Graduation Issue 2013

This is your story.

These are their stories

Before email existed, foreign correspondents would transmit stories via telegraph, using “-30-” to signify the end of the transmission. These are this year’s -30- columns, a symbolic “signing off.” Most columns are written by the Daily Bruin’s graduating staff. Others are submissions from UCLA community members. Staff columns are accompanied by a “Minute Memories” video, each staffer’s favorite UCLA memory in under 60 seconds. Click on a photo to read the column and watch the video.

For those who came before, those yet to come

James Barragan

I wrote the personal essay to my college applications about the Wu-Tang Clan’s song “C.R.E.A.M.”

It’s a song about growing up in rough neighborhoods, dealing with gang violence and drugs and thinking that money is the only way out.

That song summed up the way many of the kids in my high school seemed to think. But I wanted something different. I wanted to get an education and change the world.

“I want to be a writer so I can come back to kids like me and tell them that there’s another way,” I wrote.

In my application to the Daily Bruin, I mirrored that thought.

“I want to tell the stories about people like me,” I remember saying in my nerve-wracking interview for an intern position on the paper.

I’ve worked at The Bruin for four years now, and I don’t think I can comfortably say that I have told those stories.

I can point to places here and there where this paper, which I had the pleasure of running for an entire year, has told those stories, but there are not many and that makes me feel like I’ve failed a little.

So I wanted to take the last thing I’ll ever write for this paper and dedicate it to the people who are like me and made me the person I am today – the wonderful people of the city of Pomona, Calif.

This is for the kids trying to go to college even though their teachers tell them they’re not good enough.

This is for second-grade teachers telling a kid from a minority background that his dream to be the president of the United States is completely plausible because this is the United States.

This is for Barack Obama, for proving that true.

This is for my brothers in community college because they didn’t have money to afford to go directly to a four-year university.

This is for my sisters who couldn’t go to college to pursue their dreams because their patriarchal society told them that a woman’s place is at home taking care of the family.

This is for those who made it to college – that ivory tower where they were promised they would encounter enlightened people – but only encountered the same discrimination they experienced back home.

This is for the DREAMers who have to sit around doing nothing with their college diplomas because they are missing one little piece of paper that our society says gives them right to be here.

This is for my friends who are too afraid to come out because their parents won’t accept the person they love.

This is for the mothers and fathers working two or three jobs to make ends meet, and not being able to see their kids because otherwise there would be no food on the table.

This is for the kids who feel neglected because their parents are not around.

This is for the older brothers and sisters stepping up to take care of their younger siblings because their parents are not there.

This is for our brothers and sisters fighting in the military to keep this country safe.

This is for anybody who’s ever been locked up – it’s never too late to change.

I haven’t written about these people nearly enough, and that’s one of my biggest regrets.

But I accomplished at least one of the goals I set out in my intern application when I was a wide-eyed freshman – I’m a writer and that is a step in the right direction.

I don’t know where I’ll end up working after I finish my internship at the Austin American-Statesman this summer, but wherever I go I’ll take the stories of these folks with me.

And maybe this is just the beginning. Hopefully, I am just a voice shouting in the wilderness to prepare the way for much better storytellers who come where I come from.

If that turns out to be the case, I’ll have to thank all the wonderful and understanding people I met and worked with here at The Bruin for helping me get the ball rolling.

I can’t imagine what life would have been like at UCLA these four years if I had not worked here.

This is for the Daily Bruin, thank you.

Barragan was editor-in-chief from 2012-2013, assistant news editor from 2011-2012 and a news and video reporter from 2010-2011.

Seek to see the extraordinary in the ordinary

Andra Lim

I was voted the Daily Bruin’s most anal retentive staffer at the end of this year. I would be a bit offended, if the title didn’t so obviously suit me.

Part of my job is worrying about small things like headline space, whether to say “more” or “over,” where a certain paragraph should be placed and what a tweet should say. Language is slippery, and sometimes a few words or a few sentences make the difference between getting a story right and getting it wrong.

A common criticism of my job – and others at the paper – is that it’s easy to get bogged down in these details during the grind of putting out a paper Monday through Friday. The big picture can slip out of sight.

At the end of fall quarter, I took a step back and noticed a gap in the paper that I had missed for months. Simply put, our stories lacked soul. We wrote about politics, academics and campus events, but we rarely wrote articles focused solely on people who lived quietly, yet with compassion, bravery and goodness.

Ironically, in obsessing over minutiae, I had forgotten about the beauty of small things, of small acts of human kindness.

Looking back, the stories I’ve written that stick out the most are those about people who are, in one sense, totally ordinary – their names don’t spark immediate recognition, and they haven’t cured cancer or led a major sports team to victory. But in another sense, they are totally extraordinary.

I spoke with a Japanese literature professor, dying of a rare melanoma, who was determined to continue teaching an undergraduate class in the last weeks of his life. I interviewed another professor who had worked as a plumber to support his family, before quitting his job and pursuing his dream of teaching political science. I wrote about a UCLA staffer who runs a computing program geared toward disabled students, while coping with the challenges his own blindness presents.

During our conversations, these people talked of principles that I’ve come to learn, one way or another, these past four years.

Find what you love and do it. It is OK to stumble, again and again. Listen to others, and speak honestly and openly to them in return. Give back. Embrace uncertainty. Spend time with those you love, whether you have a few weeks left or many years.

It’s tough to describe what my time at the Daily Bruin has meant to me in a way that doesn’t gloss over the many, many moments of frustration and joy that occur day to day. All I can say is: From staring at stories for hours on end, to taking naps on the A&E chair, to eating pizza after finishing the paper on election night, I savored the small stuff.

Lim was managing editor from 2012-2013, assistant opinion editor from 2011-2012 and a news reporter from 2009-2011.

The story is in, it is yours to tell

Devin Kelly

I’m staring at a white board in the Kerckhoff Hall conference room where I’ve spent countless hours in Daily Bruin budget meetings.

Inside a sketch of a page, someone has written four words in brown dry erase marker.

“This is your story.”

It is, isn’t it?

At the Daily Bruin, we wrangle stories like unbroken horses, piecing together quotes and facts and perspectives.

