In times of crisis, 2022 University Medal finalists called for resilience, hope

four informal portraits, clockwise from top left: Hari Srinivasan;  Claire Rider;  Claire Beckstaff;  and Jonas Lounds

The four finalists for the 2022 University Medal (clockwise from top left): Hari Srinivasan; Claire Rider; Claire Beckstoffer; and Jonas Lounds. (Photomontage by Melani King, UC Berkeley)

Undergraduates typically start their college years expecting the biggest challenges to come in the classroom or lab, but the class of 2022 has also had to deal with a pandemic, natural disasters and historic social turmoil.

Those years have required focus and resilience, and those strengths are embodied in this year’s university medal winner Anjika Pai and the four finalists: Claire Beckstoffer, Jonah Lounds, Claire Rider and Hari Srinivasan. Even in the most challenging of conditions, all demonstrated an inspired commitment to scholarship and service.

The University Medal was established 151 years ago, in 1871, three years after the founding of the University of California. Candidates must have achieved a GPA of 3.96 or higher, overcoming significant challenges and making a positive impact on the lives of others.

This year’s finalists:

Claire Beckstoffer (she/she)

Claire Beckstoffer in her graduation robe, against a leafy background

Claire Beckstoffer (Photo by Hey Zinah Photography)

Hometown: San Francisco, California

form: Environmental engineering sciences

Extracurricular: Project Leader at UC Berkeley Engineers Without Borders.

What is the next? Fellowship with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, then an internship at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam studying fungi.

What character or experience sets the Class of 2022 apart?

“As someone initially part of the Class of 2021, I watched as the Class of 2022 transformed my core department from a small handful of people to an influx of students interested in connecting, working together, and making others feel welcome. . When I think of the Class of 2022, I think of the desire to use our studies to positively impact the world and the drive to create a community that makes other students feel at home as they work to effect change.”

What is the most important personal lesson you learned from your time at Berkeley? “When I arrived at Berkeley, I believed that being seen as intelligent or worthy of respect depended on the ability to never make a mistake. Through my many experiences at Berkeley, including being rejected from the College of Engineering when I first applied, I have found that embracing the feeling of being lost can actually lead to forming new friendships and connections, gaining confidence in sharing my ideas, and learning how to recognize and grow from my mistakes, which I now believe are much more important than always having the right answer.”

Jonah Lounds (they/they)

Jonah Lounds in a room with lots of posters and photos

Jonah Lounds (Photo courtesy of Jonah Lounds)

Hometown: Oakland, California

form: Story

Extracurricular: Musician — writing, recording and performing with current bands Cardio Star, Dao Jones and Bill Skins Fifth; volunteer at Oakland Public Schools; Haas Scholars Program researcher.

What is the next? A year off before pursuing a Ph.D. in Slavic history or studies. In the meantime, working as an instructional support specialist at an Oakland public elementary school. She continues to develop Russian language skills as she begins to learn German.

What character or experience sets the Class of 2022 apart?

“We all suffer from a global pandemic, as well as many other crises and injustices of varying magnitude. Through it all, we’ve been asked to adapt considerably, just to keep up with the relentless pace and high standards of academic programming at our university. We have proven how flexible and resilient we can be, but I hope we have also learned that we all deserve rest, joy and peace.”

You have worked with children in Oakland schools and studied children’s media at old one Soviet Union. ÇWhat insights does this experience give you about the future?

“Like the Bolsheviks, I believe that the world we seek to build for a better future must first be built for our children so that they can be better prepared to manifest and protect this world in their adult lives. I have even seen young children eager to produce positive social change and engage in conversations that were previously taboo or watered down for young people. This is something that gives me tremendous hope.”

Claire Rider

Claire Rider in her graduation robe, against a leafy background

Claire Rider (Photo by Kelly Huang)

Hometown: Thousand Oaks, California

Majors: Anthropology and American Studies

Extracurricular: Editor-in-Chief of Berkeley Political Reviewpresident of BridgeUSA in Berkeley, head of policy for The Farmlink Project and member of Delta Gamma Sorority.

What is the next? Work as Chief Policy Officer for The Farmlink Project, a national food justice nonprofit, before applying to law school.

What character or experience sets the Class of 2022 apart?

“The Class of 2022 has overcome unprecedented challenges. Some of us entered UC Berkeley pre-pandemic, others right in the middle, but we all persevered through several virtual semesters before having the opportunity to redefine our newly reopened campus as leaders in our senior year. We have re-energized our organizations, pioneered new communities and formed lifelong relationships as we work to ensure that our new normal sees us making a better world.”

Thinking about your extracurricular work in politics and politics, what was the most important lesson you learned at Berkeley?

“I actually learned my most valuable lesson at Berkeley outside of my political involvements, but that lesson has indelibly shaped the way I approach my political work. I really learned to admire the power of community; in my smaller interdisciplinary courses, I was able to build personal and reciprocal relationships with instructors across the university. My teachers felt like collaborators as well as leaders. Now, my work with The Farmlink Project aims to prioritize stakeholder-driven change in our food systems. We all have an interest in the results – we should all have an interest in deciding actions.”

Hari Srinivasan

Hari Srinivasan, psychology expert and winner of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.

Hari Srinivasan (Photo courtesy of Hari Srinivasan)

Hometown: cupertino, california

form: Psychology

Extracurricular: Selected to serve on the Interagency Steering Committee on Autism at the National Institutes of Health; vice chairman of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network; serves on the Board of Autistic Consultants at the Autism Society of America; writer on autism for daily california.

What is the next? Ph.D. neuroscience studies at Vanderbilt University

What character or experience sets the Class of 2022 apart?

“Resilience to readjust to a world of many new normals and new possibilities. For example, it’s been a little more difficult to sit in a physical classroom now; it’s as if many social skills built up over the years are lost in the void of a two-year lockdown. My motor system is in an uncertain state at best, so there is a bit of a relearning curve involved for many like me. There are, however, many positive aspects to our new normal, such as the possibility of remote or hybrid employment and education, that will benefit as many people with disabilities as I do.”

What was a challenge you faced at Berkeley and how did you meet it? “I loved that at Berkeley I was surrounded by nonjudgmental colleagues who were open to inclusion, except they often didn’t know how to include, one of the main reasons they weren’t exposed to many autistics with spoken communication difficulties like me at the level of college. My navigation in Cal meant thinking about two-pronged solutions – for me personally, and strategies for how others in that group could include me. One example is that I took over the intro part on the debate team in Professor David Presti’s introductory neuroscience class, rather than trying the later rounds, which required faster responses. So I was part of the team, contributing rather than just existing on the sidelines. Obviously, this has been easier in structured academic situations than in social settings.

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