCLA Wushu, where I learned different styles of Chinese martial arts, competed in multiple tournaments throughout California, endured multiple cuts and wounds from swords and other weapons, serendipitously landed the cover of UCLA Magazine and joined my first UCLA “family.”
After two years of devoting the majority of my time and energy to my classes and to wushu, I decided that it was time for me, once again, to move on to something new. This time, I decided to submit my application to the Daily Bruin in hopes of meeting new people and improving my design abilities.
After being accepted as a design intern, I tried to juggle both my wushu training and my work at The Bruin. But I soon realized that I would have to choose one.
I chose the Daily Bruin.
Working as a design contributor during my third year at UCLA, I fell in love with the windowless newsroom, including the random piles of old newspapers and the slow-as-fudge computers. Most of all, I enjoyed being around my fellow staff members as we tirelessly worked toward a single goal each day – to make a paper.
After becoming an assistant design director and cross-training in the photography department during my final year, I felt fully integrated into the Daily Bruin “family.” I designed some amazing pages and got to take some awesome photos. In essence, I more than accomplished the two goals that I set for myself when I joined The Bruin.
Having now worked at The Bruin for two years, I know that I will never forget the headaches I would get after spending more than six hours at a time in the newsroom, the endless debates over what “defines” a sandwich (is it the bread or what is between the bread?), the countless trips to Panda Express or Chick-fil-A for a quick meal, the one night where I had to drive to Home Depot to buy a stool so that I could be tall enough to take pictures of Liam Neeson at a red-carpet premiere, the proper spelling of “forward,” the numerous discussions over the future of the “Fast & Furious” franchise and the lifelong friends that I have met and worked with along the way.
Looking back on my four years at UCLA, I do not regret my choice to join The Bruin during my third year, nor my choice to pursue different extracurriculars during my first year. Because of these choices, I was able to meet the amazing people of both UCLA Wushu and the Daily Bruin. I was also able to try something completely new and to gain more experience in a previously learned ability, as well as becoming more confident in myself and a better leader.
Although it may seem like I’m saying “goodbye forever” to both of my families at UCLA, I’m not. In the words of Vin Diesel in “Fast & Furious 6,” “You don’t turn your back on family.”
Hoo was an assistant design director from 2013-2014 and a design contributor from 2012-2013.
A place is an important thing.
There are many marvelous places in the world. But one of my favorites (perhaps my most favorite) is UCLA’s campus. It’s been my very best friend during my time here, and I can say with certainty that some of the most beautiful places I’ve experienced have been scattered throughout campus.
The Botanical Gardens has seen more of my smiles, my tears and my dance moves than many of my friends.
South Campus gave me a safe space to get away from the brick and pretensions of the collegiate North. The roof of Terasaki was a critical site of development for me as a person, and I’ve lived out my romantic sci-fi fantasies while walking in the field behind the Center for Health Sciences.
I’ve taken countless naps on the fourth-floor couch of the law school tower. Bunche Hall has hugged me when I was down and high-fived me when I was up.
The parking garages helped me stay out of the rain (and gave me a space to sing out loud during my walks home).
Molecular Sciences transported me across the country and showed me my own private gallery of photos.
The tree behind the chancellor’s house always held me up when I wanted to be around plants.
And the Anderson patio allowed me to enjoy my lunches while pretending I owned a giant, fantastic villa.
UCLA obviously has many beautiful landmarks. Royce Hall stands as a beacon of our campus’ magnificence, and the sculpture garden has received recognition from Playboy for its allure. But in my exploration of UCLA, I’ve found many, many spots that are just as beautiful and just as much a part of this university as the more visible buildings and hangouts.
A serious investigation into the wonderful world contained within our 419 acres has given me too many pleasures to count and has supported me in ways that no heart-to-heart could. Disappearing into the dirty stairwell underneath Lakretz gave me breathing room, and the jogging path along Charles E. Young Drive has reminded me daily that things can be really, really good.