I’ve written them, assigned them, edited them, produced them online.

They are the ones that really stick with you.

Of basketball players in Cameroon.

Of a schoolteacher in Japan when the tsunami hit.

Of a terminally ill professor determined to continue teaching.

Of an adventurous math student fighting with Libyan rebels.

We tell the small stories, of a keyboard transported on a skateboard to a residence hall lounge from an attic in Schoenberg Hall.

We tell the large ones, of multimillion dollar budget cuts to a university system trying to figure out how to slow the pace of tuition hikes.

We seek out the humanity in studies, reports, numbers.

These stories are yours. They’re not for me, or about me. They’re for you.

I’m a journalist but I’m first and foremost a storyteller. I knew it at age 7, with absolute clarity, winning first prize in a young author’s competition in Sacramento, Calif.

I pivoted into journalism at age 17, falling into the rhythm and pace of local news reporting, the profession already running in the veins of my family.

That’s my story – here at UCLA, it’s a desk at the Daily Bruin, it’s the hunt for the perfect hamburger, it’s that one hike in the Pacific Palisades that takes your breath away.

It’s 8-clapping at the football game until your hands hurt.

It’s the quote from a professor you’ll never forget, about how you want to change the world, but it’s the world that changes you.

It’s friends who tell you what you need to hear.

It’s having a dream, and waking up one day to realize it’s coming true.

But I’m the journalist, and this is your story. It has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Tell it with all your heart.

Kelly was online managing editor from 2012-2013, news editor from 2011-2012, assistant news editor in 2011 and a news contributor from 2010-2011.

Grateful for, humbled by place

Carly Cody

Damn, we are some lucky people.

There was a brief moment this quarter when I was walking from the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden toward Kerckhoff Hall and everything got quiet and the sunlight was slanted a particular way and the breeze and, I don’t know, but the combination of everything seemed perfect. I experienced something I can only describe as “the feels.”

I think this moment was somehow poignant because lately I’ve felt a senior-year cynicism seeping into my attitude, preventing me from realizing how incredibly in love I am with this place.

This is where the Daily Bruin usually comes in to remind me. I’m completely smitten with the idea that the physical paper is a mirror of the physical campus on any given day.

That a group of students converge in an intimate space to create a package that narrates the story of a small community on a daily basis, and the fact that this tangible package is only available on campus seems worth protecting as a particularly special way of preserving a place.

I think the staffers at the Daily Bruin understand this sense of place.

The walls of Kerckhoff 118 partition the office into honeycomb-like pockets of workspace, dividing each section of the newspaper – from the copy editors to the opinion columnists – into nooks of productivity.

Stacks of discarded reporters’ notebooks create piles in the crannies of desks and scribbled-on pieces of paper litter the shelves in every corner. The surfaces of the walls are plastered with “wall quotes” – typed transcriptions recording humorous tidbits of overheard conversations between staffers.

Even the ceiling supports a collection of front pages pinned up as a canopy above the heights of outdated computers and camera equipment.

This windowless office represents a place constructed through the paper trail of our storytelling.

More importantly, it has provided me with a place to make connections with some very special people.

Ramsey and Loic, I think I’m going to coin the term “collegiate soulmates” to describe you punks. I hope to be brewing beer and “Wagon Wheel”-ing with you for a long time to come.

Emma, thank you for redefining the English language with me (i.e. “tro”) and Liz, your scream-laugh is undeniably infectious, so thank you.

Alexa and Erika, I wouldn’t have wanted to work with anyone else this year. Thank you for making prime magazine everything I wanted it to be.

This last column is only a shy gesture of what my experience working for the paper has meant to me. If nothing more, the Daily Bruin has taught me that you just have to keep making things and treating people well.

This paper and this university have humbled me and for that I’m grateful.

Cody was prime magazine director from 2012-2013, assistant opinion editor from 2011-2012 and a columnist from 2010-2011.

Smahl office has big impact

Alexa Smahl

Every dank, windowless office can use a little laughter to lighten the mood, and there are few things I enjoy more than making people laugh. Being part of the Daily Bruin helped me realize that.

As the managing editor last year, I aimed to facilitate an environment of creative freedom. I strived to help maintain the paper’s history of integrity and excellence. But above all, I wanted to ensure that the office was a place where people truly wanted to be.

It’s very easy to get lost in the bustle of the workday.

But when spending seven- to nine-hour intervals in an isolated, wall-facing cubicle, sorting through angry emails about faulty crossword solutions and telling disheartened staffers that their articles aren’t printable, you realize the importance of finding the humor in things.

I tried to lighten the mood whenever I could, starting spontaneous Styrofoam snowball fights, mandating Nutella club initiations, providing sardonic commentary at our daily content meetings and contributing many infamous quips to our wall of Post-it quotes.

And when people smiled, I smiled too.

I found the greatest happiness in that of my fellow staffers, relishing their achievements – both their awards and their growth as journalists and people.

Before ever stepping foot on the UCLA campus, 18-year-old, newly admitted me was already set on joining the Daily Bruin and continuing my pursuit of photography.

Back then, I had no idea what joining the Daily Bruin would mean for me.

During my time as a Bruin, there was only one week that I wasn’t a part of the Daily Bruin staff – that’s how deeply ingrained my Daily Bruin experience has been in my college career.

The experience has been one of the greatest and most challenging experiences of my life.

I’ll never forget the excitement of my first photo in print, the primal shriek I let out at the Sheraton hotel in Chicago when prime magazine won its first Pacemaker award, the paralyzing fear as I watched Reeves Nelson chuck a basketball toward me through my viewfinder or the rush of racing down the Rose Bowl sidelines with my camera body and 300mm lens slung over my back.

Thank you to the editors that pushed and believed in me. Thank you to my photo mentees who made me more proud than I could have ever imagined. And thank you to a staff that put up with my yearlong, sub-par stand-up comedy routine.

Our adventures in the mysteriously-stained Kerckhoff 118 are memories I’ll never forget.

Smahl was prime magazine photo editor from 2012-2013, managing editor from 2011-2012, assistant photo editor from 2010-2011 and a photo contributor from 2009-2010.

