The four years most students spend at college can offer a lot more than academic knowledge. They're a time to start becoming the person you want to be for the rest of your life. Jill Tsai, a senior
biology major from Diamond Bar, decided as a new UC Merced
freshman she would do exactly that.
"In high school, I was very shy and a real wallflower," she said. "I was determined to change that. The first couple of weeks on campus, I would shake anybody's hand, get people's names, join organizations. I forced myself to network and become a real social butterfly. It was a period of finding myself."
Tsai got involved in so many activities, she had to learn to prioritize. But with support from parents at home and friends, advisors and professors on campus, she did it well.
"I always made school my first priority," Tsai said. "It always seemed more important to spend time towards a future career than being involved in more than two clubs. I've found that I can handle the stress of college as long as I don't undertake more than three serious commitments at a time."
With academic work taking first place in her schedule, she found great experiences both inside and outside the classroom.
"Professors like Kathleen Hull , Benoit Dayrat and Maria Pallavicini aren't afraid to push their students to higher potentials," Tsai said. "I've really become a better learner after participating in their classes."
Later she became a resident assistant in on-campus housing. She met that responsibility while participating in groups like Job's Daughters, an international Masonic youth organization, and Magnum Opus , UC Merced's campus comedy improv club. Tsai said those two groups especially prepared her for what she's doing now: preparing to speak on behalf of the Class of 2010 at Commencement on May 15.
"Writing the speech was a big hurdle," she said. "But it's ready, just undergoing minor edits, and I'm happy with how it's turned out.
"I have had the best four years of my life at this university, and I really felt I had the enthusiasm to write a speech to commemorate that. I knew the speech had to emphasize the strength of our class, and I wanted to get across the enthusiasm that we all shared for UC Merced. I wrote the speech trying to be applicable to all members of our class, and I only hope that I succeeded," Tsai said.
Tsai will go on to a master's degree program at either San Diego State or Cal Poly Pomona - she's still deciding. In the long term, she plans to earn a Ph.D. and become a cancer researcher.
The new Jill - the UC Merced Jill - is well equipped to succeed on stage at commencement and in her future plans.
"I found my niche. I understand who I am, " she said. "I have a good core of friends. I feel confident in my academics, in my job, in leadership. I understand my role."