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June 23, 2003

Jenny Jiang's commencement speech

Jenny Jiang spoke recently at the Cowell College commencement. This is the text of her address:

"I was encouraged, even compelled, by faculty members to take all that I've learned into the outside world."

Family, friends, members of the faculty and staff, fellow graduates:

Today, for the last time, we meet as the class of 2003. This day, I am sure, has a special meaning for every one of us. For some, it
represents the continuation of the road to higher education. For others, it marks the entry into a dynamic work force. And still for others, it represents a leap of faith into the unknown.

But regardless of what today means for each of us as individuals--collectively--when we walk away from UCSC today, we will all become representatives of this campus. Future decisions of others pondering whether to attend this school may hinge upon our words, our thoughts, and our representation of this campus and its
values. Because of this responsibility, I would ask all of you to ponder with me this question: if asked, how would you represent your experiences here at UCSC?

I believe that this is a key question that all of us must try to answer--because the way we choose to represent UCSC today will help shape the university tomorrow,
and for years to come.

For me, UCSC has come to represent--first and foremost--an environment conducive to the acquisition of broad-based knowledge.

Here, I was never forced to bury my nose in my textbooks 24/7. To the contrary, I was encouraged, even compelled, by faculty members to take all that I've learned into the outside world, and to really become an active member of this community.

The process of being able to apply my knowledge in a practical setting not only served to deepen that knowledge, but also helped me to shape my passion. I came to UCSC determined to study law because I wanted to be an attorney with a briefcase brimming with money on my side. I am walking away four years later just as determined to devote my life to public service. And as people already in public service would tell you, being a good public servant means never having a briefcase of money. And that too is perfectly okay.

UCSC also represents for me the most solid support base that I have ever known. The professors that I've worked with here are the finest in the nation. And they are great not only because they have amazing credentials to their names. They are great because they are teachers in the most fundamental sense of the word. Many have mentored me through difficult and often time-consuming projects; some have even opened their homes to me for this purpose. And one has guided me through an advocacy project that became a vehicle for social change within this community, this state, and this nation.

Finally, this campus represents for me a set of intrinsic values. Here, I've found an educational structure dedicated to the well-being of its students, and not simply to producing bodies to fulfill the demands of a market economy. Unlike many institutions, UCSC does not require students to lock themselves into majors before they are ready to do so. Rather, it gives students the full opportunity to shape their curriculum; and full freedom to find their inspiration. In this era, where there are too many people who work with their hands but not with their hearts, and people who work for money but rarely for honor or for self-fulfillment, I am grateful beyond words that this campus has given me the freedom to explore my passion.

These are the values that UCSC represents for me, and these values have helped to make my experience here special. I know that for many of you, UCSC represents something very different.

But I hope that for every one of you, these four years--give or take a little--have been years that you can reflect upon thoughtfully, affectionately, even longingly for many years to come. And when that future UCSC student comes to you, eager to hear your representation of our campus, I hope that every one of you will be able to say proudly and with all sincerity:

"It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right. I hope you have the time of your life." I did.

Thank you.


Return to profile of Jennie Jiang.

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