Stacks of newspapers are stacks of memories

Kylie Reynolds

I’ve left stacks of Daily Bruin papers throughout the country.

Some reside in my mom’s house in Ohio. Others are scattered in drawers at my grandparents’ home in Riverside, Calif. And a significant chunk sit in my Kelton apartment closet.

It’s true – I’m a pack rat. I have a penchant for holding onto trinkets, be it ticket stubs, birthday cards or brochures, which may or may not land me on “Hoarders” in the near future. But I had a reason for always making my routine pit stop at the Ackerman Student Union newsstand and grabbing fistfuls of Daily Bruins to take home.

These stacks are the tangibles of something intangible.

Past the lines of text about a North Village robbery or changing ROTC policies, I can see my missed lectures. The 10-page papers I wrote the night before they were due and the Kerckhoff baristas who brought me back to life in the morning. The relationships I let fade and the new ones that formed.

Between the stories that tell of the incredible people and change that characterized this campus in my four years are my own tales: those of the staffers and friends who recognized that I have a judgment face and still like me despite it. The late-night trips wandering campus. The chance at a career.

And probably a significantly reduced lifespan.

I picked up the paper to hold on to the days and nights I spent writing and editing stories and the UCLA events that affected my life, even if momentarily. These stacks represent my place at UCLA more than my grades, thesis or that degree I will soon be holding ever could.

Journalism can play that role, even for the journalists who produce it.

In those times when I saw another student grab an issue of the Daily Bruin and then quickly stuff it in their backpack, I could only hope I had just witnessed another person like myself who wants to be able to look back and remember something after it’s over and done.

Well, a girl can dream.

Reynolds was enterprise editor from 2012-2013, assistant news editor from 2011-2012 and a news reporter 2010-2011.

Dateline in transition

Sam Strong

I have to admit, it feels strange not to begin one of these things with a dateline.

It was always step one in the process. Sit down and write the name of the city you’re in. If I got nothing else right – and I got a lot of things wrong on these pages over the last four years – at least I had that part nailed down.

This is undoubtedly the most difficult column I’ve had to write because the truth is, as I sit here between internships and cities, I don’t even have that hurdle cleared. Like many of us in the class of 2013, I’m transitioning.

I spent my time as a student reporting and opining on UCLA athletics. I went as far east as New York City and as far south as Texas to do it. I made it to every Pac-12 institution, covered two conference championship games, one NCAA tournament (otherwise known as Ben Howland’s swan song) and two bowl games (Yes, that football team from our junior year made history by going to a bowl game at 6-7 and laying an egg against an Illinois team that had not won a game in more than two months. Oh, that season ended in a coach being fired, too).

Those four years are over – better luck to you in the football and basketball departments, class of 2017 – and suddenly I’m unsure of the next step in my trajectory as a sports writer. I don’t know how things will end up.

But I do know how it began. I was a freshman who had recently been named sports editor at the Daily Bruin. It was an honor, for sure, but something I viewed as more of a gateway to reporting on the moneymaking sports than a way to serve the campus community.

That changed in a hurry. They say the first day at any job is the hardest and now I believe them, but it was so much more than a first day. It was also a day that affirmed why I want to be a journalist.

It was Thursday of 10th week in spring quarter 2010, and I received an email saying John Wooden was in the hospital and wouldn’t make it much longer. Never mind the final I had to study for – I had been on the job for less than 24 hours and someone whose name was synonymous with UCLA was about to pass on.

I was in over my head. Graduating staffers lent a hand, nobody studied or slept and by Sunday, we had created 12 pages of original content that told Wooden’s story and honored the contributions he made in sports and beyond. I did terribly on that final, but it didn’t matter. The pride we all felt seeing someone reading the Wooden section far outweighed the shame I felt from failing an exam.

June 4 marked the three-year anniversary of Wooden’s passing. It was a somber time around Westwood, but I’ll always look back on that weekend with great fondness. It fueled the work I did at The Bruin for the next three years and without it, I may have been sane enough to listen to everyone who told me to ditch journalism.

I don’t plan to jump ship anytime soon and I know I’ll never forget the stories I wrote, mistakes I made or lessons I learned at this newspaper. I’ll cherish the friends, colleagues, athletes, coaches, sports information directors and readers I’ve interacted with over the last four years. It’s been an honor and a privilege, and whichever dateline I print next, I know I’ll be there because of the things I learned here.

Strong was sports senior staff from 2011-2013, sports editor from 2010-2011 and a sports contributor from 2009-2010.

Answers in the unknown

Anneta Konstantinides

I almost didn’t come to UCLA.

Though I had sent in my Statement of Intent in June, whenever people asked whether I was going to transfer to UCLA or return to UC Davis in the fall, I told them I still hadn’t decided. My friends staged an intervention at a Thai restaurant. My parents asked me every single day.

No one understood why someone who wanted to be in the entertainment industry wasn’t jumping at the chance to live in the heart of it. And yet the idea of leaving the comfortable life I had created in the previous two years straight terrified me. So I hopped on a plane for my study abroad program in Cambridge, England and figured I would find the answer there.

And I did. I couldn’t tell you exactly where I discovered it: at that karaoke bar in Edinburgh, Scotland where I sang “Bootylicious,” underneath the Eiffel Tower’s midnight light show with a bottle of champagne or dancing under confetti in a club in Ibiza, Spain. But somewhere along the way in that summer of new adventures I realized I needed to make the jump.

That was the second most important aha moment in my life. The first was when I realized I wanted to be a writer.

That’s the beauty of the aha moment: When the metaphorical light bulb goes off in your head and you realize you’ve found something you didn’t even know you were really searching for. For me, it was at the age of 16, finishing the last few pages of “The Great Gatsby,” that I realized what I was looking for – a voice to tell stories.

One of the main reasons I’ve always focused on arts and entertainment journalism is because I love telling those stories. The dancers, directors, musicians and artists who wake up every day and live their aha moments, no matter how brutal rehearsal, a shoot or the bills were the day before.

