Briana Solis

 Solis and fellow ASUCI members at their end of year banquetBriana Solis remembers learning about the Supreme Court and the three branches of government in sixth grade.

“I told myself I was going to be a Supreme Court justice someday,” the recent graduate says. “I know that’s a reach, but hopefully I will become a judge.”

In high school, Solis’s interest in law resurfaced when she took A.P. U.S. government. The class not only piqued her interest but left her wanting to learn more. Her interest deepened when she immersed herself in her political science major at UCI. This winter, she graduated summa cum laude with a nearly perfect G.P.A.

Associate professor of political science Davin Phoenix became acquainted with Solis when he taught her in three of his courses.

“It’s a bit difficult to properly convey just how exceptional Briana was as a student. She not only earned an A+ in all three of my courses she took; she earned a perfect score on almost all of the major assignments across each course. Her work was always infused with such rigor and polish. It was a great reflection of her maturity, poise and acuity,” he says.  

And despite how well she excelled in class, “There’s no showiness or ego with Briana,” Phoenix says. “She holds herself to high standards while carrying herself with a quiet conviction.”

Academic ambition

Solis’s grandparents on both sides of her family arrived in California from Mexico. As a first-generation college student, she had to tackle the college process with less guidance than many of her peers. Instead of being deterred or intimidated, she faced the challenge (like she does everything in life) with a positive and solution-oriented approach. She credits this self-assuredness to her mother.

“I think what shaped me the most was my mom. Growing up, I saw how hard she worked and how, if there was a problem, she would always find a solution,” she says.

Solis with her parents at her RA move in day. Solis also took life lessons from her years as a competitive softball player. She began playing at age five and was soon recruited to play on club teams. Even though she lived in San Diego, Solis played for teams based in Los Angeles and Orange County because they were more competitive and attracted more attention from scouts. This meant that Solis and her father drove to LA or Orange County four times a week.

“Playing softball helped me learn leadership skills, time management, and resilience,” she says.

Solis received scholarship offers for her excellence on the field, but after carefully weighing her options, ultimately turned them down.

“It was a really difficult decision. But I decided to bet on my future academically,” she says. She went all in on UCI for its academic strength.

Lessons beyond the classroom

Solis was able to replace the camaraderie and community she missed from softball by diving into university politics. She took on leadership roles in the College Democrats and ASUCI. She was also elected to represent the School of Social Sciences on ASUCI’s senate.

“What I loved most about these activities was finding people who really cared about you. Doing well in class is nice, but finding people and a community who resonate with you is so important,” she says.

In addition to her political involvement, Solis served as a resident advisor during the academic year and during the summer bridge program where she mentored incoming first-generation students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

Solis with her fellow Summer Bridge RAs.The one-on-one sessions with her 30 mentees that were supposed to last 30 minutes often ended up taking two hours.

“You can tell they’re really listening to every word you say and that they care about the advice you give them,” she says about her mentees. “The experience was incredibly rewarding and one of the most fulfilling I've had.”

Solis has taken full advantage of many of the resources, events, and lectures available on campus. From the “What Matters to Me and Why” series, to racing to participate in the Petr drop, and listening to indigenous Hawaiian music at the Irvine Barclay Theatre—she has embraced it all.

“There are so many cool events and interesting seminars. I recommend taking advantage of what's offered. It could be instrumental to who you are as a person or what you decide to do with your life,” she says.

A future of possibility

Now that Solis has graduated, she reflects on her years at UCI and what has mattered most.

“Making lifelong connections has been priceless to me. Not only have I found friends that have a similar drive and values, but they also have my best interest in mind. I know that I’ll know them for the rest of my life,” she says.

Before she applies to law school, Solis plans to continue working full-time at a law firm to gain experience and to pay down her student loans. Following this, she wants to become a lawyer specializing in civil rights law. Ultimately, she hopes to serve as a judge.

Phoenix, who has witnessed Solis’ talent and character firsthand, has faith in her future beyond UCI.   

“Briana’s given me the impression that her achievements are not driven by cutthroat ambition, but by a genuine curiosity. She excels because she is passionate about engaging deeply with the world around her,” he says. “That hunger for knowledge is palpable, and I think it will propel Briana to great heights.”

-Jill Kato for UCI School of Social Sciences

-pictured: Briana Solis as she gets ready to graduate. Solis and fellow ASUCI members at their end of year banquet. Solis with her parents at her RA move in day. Solis with her fellow Summer Bridge RAs.

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