Sometimes the answer to life doesn’t come straightforward. Nor is it for Jeannie Chen. Jeannie started her college at UCLA majoring in piano performance, later transferred to an English major at Cal State Northridge, and lately returned to UCLA for a Master in library information.
Jeannie dreamed to be a professional piano performer when she started college. She went from concerts to concerts, practiced and competed to refine her skills, while constantly learning to cope with her growing perfectionism. It gradually became common for her to be immersed in her own music world all day, and at one point she decided that such isolated lifestyle was not the best match to her personality.
The decision to change major was a hard one, but Jeannie is glad that she was able to make up her mind, and picked up her love of reading since childhood. She came across her mentor at Northridge who, as a professor of English literature, guided her to go after her academic enthusiasm. From there she joined the English honor program that laid the foundation for her literature studies, travelled on conferences to communicate with scholars across the country, and on the side, connected her to her family history through Asian American literature.
Growing up as a Chinese American, Jeannie was exposed to the Chinese cultural heritage. The connections, however, became stronger as she specialized in archival studies at UCLA. Jeannie benefits from the courses and resources on Asian American studies provided by UCLA, and the effort of the library information department to diversify the program. She sees the impact that archival documents can have both on individuals and on the present society. “Now in my 20s, I start to think consciously about how the (Chinese American) history influenced my family and myself individually.” She started volunteering at Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, documenting and educating people on the Chinese American history. “We are trying to preserve the memories, and making sure multiple stories can be told, not just one.”
While finding her cultural identity and contributing to the community, Jeannie constantly found her way back to her music background. She worked at Music & Media Department at the Oviatt Library at Northridge, and received a scholarship to study on jazz archives in the coming summer. Life never gives a hint of what is coming to Jeannie’s life, but she is prepared to keep exploring the world in different perspectives, and one day to connect all the dots.
Devin hosted a planetarium show on the roof of the Mathematical Sciences Building on April 26th. Over 60 people showed up, filled all the 50 seats, and left little place on the floor. The dome of the planetarium was a perfect screen to project the starry night sky, and for a moment it was as if the audience are watching the milky way directly from a desert camp.
The UCLA planetarium is operated and maintained primarily by UCLA Astronomy graduate students, and shows are presented voluntarily by students. Devin is a third-year Astronomy PhD student. He fell in love with the night sky early from his childhood in Hawaii. Devin joined UCLA after his undergrad at Dartmouth, and studies the stars around the black hole.
Astronomy observations demand extremely clear weather, which is why most telescopes at the US locate in Hawaii and Arizona. Devin’s research takes him to the Keck telescopes in Hawaii every summer. The Hawaii trip is the highlight of Devin’s graduate experience, as he has the chance to collect large amount of high quality data for his research, and to spend summer with his family.
Devin was also excited to see many astronomical technologies find their way to our everyday life. Many high-resolution cameras developed for telescopes are now used for medical imaging. Meanwhile, more advanced technologies are continuously created to allow observation of celestial body much farther away. By exploring the space around us, we get to better understand the existence of the earth and human beings.
It took Athena a little while to find the music café by the inverted fountain (she had actually never heard of the fountain before). Studying in the north campus, she seldom makes her way south of Ackerman. Athena moved to LA from NYC last fall for school, and lamented the fact that she had not had a chance to explore the UCLA neighborhood yet.
Athena used to be a competitive swimmer before coming to business school. She obtained a Bachelors of Psychology from Yale, where she served on the varsity swim team for four years, made her way to the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2012, and competed post-grad for the New York Athletic Club. The admission to UCLA Anderson was unexpected, and she was nervous for such a big change after a long time of no school. But as she looks back, “You can’t wait until you’re ready to do something. You will never feel ready. When an opportunity like this shows up, you just have to dive in and figure it out as you go.”
Athena was admitted to FEMBA, the part-time MBA program at Anderson. She currently works in Digital Advertising at a publishing company while taking courses on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Studying part-time is hard and stressful, and demands time management. Athena had to put a lot aside. Her swimming career was the first, and she gradually surrendered social life to homework. But the program has its advantages – “When you learn something useful, you can apply it at work literally the next day.”
What Athena likes the most about the FEMBA program at Anderson is the opportunity to meet a very diverse group of people. There are people who own a brewery, manufacture tortillas, started a new entertainment company for kids, and practice at a family dentistry. In addition, unlike the full-time MBA program where people quit their jobs to attend school, FEMBA students get to network in a less competitive atmosphere, as often times fellow classmates are already employees of the companies others want to work at.
However, Athena felt that she shouldn’t be confined to Anderson. She wants to get to know students from other majors on campus, and as an attempt to do so, applied and got accepted to the International Grad Student Association’s “Graduate Family” program at UCLA. As a first-year, there is still a lot for her to explore, and she hopes to be able to experience all of what UCLA and Los Angeles have to offer.
Shivan Bonanno is a 5th year PhD student of neuroscience, and a self-made song writer and performer. He released his first EP last year, and is seriously pursuing a musical career after graduation.
Shivan moved from Berkeley to the UCLA for graduate school, to find himself in a top-tier lab and in a LA LA land. From there he started his bipolar life of pursuing both a science and a music career.
“For many years, I didn’t sleep. I would work all day in the lab, be one of the last to leave. Then I would come home, spend a few hours eating dinner, and hanging out with friends perhaps, then whenever I could I would play music until 2am or 1am. Then I would wake up at 7 and go to lab.”
But he soon realized graduate school is much harder than he thought. He went through a dark age of his PhD career, and finally realized his heart has always been in music. He’s had the dream since 16, only he never worked with every fiber in the beam. But, “just being in LA doesn’t guarantee you anything. Being in UCLA doesn’t guarantee you anything.”
The key is “meticulous hard work with a lot of revisions”, for science and music alike. It’s easy just to do experiment, but to acquire enough presentable data is another story. Same with music if he would want to show his work to others. Getting anywhere, really figuring anything out, is always hard and exhausting.
Shivan is now aiming to finish his graduate school in one year. Meanwhile, he also plans to release another EP and market it more fiercely, and to play live as much as possible.
Looking back, Shivan remembers coming to graduate school expecting a very “focused” life that centers around neuroscience researches, reading papers and writing his own. What he eventually gets out with, however, is a lot more general, about the world, bureaucracy, life, and himself.
Follow Shivan’s music on shivan-music.com or find his EP The Meantime by Shivan.