A part of me was scared to leave Davis not only because of the life I would leave behind, but because of the life I knew I would be pursuing in the future. To commit to L.A. was to commit to the fact that I was going to be a writer – a journalist, a screenwriter, an author. I would ditch my half-hearted attempt at being an international relations student to live the dream I first had when I was 16.

Fast-forward two years from deciding to move to L.A. and I’m about to make an even bigger jump, off the cliff and into the dark twisted sea that is postgrad. I have no idea if six months from now I’ll be working at a magazine or a movie studio, living in New York or on a boat in Portugal, telling other people’s stories or my own.

But no matter what, I’ll be writing.

Konstantinides was an assistant A&E editor from 2012-2013 and an A&E contributor from 2011-2012.

Magic, passion prevail

Angelica Lai

There’s something sad and magical about lasts – whether it’s the last page of a 300-page book, the last time your roommate lets you use the kitchen unsupervised or, as in my case, the last shift you have as a Daily Bruin copy editor.

While holding a freshly printed copy of a finished page to run the next morning, I realized that, after more than three years, it was the last time I would be in Kerckhoff 118 in the middle of the night trying to make deadline. While I expected it to be a sense of relief, the feeling that found its way to the front of my mind had a hint of sadness to it.

I looked at the printed page before me, satisfied with the accuracy of the headlines, the clarity of the articles, the length of the photo captions, and I couldn’t help but feel that the page itself was a manifestation, an expression of everything that is the Daily Bruin. Flowing through its headlines, its texts and its photos is the passion of talented students not only from this past academic year, but moreover from the accumulation of former staffers and the history they leave behind.

Often people would ask me what it is I did as a slot editor, and after hearing my long answers about editing and fact checking while heavily caffeinated and bloated from consuming a two-choice order from Panda Express, they would ask why, with my love for creating, did I not become a writer or a photographer or an illustrator instead?

I am not a writer or a photographer or an illustrator, but as a copy editor, I am able to access something rarer. I am able to come into contact with writers, photographers and illustrators, with every form of creation that finds a home on the page or the website.

A copy editor is in the most basic sense “a silent guardian, a watchful protector” – from making sure you know the difference between “The squirrel Tom ate my lunch” and “The squirrel, Tom, ate my lunch” to double checking that sentences end with punctuation and not like

Being a copy editor is nothing glamorous. In these last few years, I have yelled at inanimate objects after our server crashed, broken down when I tried taking a shift after a family loss and quit because giving up seemed like the only option. But through it all there was always someone yelling at inanimate objects with me, someone to give me a hug and tell me they will take over, someone welcoming me back with one arm outstretched and the other arm filled with snacks.

Looking at the printed page in my hands one last time, I knew that the papers to come tomorrow and the next month and the years after will have a similar undercurrent of passion and collaboration, a similar sense of magic distinct only to the Daily Bruin.

Lai was a slot editor from 2011-2013 and a copy editor from 2010-2011.

Chance saved by dignity

Serli Polatoglu

Three years is an oddly indefinable period of time. Some days, my stint at UCLA seemed interminable.

Some days, it seemed all too transitory. And now, as I sit here typing up the text that will bear my very last byline in the Daily Bruin, I can’t help but realize that both sentiments, opposing as they may be, are incongruously true.

Three years ago, I walked through the daunting double doors at Kerckhoff Hall for my Daily Bruin interview, an anxious freshman with frizzy hair and a fervent hope. Fingers crossed! I was going to be a reporter at a big-time college newspaper.

Of course, I tanked the interview. Things were going relatively well until then-opinion editor Neil Paik asked me the fateful question: “If you could ask Gene Block one thing, what would it be?” New to UCLA and generally ignorant, I had to uncomfortably admit that I didn’t know who Gene Block was.

Neil winced, and I cringed upon hearing that Block was none other than the chancellor of UCLA. I was mortified, and the interview ended shortly thereafter.

But I was determined not to let my chances die with my dignity. The next day, I marched back through those double doors and met a surprised Neil at the entrance.

“Your interview was yesterday,” he said, with a puzzled look on his face.

“I know, but I didn’t like how I answered the Gene Block question, so here’s a list of things I would ask him given the chance,” I replied, handing him a folded piece of paper on which my last hopes resided.

A week later, I walked through those double doors for what very well could have been the last time. I entered Student Media, nervously wondering if I’d leave as a member of the Daily Bruin team, or just a reader.

I jumped for joy, took a picture of my name under the heading of accepted applicants and did the typical freshman thing – called my mom.

Since then, I’m happy to report that I’ve been a news writer, opinion editor and staff columnist at the Bruin – and I’ve met with Chancellor Block on three separate occasions to interview him as a member of the editorial board. All three times, I was prepared with questions and a full foreknowledge of who he was.

I don’t know if Neil even remembers my interview. I doubt people will remember me at the Bruin in a few years. The paper has always been something bigger than myself – than even the team that puts it together.

But, I know for certain that I will never forget the three sunless, carpal tunnel-inducing, Nutella-fueled years where I was sheltered behind those unassuming double doors. Thank you, Daily Bruin, for everything.

Polatoglu was an opinion columnist from 2012-2013, opinion editor from 2011-2012 and a news reporter from 2010-2011.

A bittersweet anthem

Jacob Ruffman

I struggle to find a more difficult moment in my life than the one in the waiting room of the Daily Bruin on April 6, 2012.

I sat staring at my cell phone trying to cry but not having the ability to do so. I was numb. I was angry. I was embarrassed.

All I wanted to do was smash that phone into an unrecognizable pile of glass and plastic and microchips so I would never have to make the hardest phone call of my life.

I knew that breaking my phone wouldn’t change the outcome, so I just sat there working up the courage to break the news to my mother that I had not been selected for editor in chief.

My parents were the only ones who really knew how much the paper meant to me. They were there when I made my college decision after walking out of the Daily Bruin office for the first time as a senior in high school.

They knew how much it killed me to do internships while I was the sports editor because it meant that I couldn’t spend every waking second I had inside that windowless cavern we call a newsroom.

They were the ones I argued with when I told them that I wanted to be editor in chief despite it being a poor career move for my aspirations in sports journalism.

So I sat in that waiting room, shaking uncontrollably, as I hit the mobile number for my mother. She answered immediately and before she could even say hello, I said, “I didn’t get it.”