I am so grateful to UCLA for giving me such an exciting and meaningful geography to live inside of. I’m thankful for every tree placard, every bridge and every patch of grass. I’ll miss the infinite amount of stairs that come in all shapes, lengths and heights that challenged me on my way to class, and I want to thank the office chairs in basement storage for letting me rest when I needed to.
I will miss going to school here, sure. I’ve liked being a UCLA student. But my heart is heaviest knowing I have to leave this campus.
Please, go out of your way to walk somewhere on campus you haven’t been to before. Go up the side staircase of Public Affairs to the fifth-floor balcony and sit at the tables up there. Climb up on founder’s rock near Murphy Hall.
Your time at UCLA becomes infinitely lovelier the more you get to know its campus.
Guptill was an opinion columnist from 2011-2014.
The Daily Bruin office is a large, windowless, uncomfortably warm room. Its walls are covered in recent newspapers, out-of-context quotes and embarrassing Facebook photos.
Though a lot of us call this place home, nobody ever volunteers to clean it up.
If you look underneath the unused light tables and between old course readers and moldy lunches, you’ll find small, forgotten mementos from past Daily Bruin staff. You might find a frantically written essay or a 10-year-old parking ticket. Or maybe an old newspaper mourning the loss of John Wooden or an email from a legendary Daily Bruin alumna.
Every time I find something like this, I imagine the office, filled with a completely different group of people developing film and cutting and pasting a newspaper together every day.
They stayed up all night in the office, argued with their colleagues and wished they didn’t have to take classes, all so they could keep working to make the Daily Bruin a better newspaper.
I have no idea who most of them are or what they’re doing now, but I know each of them made an impact on The Bruin and made the paper what it is today. Each of them had the same unconditional love for the newspaper that I have had for the past four years.
By the time my last design sketch or lost Panda Express chopstick is found by a future staffer, my name will be forgotten and an entirely new staff will be running the newspaper. I hope that I will have left enough behind to be a part of the newsroom and campus for years to come.
Lutz was online senior staff from 2013-2014, web producer from 2012-2013, assistant design director from 2011-2012 and a design contributor from 2010-2011.
I have this theory.
Actually, let me back up and say this first: My years at UCLA have been far from perfect. Like I’m sure any student here will tell you, this campus practically oozes with competition. Stress is evident everywhere. There are plenty of sleepless nights and failure is more common than any of us care to admit.
There’s a high level of uncertainty here. But there’s an even higher presence of magic, in all senses of the word.
At what other school do you get to have class in the world-famous Royce Hall? Who else understands the irony of Boelter Hall’s poor Internet connection? Where else can you casually strike up a conversation with John Stamos and offer him your Wi-Fi password so he can check his email? (Yes, it happened to my roommate. True story.)
Great things are always going on around here. And here at the Daily Bruin, we get to write about those things.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I knew that I had a home here, in this little windowless “dungeon” in Kerckhoff 118. Working at the Daily Bruin has its demanding moments. Deadlines can be stressful, interviews can go awry and sometimes you realize you forgot to submit a photo request for your story.
But somewhere along the line, amid the turmoil of trying to navigate the world of journalism, this place became home.
Maybe it was when I got word that I’d been selected to join the A&E team. Perhaps it was after calling my editor and successfully pitching my first story. It could have been seeing my name in print for the first time, or getting to write my first album review. There was the time I stood face to face with Brit Marling and Alexander Skarsgard and got to ask them questions – the only time I’ve ever been truly starstruck.
Each story I wrote, each late-night phone call to the Copy desk, each conversation or disagreement with my editors has become part of that home. But there’s one thing that truly reminds me of The Bruin, and I think it’s this seemingly small but extremely meaningful tradition that truly made the difference.
There’s a bit of a ritual here in the office. Each Monday before our radio show Long Story Short, we head upstairs to Baskin Robbins. Because, as a good friend of mine explained to me the first day I tagged along, Mondays just need ice cream.
