Michelle Wei will be graduating this year with a double major in Education, with a specialization in Research and Evaluation, and Social Policy and Public Service, with an emphasis in Governance, and double minoring in Management and Political Science. In her 4 years as an undergraduate at UCI, she has served as a Student Parent Orientation Program Staffer, a Sierra Programmer in Mesa Court’s SierraHall, a member and executive board member for the Dean’s Ambassador Council of the School of Social Sciences, a Campus Representative for UCI Admissions, and a mentor in various club organizations. Her curiosity, persistent nature, and unwavering desire to challenge herself to expand her perspectives propels her ambition to be someone who can create change that helps our future generations thrive and grow. Last year, she conducted independent research on First Generation Taiwanese American Identity Formation for her senior thesis and explored students’ experiences in K-12 learning about issues in race and racism and how that socialization has carried on with them today. Committed to advocating for social and racial justice, she has interned with the Center for Racial Justice in Education, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, and the Orange County Asian American Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA). After studying abroad in South Korea at the prestigious Yonsei University, she is now writing a second thesis on the experiences of Asian Americans students abroad in South Korea and how that has impacted their connection to their cultural identities. Inducted as a junior to Phi Beta Kappa, she has also been recognized for the Chancellor’s Award of Distinction and the Distinguished Anteater Award. She plans to earn a Ed.D. in educational policy and a JD to use the law to make access to quality education equitable. At the intersection of these two goals is her desire to make system-wide change, particularly regarding the institutionalized racism in the education and criminal justice system. She plans to bring her knowledge as a daughter of immigrants, woman of color, and recent graduate to propose policy that is focused on minorities and students. It is her goal to make positive, lasting changes that accurately reflect the challenges faced by millions of Americans.
1) If we ask one of your friends to describe you, what would they say?
- “I would describe you as very motivated and determined. You are so involved in everything you do and always seem to give it 100% of yourself to it. When hanging out with you, it’s the same thing. You’re intentional in focusing all attention on me and stay in the present.”
- “Forward. No matter what has been thrown at you, you always find a way to keep moving forward. I really admire that about you.”
- “Really soft and compassionate – you’re definitely one of the nicest people I know, but not in a pushover way. You’re strong in that you know what you want and have a strong sense of morals. You speak the truth when everyone else is afraid to. You also will just literally stop whatever you’re doing to help someone else (even a complete stranger on the streets) out even if you have a massive load on your shoulders already.”
2) What life events or personal mentorships, if any, directed you to the field of study you have chosen for your future endeavors?
I think I’m still figuring out exactly what I want to do, but my high school teachers (shoutout the Social Sciences department at Fremont High School & Mr. Steffen and Mr. C in SFS) played a big role in pushing me to become someone of consequence and change. They’re the ones who propelled me to this path through giving me a lot of support and believing in me. In college, it was my personal relationships and friendships in my various involvements with supervisors and peers that helped me realize I wanted to do something that uplifts others. I had a lot of life events where I felt like the world was crashing down on me and I felt really lost in where I was going, but my one-on-ones with my mentors and friends helped me feel affirmed in who I am and who I want to be. I am made up of pieces of each and every person I’ve met at UCI and I’m really thankful to everyone who has been a pillar of support to me at one point in my 4 years here.
3) Did you ever seek information and advice from the SOP advising team? If so, what type of advice were you seeking and what was your experience with them?
I got a lot of help from SOP in terms of figuring out what my passions were. I didn’t realize what got me really excited was education policy and figuring out ways to incorporate social justice values into the K-12 system until I was really talking with the SOP team about my applications. Our meetings helped me narrow down what I wanted to do and also help me figure out a plan and pathway to achieving that. Regardless of whether I am awarded with these post-grad fellowships or scholarships, through the SOP advising process I was able to learn more about myself and know how to put that into words. Personally, I never really thought of myself as someone who was high achieving and I still feel really awkward talking about what I’ve done at UCI. It really means a lot each time Brendan, Rose, Theresa, and the rest of the advising team affirm that I am someone who is enough, who can be confident about themself, and who has a lot of potential in pursuing their dreams.
To learn more about SOP and the resources available to high-achieving students visit our website.