There was a calm silence before she started consoling me and telling me how proud she was. All I could say back was, “I loved this paper so much.”

It was at that moment when a line from Adele’s “Someone Like You” popped into my head.

“Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.”

A smile came across my face; the irony was too perfect not to laugh.

Throughout my time as a sports editor, I incessantly listened to that song at such a rate that a collective groan from the office was inevitable whenever the initial piano solo started to play.

That song was my anthem for my entire year as an editor and it ended up personifying my relationship with the Bruin.

The love that I felt for the paper and the people in it warped into pain and dejection, but I grew and learned from those experiences more than anything else in my life. And as I sit here now writing this column, Adele’s words say it best: “Nothing compares, no worries or cares. Regrets and mistakes they’re memories made. Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?”

Ruffman was sports senior staff from 2012-2013, sports editor from 2011-2012, sports contributor from 2010-2011 and video contributor from 2009-2010.

Graduating class today, Bruins forever

Gene Block

As UCLA students, each of you arrived on campus with your own unique talents, background and ambitions. At the same time, you also shared some important qualities with your fellow students – a thirst to excel, a knack for leadership and a commitment to making the world around you a better place.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as chancellor is seeing all of those attributes meld together to form a community of scholars, friends and future leaders that is unlike any other. Now, as we prepare to celebrate commencement, I am delighted to be among the first to congratulate the Class of 2013.

To be sure, each of you is still uniquely “you.” But for the rest of your lives, you will share one important characteristic with your fellow graduates: You are Bruins.

During your time at UCLA, you have met – and often exceeded – lofty expectations, and not just through your outstanding academic work. Your growth as researchers, artists, athletes, volunteers, entrepreneurs, mentors and citizens has been truly impressive, and you have left an indelible mark on our campus.

You also have made lasting contributions to people’s lives throughout Los Angeles and the world. Serving others has long been a hallmark of UCLA students; it also is a defining attribute of our alumni. In whatever career you choose, and wherever life takes you, I encourage you to continue making a difference in your community.

In earning a UCLA degree, you have proven that you are capable of thriving in any competitive environment, even if it means juggling numerous responsibilities and overcoming serious obstacles. You have explored and, in many cases, created new areas of knowledge. You have learned from faculty who are the best in the world in their fields of study – experience that will prepare you well for the next chapter in your life. In collaborating with fellow students, you have learned from their insights and gained invaluable understanding from worldviews that are different from your own.

Your fellow graduates undoubtedly will join you in becoming leaders in your careers and communities. Just as importantly, many of them will remain close friends and trusted colleagues. Your shared experiences at UCLA have given you a special bond with one another, one that I hope will enrich your lives for many years.

I urge you not only to cultivate those connections with your classmates, but also to stay engaged with our campus and future Bruins who one day will benefit from your experience. Join us in ensuring that they enjoy the same opportunities that you have had as UCLA students. I also hope that you will look to UCLA as a resource. As a Bruin for life, you can take advantage of the many opportunities that our campus offers to build personal relationships, expand professional networks and further intellectual pursuits. You always have a home at UCLA.

Most of all, sincere congratulations on earning your UCLA degree and conquering each of the challenges along the way to this proud moment. Take time to celebrate your accomplishment with your fellow graduates, friends and family. May this be the beginning of so much more for you and the UCLA Class of 2013.

Block is the chancellor of UCLA.

Past successes serve as foundation for future endeavors

David Bocarsly

When looking at history, we can see the power of the student voice, and how it is harnessed in the Undergraduate Students Association Council.

We look to the Freedom Riders of the 1960s as an example of UCLA students being heard on a national level. Or the movement to divest from South African apartheid in the 1980s as an example of Bruins’ voices being heard on a global level. And then we look to the modern day and realize we need to continue to be activists for issues of our time, issues closer to home.

At the start of this year, we saw a lack of priority for higher education becoming a theme on a statewide level. We had recently instituted holistic admissions, Pauley Pavillion was reopening and the UC Board of Regents had just rejected a tuition increase for the first time ever.

I looked to what this council could do. At our installation, I challenged us to harness the political excitement around the presidential election to empower students to actively fight for affordability, to utilize Pauley’s reopening and other prideful accomplishments to increase alumni relations and to learn from the recent acts of intolerance to promote diversity on campus.

And now I get the privilege to reflect on this year and realize how incredibly successful we were.

We registered a record 6,234 students for the presidential election, brought Gov. Jerry Brown to campus and helped pass Proposition 30 in surprising fashion, giving $375 million back to the University of California and freezing tuition.

We channelled the increase in Bruin pride to increased alumni giving. Because of this, we were able to start the first fund for alumni to donate directly back to students – a student leadership fund and a textbook scholarship fund.

We took huge strides to proactively minimize acts of intolerance with our participation in the UC campus climate survey, the largest ever of its kind, which will greatly increase our ability to address campus issues. We addressed attacks on our holistic admissions head-on, protecting our diverse population. And we culminated this work with our first Diversity Symposium, where we featured more than 70 programs from more than 50 groups across campus.

But it didn’t stop there. We made huge strides with financial stability, creating a $100,000 endowment and passing the Bruin Bash referendum. We increased USAC efficiency by completely revamping our bylaws and fixing problems with election code. We put on relief programs like “Bruins for Boston” and our students ran a campaign that successfully repealed the use of a new UC logo.

When we gathered with more than 60 former student body presidents, we learned about how the student voice can always be stronger. And that’s where next year’s council comes in. I am very proud of all the work this year’s council has done. But clearly, none of this work isfinished.

Next year we will see the arrival of a new UC president who will have a lot to learn in this complicated system. We will be faced with the aftereffects of Proposition 30, and the financial struggles that come along with it. The results of the UC campus climate survey will be released and we must dictate how to respond to them. And, of course, so many new, unforeseen challenges will arise along the way. And as one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, UCLA will be looked at to guide this country through these challenges.

Bruins, you will have the opportunity to make positive changes for our generation. Be active on issues you care about, but never forget the successes your predecessors have made. Use those successes as stepping stones for the even greater change I know you are capable of.

