Alina Sookasian has – correction, HAD – a fear of public speaking. As a junior, the political science major who aspires to be a lawyer applied to be part of the UCI Law Forum. The undergraduate certificate program helps prepare students for potential legal careers through focused coursework, hands-on legal research and writing experience, and interaction with practicing attorneys and judges…and a public debate class.

“In order to get your certificate, you have to take Advocacy, which is basically debate. I was terrified,” she says. “But, I love challenging myself and wasn't going to let such an amazing opportunity to get real-world experience pass me by.”

So she and her team studied hard, conducting all the necessary legal research legwork so that when it came time for their first debate, Sookasian, who had been picked along with another classmate to deliver the team’s opening statement, ditched her backup note cards and delivered her remarks clearly and flawlessly.

“From the moment the first word came out of my mouth, I felt so comfortable up there and was almost sad when it was over,” she says. “For the following debates I always wanted to do the opening statements, but each person could only deliver one opening statement.”  

From then on, Sookasian jokes that she’s been hard to keep quiet. Her words can be found in several publications of the Angeleno Magazine where she spent a summer interning. She also became a public voice for Congressman Adam Schiff in Washington, D.C. where she interned in spring 2011 running his office front desk and writing press releases and public statements with the congressman’s press secretary. For the past year, she’s served as editor of the Law Forum Journal and has been clerking at Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis, INC, a Newport Beach law firm.

On June 15, Sookasian gets to represent her graduating class as the student speaker at the Social Sciences Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony 2. Listen in live at 4:30 p.m.

“I’m so excited to be one of the voices of our class,” she says. “It’s unfortunate that I wasn't able to meet each person in the School of Social Sciences class of 2012, so I feel like being the speaker will connect me to everyone in a way. I want to make sure I really relate to everyone's experiences here at UCI.”

The honors student has many experiences from which to draw; in addition to interning in D.C., an opportunity which many of her fellow classmates also took advantage of through UCDC, Sookasian spent a summer abroad. She lived and worked in an under privileged Armenian village where she learned how to cope with a lack of necessities and interacted with children growing up in an atmosphere very different from her southern California up-bringing.

She participated in UCI Athletics for a year as part of the women’s rowing team and then joined the UCI club tennis team. She’s a member of the National Honors Society, the national political science honors society, Pi Sigma Alpha, and was director of member intake of the UCI sorority Alpha Gamma Alpha her junior year.

She’s also done research as part of her honors program; her thesis analyzes how the three branches of the U.S. government interact during times of national crisis -  specifically, how the U.S. Supreme Court exercised its power during World War II and the war on terror after the 9/11 attacks.

“My experiences at UCI have been truly life changing,” she says. “I’m so grateful for the opportunities I had to foster long-lasting relationships with a handful of professors that have – and I am confident will – continue to be my greatest inspirations. Professors Smith, Petracca, Kelley, Sellgren and Kiene - thank you for helping me find my voice.”  

Listen in live as Sookasian delivers her commencement address at the 2012 Social Sciences Commencement Ceremony 2 on Friday, June 15 at 4:30 p.m.

-Heather Wuebker, Social Sciences Communications


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