UC Riverside’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Group 3, held its commencement on June 16. The student speaker was Taylor Kikuchi, who received her bachelor’s degree in political science.
As an undergraduate student of political science/law and society, Kikuchi was an avid member of the UCR and Riverside communities. She interned in a number of public policy offices, primarily the office of Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, as well as the office of Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino).
On campus, Kikuchi worked as an early assist peer educator at the Academic Resource Center and was an undergraduate reader/grader for the Political Science Department. She was a founding member of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity, president of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and an honors student with the UCR Honors Program.
She plans on pursuing a career in law or public policy that will allow her to continue to improve and make a meaningful difference in her community.
Her speech follows.
In recent years, the University of California-Riverside has been distinguished as the number one community service university in the nation. This is a crowning achievement for our campus, but more importantly for our student body. We as students have worked hard in our commitment to improving the Riverside community and beyond, and to have such an achievement bestowed upon us is both an honor and a privilege that we have been proud to maintain.
Our national distinction as a service-oriented university is a true testament to the power that diversity has on a college education. The engaging multiculturalism of our campus and the melding of different ideas have created an environment conducive to the development of students who are committed to service and the betterment of mankind.
UCR prides itself on its diversity, and I truly believe that this is the key to our university’s success and academic excellence. From the moment you step foot on campus, the word “diversity” is imprinted upon your brain, but it’s not until you actually become a student here, a true Highlander, that you understand how important diversity is to one’s education both in and out of the classroom.
UCR is a place where differences are embraced and encouraged. I have always felt so included in this place that is home to so many distinct and different individuals, yet these differences are what make this university stand out above the rest.
I once took a course on “The Politics of the Middle East,” where I found myself one of only two Asian students in the class. The rest of the class was composed of students who were from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, or Armenia.
At the start of the course I knew nothing about the history of the countries in that region or the struggles that people, including my classmates, had to endure. The history and politics of the Middle East are not generally topics one is taught, or even exposed to, growing up. I can honestly tell you that I learned more about the Middle East from hearing my fellow peers’ stories than I ever could have in a textbook, and I know that I would not have had this experience at another university.
For that I am thankful. I am thankful for the fact that UCR’s diversity has positively affected my education, my perception of the world I live in, but more importantly, who I am as an individual.
The microcosm of diversity found here on our campus mirrors the diverse nature of the world we live in. UCR’s diversity fosters unity, cooperation, and equality. Diversity, in turn, has prepared us for the challenges of understanding, tolerance, and acceptance, which I firmly believe have nurtured and allowed us to become more civic-minded, caring, and compassionate individuals.
Our varied personal histories lead us to remain humble, and genuinely thankful for the opportunities that we have been afforded in life. With that said, the students of UCR truly understand the importance of giving back to one’s community on a regular basis. We take pride in service, and understand that giving back is our way of remembering where we came from. Our hope for a better tomorrow fuels our desire to volunteer our time and make our community a better place.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see the world.” As students of the University of California-Riverside, we understand the truth within this statement. We live it, breathe it, on daily basis.
Class of 2013, the reality of the situation is that we are the future of our nation. We can, and will, make a lasting impact on the world around us, and it starts today. As you all walk across this stage, newly minted alumni of the University of California-Riverside, remember what you have learned these past four years and continue to keep the legacy of UCR alive. This is “R Education, R Life, R Future, R Side.”
Your graduation from the University of California-Riverside is only the beginning; now the rest is up to you. Stay humble. Remember where you came from. Be the change.
I am proud to stand before you and say that I graduated as a Highlander, and that I am a better person because of it, and you should feel the same. Be proud of your accomplishments. You have inspired me; continue to inspire the rest of the world.
Congratulations, Class of 2013.