Thank you for letting me serve you this year. I’m looking forward to seeing all you can do!

Bocarsly was USAC president from 2012-2013.

Crucial for students to think critically, independently

S. Scott Bartchy

I have regarded my time at UCLA a great privilege, both because of the high intellectual quality of the students who have chosen to take my courses and because of the stimulation from serving with such extraordinary scholars in the department of history and other departments on campus.

I have been honored by invitations to work with colleagues in seven different departments to mentor the research of their graduate students, as well as my own in the history department.

So I am retiring with strongly mixed feelings. I love teaching. If I were independently wealthy, no one would have needed to pay me to teach (grading is a different story!).

The vibrant cross-disciplinary intellectual life at UCLA has benefited me enormously during my 33 years of association with this great university, first as a guest professor in 1981, when I was still teaching at the University of Tuebingen in Germany, and then when I was invited to become a full-time faculty member at UCLA and began teaching a full course load in 1988.

I have happily done so every year since.

One change that I’ve noticed during the last 15 years in particular is that many students are coming to UCLA with less confidence in their ability to think critically than seemed to be the case earlier. Is this a consequence of the emphasis on “teaching to the test,” one of the unfortunate features of the No Child Left Behind Act? In any case, I’ve especially needed to challenge my students to think for themselves even when writing their exams, rather than seeking simply to echo what they’ve heard from me.

I’m grateful that UCLA allowed me to pioneer in the field of the study of religion in general and the beginnings of Christianity in particular. Along with colleagues in five other departments, I co-founded UCLA’s Center for the Study of Religion in 1995, and then served as the CSR’s director for 14 years. In that role I welcomed to our campus distinguished scholars from around the globe whose research focused on helping us understand why religions are powerful, pervasive and sometimes dangerous.

The cultural phenomena that we identify as religion have inspired many of the finest, most compassionate actions and high-level art and music that human beings have created. Likewise, some (but not all) of the most horrible things that human beings have done to each other have been committed in the name of religion.

What is clear is that, whatever one believes personally, not understanding both aspects of the effects of religion leaves anyone dangerously in the dark regarding what has happened and what is now happening in the world. My privilege and my mission at UCLA has been to seek to overcome this ignorance and to inspire my students to think critically about the strengths and weaknesses of any religious tradition in its history.

In my own research, I have been especially interested in the social, economic, political and psychological consequences of any belief system, whether religious or ideological. So at this point in my life, I am trying to finish a book about the challenge the early Christian movement brought to the dominant cultural values for gendering boys and girls into honorable men and women in the early Roman Empire. It turns out that an in-depth understanding of this history practically leaps off the page with its immediate relevance to issues about gendering that all cultures in the world face today.

Because of my intense involvement with students, it has been difficult for me to block out the time needed to finish this book. So, while I will profoundly miss my interactions with UCLA students, I do look forward to the quiet days in my home office when I can think and write for sustained periods. Then on to the next book.

Be well! Auf wiedersehen!

Bartchy is a professor of Christian origins and the history of religion, and a co-founder and former director of the Center for the Study of Religion at UCLA. He will be retiring in July.

Embracing the inevitable fear that comes with challenge

Jason Smith

I came to a roadblock after five great years here at UCLA.

I met many people – few of them were real and kept it real. I studied abroad thrice, produced tangible changes on this campus and developed in ways that were unbeknownst to any wayward kid from Richmond, Calif.

I did phenomenal work and even though people doubted me, I am not upset because I also psyched myself out when I should not have.

We truly are cruel to ourselves and we need more self-love, myself included.

In fact, I had to take a tai chi class to snap out of my self-destructive fears. Dance 10 with Jason Tsou and Arthur Schoenfeld was the bane of my existence, a thorn in my toe that was wedged deep and I could not get rid of. This was the last class required for me to graduate and I thought it would be easy but that changed after three weeks.

As much as I wanted to, I could not escape this class or my frustrations with not being able to memorize the tai chi movements and principles to perform efficiently, get an A grade in tai chi and graduate on time.

I tried to come up with excuses that held me back from truly understanding what this art/dance form was teaching me and, while I initially tried to run away from my fears, I realized that I had to tackle them directly.

Recently, I took my tai chi final and I was sweating raindrops trying to figure out which move came after the next. I had to take many deep breaths, focused and with the help of my instructors and peers cheering me on, I got through it. I cried afterward because I was frustrated with how I did not do my best this quarter – my last quarter. I was upset with not fully engaging with one of my last classes in my department – World Arts and Cultures/Dance – and an important one at that because it is the only class I need to graduate.

And when I thought a “simple” two-unit, dance requirement was in my way of graduating, I had an epiphany. I snapped into another realm of consciousness.

This whole time I was driving myself insane because I did not want to work through repressed pains associated with being a vilified Black/Afrikan gay male, in America, and I got to the end of my journey, and realized I was no longer strong enough to harbor these emotions of fear and needed to make a change for the better. Life is going to be hard for me and I needed this class to reassure this idea; not to scare me but to toughen my spirits and give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

The answer was right in my face this whole time.

Tai chi taught me how to circulate air through my body, find my center, and divert and direct energy. I had learned these practices through other outlets, but was astounded to find that this class enlightened me in nuanced ways.

I imagine this feeling being similar to untying a bow on a beautifully wrapped present to get to the wonders inside. This time, instead of ripping through the gift-wrapping, I want to take my time and bask.

We have to step out of our comfort zone in order to recognize and embrace a new perspective – I am acknowledging this now.

Fear is an incredible energy supply, especially when you are overwhelmed with life’s obstacles. When applied correctly, the energy from your fear can be utilized to produce meaningful changes for you. Ultimately, we need to aspire to reach a place of paradise where we can confront our fears, acknowledge its existence and find a time to move on from them or make them work to our benefit.

Fear drove me to apply to graduate school and fear is getting me out of this university. I am entering the world afraid and I am not ashamed of it either.

Smith is a graduating fifth-year world arts and cultures student.

The Bruin fosters support, traditions worth mirroring

Sonali Kohli

UCLA is a really big school.

