CHASS Student Commencement Speakers 2017

Chloe Rodriguez, CHASS Student Intern
June 9, 2017

It’s that time of year again, everybody is finishing up assignments and preparing for a week of finals. For most, this is it. These next few weeks are their last weeks as UCR undergraduates before they head out to the real world. Commencement is quickly approaching, and with that three young women will be speaking to and for their peers.

Ivy Kim is a first-generation low-income college student and a Senior Political Science International Relations Major who arrived to UCR from Irvine Valley College two years ago. Upon entering UCR she became very engaged in the community. The first thing she was involved with was the Chancellor’s Committee on Sexual Violence and Prevention, eventually becoming the Vice Chair. She also worked as a paid research assistant and joined the elections committee. She was more involved outside of campus though, taking the role as Chapter Lead and Regional Lead for American Red Cross that covered San Bernardino, Orange County, and Riverside counties. In this role, she led community volunteers (students, retirees, service members). While attending UCR she won three different scholarships which was something she was not used to since she had never received awards or scholarships before. She recently received the Deans Distinguished Award “I didn’t know I was going to exceed this well, I feel like UCR changed so much of my life.”

During the process of becoming a speaker, she received an email of a deadline to apply and wrote a Personal Statement about the community service she was involved in, how she was engaged on campus, GPA, and why she wanted to become a speaker. She then created an outline on what her speech would be and then submitted it into hardcopy to the Dean’s office. She was then interviewed by the associate deans and spoke of what the speech was going to entail. She was automatically chosen. “The whole process was very quick.”

She was chosen to speak for CHASS on June 1st at 8am.

“I’m very proud of myself for once…I’m happy and I’m excited to give my speech to my graduating class. It’s not so much about me, it’s more about what we (peers) can do for others.”

Marcy Kuo is a Media and Cultural Studies major, graduating from UCR in three years. Her engagement on campus includes being a senate secretary for the Associated Students of UCR (ASUCR). There, she oversees every senate meeting, making sure every minute of the meetings are accurate and holding every senator and cabinet member accountable for their projects monthly. She was involved with the Highlander Newspaper her freshman year, and wrote for the Feature Section and under the Kilt, covering big events happening on campus. The bulk of her accomplishments happened her junior year where she took on the role as Elections Director. “I’m very honored to serve this position for the student body. I learned a lot.” She has also done volunteer work outside of campus. She volunteered in her hometown (Monterey Park) for the city food drive where every Saturday she packaged food for those who were in low income households or homeless. She was also an interpreter for the Garfield Medical Center for a year.

“It has always been a dream of mine to be a commencement speaker.” Ever since high school, she always wanted that opportunity to share her story. “I hope my story of gratitude touches people in a way that is relatable to any student…something people know already.” The process of being chosen as speaker was first submitting a resume and answering a couple of questions, then she was interviewed. “It’s an honest reflection of how far I’ve grown over the last three years and how much I would like to continue to grow.”

“Riverside has given me such a positive learning experience”, she says as she believes she’s grown much more mentally, intellectually, and socially now more than any other time in her life.

Sierra LaPoint transferred to UCR in the Fall of 2014. A non-traditional student, she spent 6 years in community college (RCC) before deciding to go to a four year “I let my ideas on what I wanted to study develop organically.” After a year of traveling (India, Thailand, Cambodia, Spain, England), she enrolled first at UC Berkeley, and then at UC Santa Cruz, before ultimately, choosing UCR. “I’m so glad I did, UCR has been so pleasantly surprising at every turn, it’s been amazing…It has been a very nurturing place. It’s a pond that’s just big enough that every fish can grow, and standout. There are so many opportunities here that will help you become bigger than this place. It’s so inspiring.” She started off as a math major interested in the metaphysics of math, but also wanted to study culture. Thus, she double majored at UCR in a combination art history religious studies and philosophy. She has had several mentors who helped her along the way and encouraged her to continue studying what she loves. Her primary mentor is Dr. Matthew King, professor of Transnational Buddhism. “He’s totally changed my life. He’s awesome.” Other mentors of hers are Dr. JP Park in the Art History department and Dr. Adam Harmer in the Philosophy department.

“Since I’ve been here I have been really lucky. I have won all kinds of grants and awards.” She was a Chancellor’s Research Fellow 20’15-’16 and won. The Cordell Kress Undergraduate Scholarship for Religious Studies, allowing her to spend her summer at the Dalai Lama’s North American Monastery in Upstate New York. She has presented her research at many conferences, including the American Academy of Religions Western Regional Conference, to which she received a special invitation. In her three years here, she has won awards in every department, including the Academic Excellence Award (awarded to one student per major) for Philosophy this year, and for Art History/Religious Studies all three years. She was also part of the honors program, and this year was selected as the recipient of the CHASS Outstanding Achievement Award.

Sierra currently works as the Student Success Coordinator for Student Success Programs in the Undergraduate Education Office. She helps orchestrate many affairs, such as the undergraduate research symposium, honors convocation, the chancellor’s research fellowship, the quarterly mini-grants, the Undergraduate Research Journal, etc. Last year she published in the journal and was on the Student Editorial Board. This year, she is the Editor-in-Chief, which, she says, is “probably the hardest thing I have ever done.” She is also a research assistant and project manager for Dr. King’s newest book project; together they are working to establish a monthly interdisciplinary workshop for undergrads and junior faculty at the Center for Ideas and Society. In addition to all this, she also helps contribute to the campus community by mentoring students, serving as an Undergraduate Education Ambassador, voluntarily becoming caretaker of Rivera Library’s Zen Garden, and so much more. “I’ve found my tribe here, and I have friends that will always be my family now because of Riverside.”

What originally brought her here was spoken word. She was a professional spoken word poet for many years. She has also participated in Saturation Fest, downtown Riverside’s annual DIY and music Festival, for ten years, hosting events, promoting, and performing in numerous ways. “There’s a community of artists, poets, and musicians downtown that are separated from UCR’s community, and it’s been a big part of my personal mission to bridge that gap somehow.”

As for the process Sierra underwent to be selected as Commencement Speaker, an email went out asking for applications. It asked four things: volunteer experience, public speaking experience, why she wanted to speak at graduation, and a draft or synopsis of what she might say. After being selected as a finalist, she auditioned for the CHASS Associate Deans, who encouraged her to make her speech about where she came from, what UCR did for her, and how her story will end up being everyone’s story in some ways. “Part of this process of wrapping up my time in Riverside has been reflecting on the ways it’s changed me.”

Sierra LaPoint will be speaking on the morning of the 19th at CHASS Ceremony #3. 

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