On March 12, doctoral candidates Margaret Rhee and Paul Yosefi joined Vice Provost Andrew Szeri — and their counterparts from the other nine UC campuses — in Sacramento for Graduate Research and Education Advocacy Day. This was the fifth annual event designed to re-acquaint legislators with the enormous contributions made by University of California scholars and researchers to the State’s economic, intellectual, and creative vitality.

graduate advocacy day in Sacramento
Graduate advocacy day in Sacramento

Along with graduate students from across the UC system, Rhee and Yosefi showcased their work in a series of meetings and conversations throughout a long day. Yousefi, a student of environmental health sciences, explained his research on the health risks of early exposure to consumer-product chemicals, focused on the Central Valley. Rhee, a student of ethnic studies, discussed her work to connect the academy with the community by helping incarcerated women to become HIV/AIDS peer educators using digital storytelling.

Armed with facts and figures about UC’s eminence in inventions, patents, start-ups, and prestigious awards, Vice Provost Szeri and his systemwide colleagues joined UC President Janet Napolitano and UC Berkeley Nobel laureate Professor Randy Schekman to advocate for increased State investment in the research conducted by some 26,000 UC graduate student researchers and their faculty mentors.

But it was the student presence that made the strongest impact on the State legislators. Weeks later, Assembly Speaker John Pérez addressed the inaugural meeting of the new California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, held at Stanford.  Referring to the March 12th Sacramento event, he mentioned that it was a great honor to converse with a Nobel Prize recipient and that Professor Schekman’s advocacy was critical.  Then Speaker Pérez went on to emphasize that the greatest impressions made on him were by the two graduate students he met from UC Berkeley.

Well done, Margaret Rhee and Paul Yosefi!