Those of us who work at The Bruin hold an immense amount of passion for our work. But while the love of our craft is evident, I think the sense of home that so many of us find in Kerckhoff 118 stems from moments like Ice Cream Mondays. It lies within the late nights streaming UCLA football games from office computers while attempting to study for midterms. It comes from the annual Thanksgiving lunch feast, from heroically yet fearfully capturing bugs underneath desk lamps, and from spontaneous dorm dinners with fellow writers and editors.
There’s a lot more to a newspaper than just telling the stories – like anything in life, it’s about the experience. For me, the people I met here at the Daily Bruin were the bulk of that experience. As a journalist, I may be building a career in telling stories about other people. But these people here, in this room with walls plastered with witty quotes and ridiculous pictures – they’re an important part of my story.
What’s that? Oh, right – my theory.
So I have this theory that life significantly improves when ice cream is involved.
My time at the Daily Bruin led me to that one. And I couldn’t be more grateful – especially on Mondays.
Jakubczyk was an A&E contributor from 2012-2014.
One day I’ll trade my pen for a scalpel, but I think I’ll always appreciate the beauty and precision of an effective first sentence.
I long considered the Daily Bruin my greatest indulgence. Every hour I spent in the office, every pen I misplaced in the act of reporting, was a guilty excess – a hobby I chose to pursue because I loved it, but not because I should.
I spent countless nights wondering when I should pull the plug and do what a traditional pre-medical student should be doing. When was enough, enough? Was it when I was writing three stories a week? Or was it when I seemed to be spending 10 hours a day in the office?
But reporting became an addiction. Four years later, I can tell you there is nothing more satisfying than finding the words to share a story you think is important. There is nothing more enticing than the hunt for your next feature tucked away somewhere on campus. And there is nothing more humbling than listening.
It’s funny, really, because you actually learn quite a bit about yourself when you spend your days writing about other people.
I learned that politics, even if ridiculous, are important – thanks, USAC. I learned the best stories involve collaboration across disciplines. And I remembered that apathy is something we cannot afford. Even when all I could offer was an open ear and a couple of inches in print, writing features was an investment in the lives of others.
Now I understand that I stayed because somehow breathing in the dusty air of this dingy office made me walk lighter. I felt like a better person, and I didn’t want to give that up. I have the rest of my life to dedicate myself to medicine, but this was my chance to be a journalist. And if I’m any good at being a doctor in the years to come, I know it’s in part because I stopped to smell the newspapers.
The truth is, the Daily Bruin has always been just as much for us as it is for our readers, and that’s because we leave a trace of ourselves in every line of copy. Looking back, I see myself most clearly in my first sentences, known in the newsroom as ledes.
Read me the first sentence of any feature I’ve written, and my reporting experience will rush back. I may never have another byline, but I’ll remember my favorite stories and my time at The Bruin by the ledes I’ve written.
Sometimes it’s the weather that stands out in my memory: It was a sunny Friday as I rushed down to the Kinross Building South, sweating, to write my first story as Science and Health editor on book preservation. I thought of the lede as I passed by the medical center on the way back up to the apartments.
Other times it’s the distractions I remember the most: When I wrote my geocaching story I was sitting on the floor of my Rieber Hall dorm. Students were playing catch in the hallway, and I had a midterm the next day. My idea for the lede came from looking at my “Goonies” poster. It’s still the most effortless story I’ve written.
Ironically, though, my favorite lede was never published: “In the small, white wooden courthouse cornfields away from the bloodiest battles of the war, the soiled blue wool uniform met the fresh cotton gray to bring a country together again.”
Scrawled in a reporter’s notebook more than two years ago during a writing workshop, it describes, with creative license, the surrender of Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.
I saved it for the reenactment story I swore I would one day write.
Two and a half years later and still no story, but even unpublished ledes carry nostalgia. And that’s good enough for me.
Now I’ve run out of time, and there are no ledes left for me to write.
All there is to say is that when I walked through the double doors of the Daily Bruin four years ago asking for the campus tours, I never thought Kerckhoff Hall would come to mean so much to me.