But being a part of the Daily Bruin staff made it smaller. UCLA became as small as the stories I taped to my closet door as a freshman news contributor, as compact as the Crimewatch maps I compiled, as friendly as the 40-person senior staff I edited with my second year.

In the past four years, I’ve probably spent more cumulative hours in this small, dirty, windowless, wonderful Kerckhoff furnace than I have anywhere else on campus (including where I live, by the way).

The Bruin gave me some of my most triumphant college moments, crafting my best stories. On multiple occasions, it was also the place where I dealt with my most serious failures.

Either way, this office is where muscle memory assumes I want to go after class – or before it, or during. It provides all the sustenance I need – water, printing paper (shh, that one’s a secret), Band-Aids and a filthy couch to rest on. Even free food once in a while.

The paper is where I found many of my closest friends in college, the ones who listen to me rant about crime for hours, who wander campus with me at 2 a.m. to find ghosts, who debate politics on the way to a tailgate, who sing with me at Brew Co. and understand that you don’t really know a person until you’ve Googled them.

The deadlines – with the help of some amazing English professors – are the reason I can write an A-worthy literary argument about Las Vegas in a few hours.

The first -30- column I read, three years ago, was written by my news editor at the time. It was about Stripes Tuesday, a tradition she created with a friend – every Tuesday she wore stripes, and she had convinced much of the office, including me, to do the same.

If you’re a graduating senior, I hope you found something that made UCLA special for you, too. I hope you found a few families here, and that these have been the four most difficult, stressful and memorable years of your life so far.

And if you’re not graduating, and you don’t relate to this yet, then good luck, and I hope you find and create traditions on this campus that continue for a very long time.

I, for one, will always wear stripes on Tuesday.

Kohli was news senior staff from 2011-2013, assistant news editor from 2010-2011 and a news reporter from 2009-2010.

A surprising duo: sports reporting, statistics studies

Ryan Menezes

There isn’t an algorithm in this world that will piece together a proper work of journalism.

It took me some time to understand that when my career as an amateur reporter began. And when I did, I thought my interests sat on different ends of a spectrum, or at least on different halves of the UCLA campus.

The Daily Bruin helped me rethink my views. Soon enough, I was using the different lenses I had been viewing the world through in tandem rather than separately.

Four years later, I’m grateful I felt that initial moment of panic, when I realized my notes and quotes couldn’t be plugged into a formula that would spit out a concise summary of the swim meet I had to cover. That would have been too much like an exercise out of a weekly problem set, and who learns from those anyway?

My time here at UCLA consisted primarily of studying statistics in the classroom and penning dispatches about the Bruins’ athletic endeavors. Math was always a passion, writing barely a hobby, but there was more in common between the two duties than I first imagined.

After I tapped into my creativity – however limited the supply – to tell stories, I took that same mentality to tackling questions posed by professors on the chalkboard and explored outside the bounds of my classes.

The ideals of the scientific method written in textbooks soon became the crux of my identity as a reporter. Games were a forum where hypotheses could be tested and revised over the course of a season, stories and columns were the reports of the findings.

For all of my fascination with metrics, the immeasurable was equally interesting. Emotions are a vital element of any story, as hard as they might be to gauge.Standing in a locker room one night, I was talking to someone whose season was cut short after a painful injury, expecting him to be a little somber. Instead, he was smiling and optimistic while his teammate cried in the background.

My prediction was off – plenty of them were – and I suppose that’s why you need to leave some room for error.

The one figure I lost track of was the distance I traveled.

One week it was a cross-country pilgrimage to Madison Square Garden; the next it was a more taxing journey to a treacherous location: the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

That healthy travel budget is one of the many things I’m grateful the Daily Bruin afforded me. Having a product where I could express my thoughts was a great outlet. Most importantly, the office in Kerckhoff Hall is home to a diverse collection of personalities that challenge one another to better themselves.

An interest in sports is what got me to join this newspaper but I leave more curious about the world at large. Watching sporting events is a great release from society, but few people have duties inside the arena after the buzzer sounds.

Being more than just a spectator is fulfilling, especially in a field where the numerically inclined are leading a revolution.

Sports statistics are comprehensively tracked and publicly available for all to analyze, often hand-delivered to your cushy press box seat in a cleanly formatted box score.

Instead of letting it come to me, I’ll be looking for data and using everything I’ve learned here to unearth the insights.

Menezes was sports senior staff from 2011-2013, assistant sports editor from 2010-2011 and a sports reporter from 2009-2010.

Journalism is full of friendly people, fond experiences

Alexia Boyarsky

Sometimes, I wish I was a cat.

Not only so I could sleep all day and shamelessly ignore people I don’t like, but also to have nine lives.

In one of my lifetimes, I’d follow my current path of selling my soul to law school debt. In another, I’d be a professional chef. But one, or even two lifetimes, would be reserved for journalism.

At the end of the day, I don’t think anything else compares to the thrill of having an investigation to work on. The unexpected breakthroughs and the epiphanies you have while trying to fall asleep at night have made up some of my favorite moments at UCLA.

But what I’ve come to realize is that journalism doesn’t have to be my profession to continue to be important in my life – and no, I am not advocating for overzealous blogging as an alternative, so you can safely keep reading.

The same lessons that I’ve learned working for the paper I’ll use for the rest of my life.

I’ve mastered the art of convincing sources that it’s in their best interest to talk to me, even if it appears otherwise. I’ve learned how to step back and try to find the big picture, even when I may not have all of the facts yet.

And mostly I’ve learned that journalists are the greatest people you’ll ever meet, and you should probably eat lunch at their tables if only for the great conversations.

I’ll forever be grateful to these friends for tackling my preconceptions, for dealing with my stories that regularly come in without a lede or an ending and for taking on the world’s problems with me from the comfort of our couches.

It was these conversations that really solidified my resolve to be a lawyer – notwithstanding the frequent life crises that caused me to doubt it.

Both professions, when done well, aim for the same goals – to use a public forum to solve problems – and the world we’re entering has problems aplenty.

It so happens that I enjoy a good argument more than the next person, and this way I get to continue college for three more years.

A part of me will always miss the deadlines and receiving crazy calls at 8 in the morning when another parking lot is evacuated because of a strange object – it’s always a lost backpack, guys – but you can’t have everything in life.

