Cal State L.A. bestows honors to 3,500 high-achieving students
Presidential honoree returns to alma mater to keynote 52nd Honors Convocation
Cal State L.A. celebrated the scholastic achievements of more than 3,500 students last month during its 52nd annual Honors Convocation. Joining the campus community in saluting these accomplished students was CSULA alumnus Alejandro (Alex) Briseño, this year’s Honors Convocation keynote speaker.
“Today is a very special day. It’s a day dedicated to your achievements. It’s a day where all the focus is on you and where your family, friends, and loved ones can see how all the work is beginning to pay off. This is just the beginning of a fine and successful career ahead,” said Briseño, assistant professor of the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass).
The annual program honored CSULA students whose academic records place them in the top fifth percentile of their peers. It also recognized Dean’s List honorees, recipients of scholarships and grants, incoming freshmen with high grade-point averages, and Honors College students. After the ceremony, students were recognized at separate College programs and receptions on campus.
Briseño, a recipient of the 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, drew inspiration from his personal challenges to encourage the CSULA students being honored to continue to excel.
“There are two messages I want to share with you today and how I succeeded in my life,” he said. “The first is the message of HOPE. Remember that I had all the odds against me growing up. I was brought up in a tough neighborhood. Nevertheless, I overcame adversity and succeeded. I was able to do this because I believed in myself. But, sometimes, it requires a little help from others. I want you to take advantage of your immediate resources and use them to solve problems and struggles in your lives. Believe in yourself and become selfish. Become more aggressive in your goals and don’t drop the ball. Propose impossible goals. If you fail, you still achieve excellence.”
Briseno also offered a few words of wisdom regarding how to succeed and progress toward graduate school.
“I’ve taken the liberty to identify three elements for success,” he said. “Those elements are: education, family and health. In any order, if you focus or center your life around these three elements, you will succeed and become the best.”
One of many examples of Briseño’s success is the Early Career Award that he received last July during a White House ceremony. This honor embodies the high priority the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges, and contribute to the American economy.
As a faculty member at UMass for nearly five years, Briseño has generated more than $2.5 million to support underrepresented and underprivileged students. Additionally, he delivered more than 40 presentations internationally and garnered half a dozen of awards, including the UMass 2012 Faculty Exceptional Merit Award.
At CSULA, Briseño conducted research in Professor Feimeng Zhou’s chemistry laboratory through CSULA’s Minority Biomedical Research Support-Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement M.S. to Ph.D. Program, one of the University’s Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) Programs.
Briseño earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and master’s degree in chemistry from Cal State L.A. He also holds a master’s degree in chemistry from UCLA and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Washington. He completed postdoctoral work in chemistry at UC Berkeley, before joining the UMass Amherst polymer science faculty in 2009.
“I’ll be frank with you and say that no award or honor compares to that of being here with you today,” said Briseño in his closing remarks. “Today is one of the happiest days of my life. When you get there, and you achieve the impossible goal, don’t forget your roots. Don’t forget about where you were educated. Don’t forget about Cal State L.A.”
If you missed the 2013 Honors Convocation ceremony, you can view it here: http://www.calstatela.edu/eagleslive/index.htm.