My experience at the university, it seems, started where it would one day end – in the windowless office between North and South Campus where my competing interests found a way to complement each other.
For all the ledes I wrote and read in between, I’m grateful.
Daskalakis was prime editor from 2013-2014, science and health editor from 2012-2013 and a news contributor and reporter from 2010-2012.
UCLA asks much of its students. We look to you not only to be outstanding scholars, but also to embrace your roles as volunteers, engaged citizens, mentors and leaders. We encourage you to envision your dreams and to stride toward them. In concert with UCLA’s mission as a great public university, we challenge you to consider how your unique talents can improve the world around us.
Like others before you, the Class of 2014 has met and exceeded those ambitious expectations. On the occasion of your commencement, I am delighted to congratulate you for reaching this magnificent milestone and for living up to those lofty standards.
Among our newest graduates, many overcame substantial obstacles just to become Bruins. Many of you benefitted greatly from the generosity of loved ones who supported your education; and many more from the indispensable philanthropy of our alumni and friends whose contributions to UCLA fund scholarships and fellowships.
But whatever your personal journey to UCLA, each of you has grown and each of you has given of yourself. You have done so among thousands of other exceptionally bright men and women. Together, you have formed a community that makes us proud: A community built on mutual respect, and a community that celebrates our varied backgrounds even as we come together to pursue excellence in all we do. You have also taken advantage of the opportunity to study in a city that is, in so many ways, a laboratory for understanding 21st-century America. It’s that aspect of Los Angeles that has made it an ideal proving ground for your community-based research and for our campus’s first Grand Challenge project, which aimed for our city to use only renewable energy and local water by 2050.
During your time here, you have forged friendships that will be among your most important relationships for years to come. I hope you will treasure them in your personal and professional lives, and carry them as lasting evidence of what makes UCLA such a special place. Always know that UCLA is yours and you have a home here.
By participating in UCLA Volunteer Day and a host of other civic engagement initiatives, you have embraced the values that define our unique academic environment, and you have forever enriched our UCLA legacy. This is no small feat when you consider the Bruins who came before you: trailblazers and innovators in nearly every field imaginable, the most audacious thinkers and the most accomplished doers. Based on what you have accomplished here, in this demanding environment, I am confident that you will equal and even surpass their achievements – and that you will build upon their contributions to our greater good.
This commencement season follows the public launch of our Centennial Campaign for UCLA, which will strengthen our campus’s financial self-reliance as we approach 2019, the 100th anniversary of our founding. UCLA is unique among the world’s great institutions of higher education; no other university has done so much to advance knowledge and enhance quality of life in such a short period of time. The beginning of the $4.2 billion fundraising effort has inspired us not only to celebrate our extraordinary progress and the victories we have won, but also to imagine and plan for a future filled with extraordinary new possibilities.
I hope your graduation will inspire you to do the same: to reflect on the remarkable success of your time at UCLA, to take stock in your own self-reliance and to prepare yourself for a future filled with immense promise.
Dr. Gene Block is the chancellor of UCLA.
Four years ago, I could never have imagined the life-changing experiences I would have at this university – the opportunities, the people and the love I’ve developed for this campus continue to grow to new heights with each passing day.
While I was growing up, I would never have imagined attending a prestigious university like UCLA, let alone being your undergraduate student body president. My mother – a beautiful, strong and resilient woman – raised me, but she had to immigrate from her home thousands of miles away just to provide my sister and me the opportunity to pursue an education.
I am here today because of this act; I am a firm believer in public education and the marked difference it makes for millions of students. I am one of those students.
These past four years have challenged me to think critically about the direction of our university and the current trajectory of public higher education in California. We are students in an era when education has been deprioritized by our state and nation, and when tuition costs are at an all-time high. This university, our university, continually faces challenges of diversity, safety and inclusion.
This not only affects us today, but poses many challenges in the years to come. We have seen the crippling effects of voter-passed initiatives such as Proposition 209 and Proposition 13, which have significantly harmed the diversity of our student body and hindered our ability to secure sustainable funding for the UC, respectively.
