The below article was featured on the front page of the June 12, 2017 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Original Article URL: http://www.newspress.com/Top/Article/article.jsp?Section=LOCAL&ID=567847483959541784
UCSB's brightest shine at graduation
UCSB's brightest students were honored Sunday at an exclusive graduation ceremony for the College of Creative Studies (CCS).
While the 92-student class of 2017 will receive a bachelor of science or arts, CCS is considered a graduate program and many graduates have already been accepted to some of the world's top doctoral programs.
"Today our focus is on 92 very special graduates. This college was created for especially gifted students, full of intellectual curiosity and independent-minded individuals," said UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang during his opening remarks.
"With less than 2 percent of our campus population, CCS has over 20 percent of our Regents Scholars."
Caltech-bound physics major Qicheng Zhang challenged his classmates and the audience to determine why the graduation ceremony was important to them.
To illustrate the point, he shared a story about applying for a travel grant to present a research project at a prestigious conference. Mr. Zhang said he didn't think he would get the grant, but applied at the prodding of an academic adviser.
"The application explicitly stated that it was intended for a graduate student actively contributing to a field that I had never even heard of.
"I figured that nothing would happen and I could feel satisfied knowing this opportunity never existed. Except I forgot about the part where CCS is a graduate school for undergrads and that was enough for them to award me the grant anyways."
Mr. Zhang concluded that the experience taught him that each day is a new opportunity to learn and grow outside his comfort zone.
"We're an adventurous group. I think we're ready to take our next step to the goals that we set out to accomplish — whatever that may be."
Graduate Kristen Tsia of San Mateo gets a last minute hug on stage before the start of UCSB's College of Creative Studies graduation ceremony in Campbell Hall on Sunday.
Mathematics graduate Jerry Luo urged his classmates to maintain their passion for learning after graduation
"I remember coming to CCS with my cohorts — never before had I seen such passion to learn and explore in a group of students. We were young and we were passionate and had some of the craziest dreams."
Mr. Luo said that as a freshman he didn't understand why some upperclassman didn't have that same enthusiasm for their classes.
"I wondered why is this? Did they just let their dreams die? How could someone with so much passion settle for so much less?"
After countless hours of studying for exams and projects, Mr. Luo said he not only understood how burnout could temper a student's enthusiasm for learning, he experienced it himself.
"The very concepts and subjects I was once so excited by felt like a neverending set of chores that just kept piling up."
UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang delivers his address at the College of Creative Studies graduation ceremony.
While passion and excitement are great for kickstarting a project, Mr. Luo said perseverance is what sustained the class of 2017 through their time at UCSB.
"Let's continue to dream big, and more importantly, remember why we had these dreams in the first place. Let us take hold of the dreams and visions from when were young and hang onto them when we feel tired, weary and burned out — for while our troubles are temporary, the outcome and our lasting growth will far outweigh them all."
Literature student Corinne Sophia Lee Guichard concluded the student speakers by lamenting that finding the meaning of life is an unattainable goal.
"The meaning of life is searching...for the meaning of life. At least that's what Nietzsche, Darwin, Marx and Freud seemed to think. That is so unsatisfying," quipped Ms. Guichard.
She explained that each student struggles to find their meaning and passion in their studies, and recalled a particularly enthusiastic student who filled a library whiteboard with a complex math problem during a 4 a.m. epiphany.
"When I see people in the midst of this meaning-seeking, it's inspiring. Perplexing, sometimes concerning, but inspiring."