Serena Do, a graduate student in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), was named the campus’ recipient of the 2012-13 William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Each year, the California State University (CSU) selects 23 students, one from each campus in the system, to receive the Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award, which is among the system’s highest forms of recognition for student achievement. The award is given to students who have demonstrated financial need, experienced personal hardships, and have attributes such as superior academic performance, exemplary community service and significant personal achievements.
Do and the 22 other award winners were recognized and presented with their awards at the September CSU Board of Trustees meeting.
“I was so shocked and excited to know I had won the award. I had never won anything like this before,” Do said. “The scholarship will help me greatly in purchasing textbooks and paying for classes as I plan to finish my master’s degree next spring and apply for a Ph.D. program. More importantly, the money will allow me to focus more on my studies, and I will not be so overwhelmed with concern regarding my finances as I often help my mom financially.”
Do grew up in a single-parent household in East Los Angeles. Serena’s mother, a refugee from the Khmer Rouge, worked two jobs to make ends meet in a community plagued by gang violence. She urged her daughter to pursue education as the means to a better life.
The first in her family to attend college, Do completed her bachelor’s degree at CSULB with a double major in political science and international studies. During her undergraduate studies, she managed to involve herself in a variety of activities—including the speech and debate team, International Studies Student Association, Political Theory Round Table and other campus organizations and national honor societies—all the while working at least 30 hours a week.
During her free time, Do volunteers at the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, coaches a local high school speech and debate team, and tutors students.
After completing her master’s degree, she plans to go on to obtain a Ph.D. in public health and work for the United Nation’s World Health Organization with a focus on providing health care to those who need it most.
“I aspire to one day be the director of an international non-profit organization that focuses on world health,” noted Do, who in addition to English also speaks Mandarin, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Chaozhou. “In a world where we have iPhones and iPads that can do virtually everything for us, it makes no logical sense to me that there are children dying from diarrhea and other preventable diseases that we Americans have virtually removed from our psyche.
“I believe that my studies as an undergraduate in both political science and international studies have sufficiently trained me to understand the inequalities in modernity,” she added. “However, I believe that my master’s degree in public policy and administration will provide pragmatic solutions to the problems I have learned so much about.”
The William Randolph Hearst Foundation originally established the endowed scholarship fund in 1984. In 1999, the Hearst Foundation partnered with the CSU Board of Trustees to supplement the endowment with contributions from CSU Trustees and private donors. From this endowment, the trustees award scholarships to students who exemplify the criteria. The scholarship awards range from $3,000 to $10,000.
Since its inception, the CSU has honored 250 students with the award. This year, one of the trustees sitting on the board is a prior recipient. Student Trustee Jillian Ruddell became a Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Scholar in 2010 and Governor Brown appointed her to the board in 2011.
“The award represents a vote of confidence in you as a student, as well as an acknowledgement of the adversity you have overcome,” Ruddell said. “The CSU is privileged to have you as students. Your current and future achievements are something we all celebrate.”