Outstanding Graduates Prepare for New Challenges
June 6, 2011
UC San Diego's 50th Anniversary celebration comes to a close with the 2011 commencement series. The class of 2011 carries the university's legacy of
achieving the extraordinary as they gear up for the next exciting phase in their lives. Some will go on to graduate school, others will
start their careers or serve their communities. Here are a few of their stories:
- Aseil Mohmoud is a political science major who will pursue law school after graduation. She worked hard to graduate from college in three years, so that her parents could save money to send Mohmoud’s four younger brothers to college. Mohmoud is extremely close to her family, who are originally from the West Bank of Palestine. She has worked as a tour guide at UC San Diego since her freshmen year and has been a resident advisor at Thurgood Marshal College. In addition to being active in student organizations, such as the Student Committee on Residential Enhancement and Students for Justice in Palestine, Mohmoud works as the high school basketball coach at the Preuss School UCSD. She also managed to find time to play on UC San Diego’s intramural basketball and volleyball teams. She said her involvement at UC San Diego helped her find a home away from home and second family. “At first, it was a challenge to learn to be self-sufficient and support myself both financially and emotionally while away from home,” she said. “But I found a way to jump over those hurdles and enjoy the journey
through college...and I loved it.”
- Michele Gomez of South Los Angeles is the first in her family to graduate from college. She has been at the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) for three years where she has been working as a tutor to underserved youth. Unfortunately, her parents lost their home during Michele’s freshmen year and she had to begin working at a school cafeteria to help her family with expenses. She’s had a job since the age of 16, but didn’t get the opportunity to pursue her passion, working with youth, until she became a tutor for EAOP during her second year. After graduation, she plans to attend Cal State Long Beach’s Masters of Education Program. She is an active member of the Phi Lambda Rho Sorority which is a Chicana/Latina organization focused on community service, sisterhood and promotion of the Chicana/Latina culture and academics.
- Kevin Staight graduated from high school in the bottom half of his class with a 2.90 GPA. He applied to several colleges, but was not accepted. Not sure what to do, Straight worked a few odd jobs before deciding to enlist in the military. He served four years with the Marine Corps and was deployed to Iraq twice. He left the military with one goal: to learn Arabic and make a difference in the Middle East. Straight took his second round of college applications much more seriously and fortunately was admitted to UC San Diego’s Eleanor Roosevelt College as a freshman for Fall 2006. He took on a double major in Linguistics and Management Science, studied abroad twice in the Middle East, got involved with campus student organizations and served as a resident advisor. Now, Straight is nearly fluent in Arabic and will be graduating this June with honors in both Linguistics and Management Science.
- Aimee Harlib, a Sixth College graduating senior, first felt out of place when she came to UC San Diego. “I’m ten years older than most of my peers and I am the mother of a small child.” Harlib is from New York and is the first person in her family to attend college. “It was difficult at first,” she said. “But I found refuge in the Women’s Center and founded the Undergraduate Student Parent Organization. I made connections and I encourage all of you to make connections here too.” She added, “When I found out my son was diagnosed with autism, the Women’s Center provided resources to help meet my needs. There, I found shoulders to cry on.”
Alexander A. Schafgans
- Alexander A. Schafgans will be receiving a Ph. D. in physics––his third degree from UC San Diego, following both bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in physics. Schafgans’ impressive academic accomplishments and dedication to student support have earned him the Outstanding Graduate Student Award. In addition to co-authoring 15 published and forthcoming peer-reviewed articles, Schafgans has been an advocate for student scholarship. “Two of my best friends relied on financial aid for most of their undergraduate careers, and I saw how positively scholarships can impact lives,” Schafgans said. He served as a council member on the UC San Diego Undergraduate Scholarship Council and in his role as a Chancellor’s Associates Young Alumni, he founded the Chancellor’s Challenge 5K Run/Walk for Scholars Young Alumni team. This team raised more than $7,500 for student scholarships in the past two years. Schafgans is also a council member on the San Diego Foundation’s Regional Vision Council, tasked with envisioning a 50-100 year comprehensive action plan for the region. His Ph.D. thesis focuses on the infrared magneto-optical properties of exotic phases of matter, including high temperature superconductivity and topological surface states. He is excited for challenging new opportunities that lie ahead.
- Kimberly Ang has tried to do a little bit of everything while a student at UC San Diego, from completing an award-winning honors thesis to studying abroad in Turkey, volunteering at The Preuss School UCSD and playing intramural sports. Now, Ang is graduating magna cum laude from Eleanor Roosevelt College as a history major, with a focus on the Near East. Her academic accomplishments, leadership, community service and contributions to student life have also earned her the 2011 Outstanding Senior Award, presented by the All Campus Graduation Celebration Committee. At UC San Diego, Ang has been dedicated to student life and community service as to her research. She was a fellow of the International Affairs Group and a member of the fraternity and sorority community, as well as president of PROSPECT, the UCSD Journal of International Affairs. Ang feels that in giving back to the campus and community, she has also enriched her own college experience.“By far the best part of getting involved has been working with dedicated, inspiring peers and making friends in all areas of UC San Diego life,” she said. After graduation, Ang will be applying to graduate programs in history and international affairs. In January, she will begin a one year journey traveling around the world, with the goal of visiting six of the seven continents. She hopes to use her degrees to impact and inspire future generations of students, just as she has been inspired at UC San Diego.
“I’ve had a lot of amazing role models in university faculty like Professor Kayali and Provost Craig, and if I can make any kind of an impact on my students the way they have on me, I'll be happy.”
- Heather Ruderian, a graduating transfer student from a Santa Monica community college, overcame obstacles to excel both academically and socially at UC San Diego. “I was worried about making friends at first, but I found that getting involved quickly (in my case through tutoring) makes a huge difference,” Ruderian said. “Also a circumstance I had to face is that I am hard of hearing in both ears, which has required me to work closely with the Office for Students with Disabilities. The staff, professors, and students at UC San Diego are all very accepting and welcoming to any student with special needs, regardless of what they may be.” The Sixth College student not only found a community at UC San Diego, but explored her passion for computer engineering through tutoring and interning at local companies, such as ViaSat and Intuit. Upon graduation, Ruderian has already accepted a job at Microsoft as a software development engineer.