In the future, maybe I’ll come back to journalism, but in the meantime I’ll eagerly look out for some friendly bylines.

Boyarsky was a news reporter from 2010-2013.

Sports writing turns page to new, different opportunities

Mansi Sheth

I think that at some point, every senior has an end-of-college crisis.

Mine came while I was filling out the activities section of my medical school application. Daily Bruin Sports: assistant editor and senior staffer. That’s it? Four years of writing wraps on wraps on previews on wraps while spending countless hours in the windowless time-warp of Kerckhoff 118 crammed onto one measly line?

Was it really worth it? It’s a question every burned-out Daily Bruin senior must have asked themselves at some point. While leaving the office at 3 a.m. last year, I may have angrily answered no. But I still came back to Kerckhoff the next day for production. And the next and the next.

An infinite character limit on the application would not have been enough to explain how much the Daily Bruin has shaped me. Of course, it all starts with the inspiring journalists I have been able to work with.

So many brilliant writers have rolled through the sports corner of the office in my four years here. I’m just honored one of my stories made it onto The Ceiling: that clutter of articles taped above the sports section in Kerckhoff 118.

It’s going to be hard to let it all go.

Although I harbor lofty (and need I say, improbable) hopes of becoming the next Sanjay Gupta, the reality is that I may never see my name in a byline again.

For four years, the Daily Bruin allowed me to call myself a writer. A sports writer. Scribbling ledes on the back of homework, dropping literally everything to take that coach’s call, knowing an unhealthy amount about UCLA gymnastics. Yeah, that’s me.

I was so excited when my first article was published in the paper. I went straight to the page and cut out the story to save it. I even Googled it and clicked on the link (I know, egotistical me). My name was written, “Bansari Sheth.” Not the most auspicious beginning, but it was a start either way.

And now, I’m at the back page of the metaphorical newspaper that is my college career. But that’s a fitting place to be because it’s really a beginning. I always read the Daily Bruin starting with the sports page anyway.

Sheth was sports senior staff from 2012-2013, assistant sports editor from 2011-2012, a sports reporter from 2010-2011 and a sports contributor from 2009-2010.

Overcome hurdles to fulfill passions

Maria Simpson

Before I was a member of the Daily Bruin staff, I was the subject of an article in the paper.

It was my first quarter at UCLA and I had just transferred from my community college in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. I got the crazy idea to participate in a statewide pageant to further my dream of becoming a television host.

I competed in the Miss California pageant with UCLA displayed proudly across my sash. I spent all of fall quarter training in Drake Stadium and avoiding the dining halls. Despite my efforts, I didn’t even make it close to the top 20. But when I returned to school that Monday, I saw my photo on the front page of the Daily Bruin.

Not all had been lost.

I later had the privilege of joining the Daily Bruin as a contributor for the Arts and Entertainment section. Within my section I was given the opportunity to attend press junkets, movie screenings and music festivals where I wrote reviews and sometimes interviewed famous actors and directors.

At one point I found myself in a suite at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. eating hors d’oeuvre as I waited to interview action film star Jason Statham. Simply put, I don’t know any other profession that offers greater perks.

But not everything I wrote about involved the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Some of my favorite stories were of students at UCLA and the amazing feats they’ve accomplished.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I’ve sort of always known that I wanted to be an entertainment reporter. Through my various internships in the entertainment industry, I have come to discover that people who work in entertainment are some of the most driven individuals. The passion that they have for their craft is unparalleled.

Also, truth be told, celebrity gossip has always been somewhat of a guilty pleasure.

My experiences interning for Gotham Casting, ICM Partners, IMG World and MTV taught me that it is possible to do what you love and get paid for it. While I don’t anticipate ever being a millionaire as a journalist, I know that I will make ends meet and I will find fulfillment in what I do.

This fall I will be furthering my passion and my skills at either New York University or City University of New York, studying broadcast journalism.

I’m a California girl, born and raised. Buying a one-way ticket to a place I’ve never even visited before is a scary thought, but I’m not worried. Rather, I am excited for this new beginning. After all, graduation is a time to close the door on one chapter of your life and open the door to a new one. Mine just happens to be in the Big Apple.

Simpson was an A&E contributor from 2012-2013.

Journey really is the best part

Alexandre Johnson

Graduation is around the corner, and while it is a grand event full of accolades, it is also an ending. Endings, without fail, show us how successful we were in meeting our objectives and if we stayed on course.

Most students shoot for the finish, focused on a distant goal, without truly looking at the world around them. I often see my fellow students stress themselves out to achieve the perfect grade, participate in groups in order to build resumes and wear themselves out looking for the perfect internship in order to get their foot in the door for their future career.

I’ve done many of these things too, but looking back I see how fruitless this effort can be. What really matters at the end of any journey is how you affected the world and the character that you built during it.

As a Daily Bruin video reporter, I learned the importance of developing a complete story. In video storytelling, having a shot that establishes the setting is more important than the great or interesting shot that pours an emotional moment out onto the screen. It is these establishing shots, this base, that give the emotion meaning and purpose.

Before we all get our close-ups and moments to shine, we must establish ourselves. With our future full of uncertainties, odds are that most of us will not end up with our plan B, much less our plan A. This does not mean we will end up in a bad place, just not the place we were aiming for.

Our goals will shift with time and I want to reassure everyone that is totally OK. This in fact reminds me of advice I received years ago.

Before I entered UCLA, a friend, borrowing from the long-established phrase, told me to focus on the journey, not the destination. I took note of this advice, but didn’t pay much attention to it as like most students I was focused on reaching my goals.

My experiences in Westwood have shown me that those words are a greater guide than I could have imagined. During these college years I’ve joined many groups, met friends and gained knowledge from the most unexpected situations. The instances when I have volunteered my time or had random conversations with people have come to shape who I am more than the ownership of a degree could have.

My advice for underclassmen remaining at UCLA is to remember that attending college is about the journey, not the degree. Take the age-old counsel to heart. Before you end your undergrad career, you need a strong establishing shot.

Johnson was a video reporter from 2012-2013.