In our UCLA community – one of lifelong learners, world-class athletes and passionate activists – we are all the innovators who create solutions to improve society for the better. From working on issues of access to education and anti-war efforts in the ’60s and ’70s, to pushing for holistic admissions and civil rights, students have historically played a critical role in steering our university in a socially responsible direction. Today, by being Bruins, we have accepted a collective responsibility to challenge ourselves, and others, to strive for social, spiritual, cultural, academic and political empowerment. Too often do we silence ourselves from addressing real, sometimes controversial, issues for the sake of not inconveniencing others.
UCLA is often heralded as one of the premier public institutions in the world. Bruins create groundbreaking research. We are world-class athletes, top scholars and activists who are changing the conversations both inside and outside the classroom. Yet what distinguishes UCLA from other universities is our commitment to public service and our accountability to the Los Angeles and California communities.
We are students who continue to make progress. But to continue moving forward, student leadership must reflect those values of respect, accountability, integrity and public service. Although we faced many challenges, your student government was able to accomplish incredible things this past year, including initiating nationally recognized campaigns to raise awareness and take action on issues such as sexual assault and the school-to-prison pipeline, raising over $12,000 for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan, and expanding crucial student services.
However, we know that safety, access, retention and the well-being of our students continue to face many attacks, and there is significant room for improvement. The challenge we face today is whether we will shy away from addressing these issues, or tackle them head on.
Nothing is more important than the passion, love and drive that pushes the student movement, whether that comes from the Undergraduate Students Association Council or not. I believe that USAC is a place where I found my inner voice, and I only hope it continues to be more than a student government, but a place where others can find their inner voice and harness their agency to move our campus and community forward.
It has been a true honor to serve you this past year. Thank you for an incredible year. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Congratulations to the class of 2014, and go Bruins!
John Joanino was the Undergraduate Students Association Council president from 2013-2014.
No one falls into philosophy. It’s not a default career choice.
Philosophy is typically not taught in grades K-12, and I don’t know many kids who dream of becoming philosophers when they grow up (though I think we should do some PR on this).
My discipline has a reputation – sometimes deserved – for meaningless navel gazing, and I think all philosophers have lived through the exquisite awkwardness of trying to explain our work at cocktail parties. So I’m going to wager that the majority of philosophers have an origin story, some series of events that led us down this path. This is mine.
I was always an eccentric kid, lost in works of fiction. But fiction bothered me sometimes. When I was 5, my mom found me in a full-blown, hyperventilating, tears-streaming-down-my-red-face panic attack. Between sobs, I asked her, “But what if we’re the characters in someone else’s book? What if we’re not even real people?” My mom gave me a Tums and put me down for a nap (I was not the world’s easiest kid to parent).
But when I turned 12, reality no longer seemed indistinguishable from fiction. That year, one of my good friends committed suicide. There was no ambiguity to this event. He used a gun. He left a note. And it shattered my community. It shattered me.
His parents were deeply religious, and suicide was strictly forbidden in their faith. And so, I found myself sitting in a memorial service in a church, listening to people memorialize him as a relentlessly sunny kid who was the victim of a senseless mishap. I didn’t recognize the boy they were talking about.
I sat on the hard wooden pew, physically overwhelmed with the complexity of my own emotions. This is the first time in my life I can recall feeling fury. At that moment, the fury seemed directed at his parents. It seemed disrespectful to paint a picture of my friend that didn’t at all reflect who he was in life, or the choices he made. Like the real him wasn’t worth talking about or mourning over.
But that fury was coupled with other emotions. I saw his parents at the front of the church, both of them physically broken with grief. His mother could barely speak. I understood why we were all pretending here. Part of me wanted to pretend too.
After the service, everyone got up to pay their respects to his parents. I sat in my pew, entirely unsure of what to do. Should I pay my respects to the people who just turned my friend’s memorial service into a work of fiction? Should I go give them a hug and tell them how happy he would have been? Would I be wronging the memory of my friend, disrespecting him, if I played along? And who was I to talk? I knew my friend well – should I have foreseen his suicide? Did any of this even matter?
