Student president finds acceptance and belonging at CSULB

Published August 22, 2023

As we gather at this Convocation, centered around the theme "Uplift - Elevating Kindness and Compassion," I am reminded of the values that have been deeply ingrained in me since my upbringing in India. As a 14-year-old immigrant, arriving in the United States brimming with hopes and dreams, I encountered challenges that tested my values and my resilience. 

My high school journey was marked by encounters with unsympathetic and occasionally harsh counselors and advisors. Their actions made me believe that my background and the language barrier I grappled with would forever hold me back. I was left struggling with my sense of identity and belonging. I often found myself questioning, "What is wrong with me? Why is it always me?" 

Conversations with friends and peers revealed that I am not alone in asking these questions. The journey through college - regardless of one's background, origin, or circumstances - can be a daunting, isolating, and even frightening experience. In the current world, plagued by an epidemic of isolation and loneliness driven by an unprecedented pandemic, the need for kindness and compassion has never been more urgent. This need extends to spaces, such as educational institutions, where these qualities are not always expected. Higher education, for instance, is one such space where compassion and kindness can often be overlooked. 

Mitali Jain
ASI President Mitali Jain urges Beach students to stand up for inclusivity, equity, acceptance and justice.

Nevertheless, The Beach aspires to be a haven that places students and their holistic well-being at the forefront. Throughout my time here, I’ve had the privilege of interacting with outstanding faculty, staff, and university administrators. One instance stands out that highlights the compassion and commitment of a particular professor. She was always available during office hours and extended her assistance beyond academia, showing a sincere willingness to help me navigate challenges.

This unwavering support reminded me that she saw me as a person first and a student second. Her impact continues to resonate with me, a testament to the enduring significance of her mentorship. She made me realize the answer to my earlier questions was simple: I didn’t need to change. I needed an environment in which people believed in and understood me. The Beach has been that place for me.

As we embark on this academic year, let us uphold the virtues of kindness and compassion. More broadly, let us stand as advocates for inclusivity, acceptance, equity and justice. The commitment Associated Students, Inc., has to these values is vividly demonstrated through the Future U project.  

Last year, when my predecessor introduced this project, it was in its early stages. We initiated an intense campaign to engage with the campus community about the possibility of renovating and expanding the University Student Union. After a year of engagement, connecting with more than 17,000 campus stakeholders, this project has been approved. The USU has long served as the campus' communal space, and this endeavor will ensure its further enhancement into an equitable and accessible space for future generations of Long Beach State students. 

At ASI, our goal is always to create a campus space where students are our priority, where uplifting them takes precedence, and where compassion and kindness are the guiding principles. Let us all embrace this year as a chance to uplift one another, recognizing that our differences fortify us, and our diverse narratives enrich the tapestry of our university community. Together, we shall cultivate an environment that nurtures growth, leaving no room for isolation or neglect.

Thank you and Go Beach!

Mitali Jain is the president of Associated Students, Inc., and a fourth-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. This article is an abridged version of Jain’s 2023 Convocation speech.

Beach Voices is an occasional feature that allows members of the Beach community – students, faculty, staff and alumni – to share their personal experiences. Submissions can be emailed, labeled “Beach Voices,” to Strategic Communications.