UC Berkeley graduating senior Anjika Pai was chosen as the 2022 University Medal winner, the highest honor for a graduating senior.
An environmental sciences major and music minor with a 4.0 GPA, Pai is originally from Jamison, Pennsylvania, according to a campus press release. While at UC Berkeley, Pai’s numerous achievements include co-founding a website to promote diversity and equity in STEM, learning to play an Indonesian instrument and teaching a DeCal on female-identifying composers.
“I was chosen based on my extracurriculars and passions,” Pai said. “I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to leave things alone when they reach their full potential. That quality is something they appreciated in me.”
The University Medal comes with a $2,500 prize, according to the press release. Every February, graduating seniors are notified of their eligibility based on a high GPA cutoff, Pai said. After applying, she interviewed in April as one of the finalists for the award.
The other four finalists for the award included Claire Beckstoffer, Jonah Lounds, Claire Rider and The Daily Californian staffer Hari Srinivasan.
According to campus music lecturer Robert Yamasato, who wrote Pai a letter of recommendation, Pai has a “strong sense of equality and justice” that she has already applied to many different disciplines.
“In my fifteen years of teaching at the collegiate level, I can honestly state that I have had not had a student who inspired me to better myself academically and ethically as much as Anjika Pai,” Yamasato said in his recommendation letter. “Without a doubt, she is a unique student.”
Campus environmental studies associate professor Alastair Iles said Pai took a course with him in fall 2020 and later began to explore honors thesis topics with him before settling on the rights of nature in the United States.
He added that with all her achievements and efforts, Pai embodies what students can become during their time on campus.
While Pai said she is proud of her honors thesis, she is also proud of maintaining her work-study jobs and managing her academic course load. According to the press release, Pai worked as a writer and social media assistant for the Rausser College of Natural Resources as well as an usher at Alfred Hertz Memorial Concert Hall.
In the fall, Pai will attend Northeastern University in Boston to study environmental law, according to the press release. Pai said she wants to bring the sustainable infrastructure of Berkeley to wherever she ends up on the East Coast.
“When I came here, my family was convinced that I would be staying in California for the rest of my life,” Pai said. “It’s not because I don’t love being here; it’s because I want the East Coast to have a little of California in it.”