People talk about philosophy as if it is utterly divorced from the real world, unconnected from practical concerns. I became a philosopher because I am relentlessly worried about the real world. In that moment, sitting in that church, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what I owed my friend’s parents or my friend. And I didn’t know how I should feel about myself.
I thought, people must have answers to these questions, even if the answer is that there are no answers. And so they had. That week, I read my first ethics (a subfield of philosophy) text. I never stopped.
Ethicists like me are often painted as prudish moral judges, trying to keep track of everyone’s misdeeds in our ledger. I can’t speak for everyone in my discipline, but I can’t be bothered keeping track of everyone else. I am just trying to decide what I should do on this side of the fence.
I became an ethicist because I recognize that all of us act for reasons, and not thinking about those reasons doesn’t make them go away. If everything we do is for reasons, I want to pick good ones. And at its core, my work is about figuring out what those good reasons look like.
These days I work primarily in bioethics, helping clinicians and scientists figure out how to navigate the minefields in their disciplines. I do it because working with emerging technologies and patients is messy and hard, and my discipline has tools to help.
I do it because philosophy improves every decision I make, every single day. I do it because I think there’s not much that matters more.
Dr. Tiffany Cvrkel is a lecturer of molecular, cell and developmental biology at UCLA.
After my college graduation ceremony, I was packing up my dorm room, feeling a little down. I was relieved to have graduated, but I didn’t really feel that I had become the person I had expected to be: knowledgeable, confident and mature. I didn’t feel that different.
I was packing away my notes from my freshman classes and started flipping through them. I began to feel better. At one time I had thought this material difficult, but now I felt it was OK, something I could get through.
In other words, the main thing I learned from my undergraduate education was simply that I could confront challenges, one way or another, with enough effort and patience.
But as I go through life now, I realize that I might never become the knowledgeable, confident and mature person I had envisioned becoming.
Life is less about achievements and more about welcoming new challenges and learning how to overcome them.
Every experience I have had – from finishing graduate school, landing a first job, becoming a father and to sending my own children off to college – has helped me become a little bit better at dealing with new challenges.
Graduating from college is a great achievement, but what I would say to new graduates is that your challenges are just beginning.
Your generation will face many obstacles in addition to the standard life tasks of establishing careers and families. You will have to clean up after the irresponsible actions of your elders: not just their environmental degradation and carbon emissions, but also their warmongering and creation of hostility which provides selfish short-term gains at the expense of long-term peace.
You will have to ensure, in the course of your lifetimes, that everyone in the world has access to the basic requirements for well-being, including education, housing and food – a task at which your elders have been very slow. You will have to fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for people of all races, religions, gender identities and sexual orientations. The public schools in my hometown in Alabama are more segregated in 2014 than when I went to high school in 1981. You will have the chance to break the back of narrow-mindedness and nativism in the U.S., and fulfill its promise as a country that welcomes all immigrants and cultures.
Your generation has all these challenges, but you also have a lot of advantages. Maybe it is because of social media or a generally more communicative spirit, but from what I can tell, people in your generation are much better at supporting each other.
Your generation is leading the anti-bullying movement. Your generation is taking the lead in calling out cowards who try to harass women into silence.
Young adults today are also supporting each other to fight against gender norms. Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, came out at the age of 24 before he was even drafted. He would not have taken that step without the full support of his college teammates.
In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that a 24-year-old would have more social support from his college teammates, coaches and family than established middle-aged players, who are used to an older, less enlightened environment. In turn, Sam supports millions of young kids, straight and queer, looking to see how they will fit into society.
As you leave UCLA to face new challenges, please remember your UCLA family. We stand by you. We faculty always enjoy hearing from former students, even after many years have passed.
We wish you the best. We need you to be the best.
Dr. Michael Chwe is a professor of political science at UCLA.